Wendy Waldman with her song that was first made famous by Maria Muldaur:
Courage is contagious, and nothing shows it like the growing numbers of people joining in the UKUncut demonstrations against government austerity. (USUncut held rallies Saturday across the country.) Sign up for your closest group, get involved in local actions:
Around 400,000 people (Ed. note: The Guardian has updated the headline to 500,000) have joined a march in London to oppose the coalition government’s spending cuts.
In what looks like being the largest mass protest since the anti-Iraq war march in 2003, teachers, nurses, midwives, NHS, council and other public sector workers were joined by students, pensioners and direct action supporters, bringing the centre of the capital to a standstill.
Tens of thousands of people streamed along Embankment and past police barriers in Whitehall. Feeder marches, including a protest by students which set off from the University of London in Bloomsbury, swelled the crowd, which stretched back as far as St Paul’s Cathedral.
The biggest union-organised event for over 20 years saw more than 800 coaches and dozens of trains hired to bring people to London, with many unable to make the journey to the capital because of the massive demand for transport.
“I’m sure that many of our critics will try to write us off today as a minority, vested interest,” said Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, which organised the march.
“The thousands coming to London from across the country will be speaking for their communities when they call for a plan B that saves vital services, gets the jobless back to work and tackles the deficit through growth and fair tax.”
Got that? A plan that “saves vital services, gets the jobless back to work and tackles the deficit through growth and fair tax.” Learn it, love it, live it! Stand up for your rights.
Meanwhile, in USUncut actions yesterday, Ohio members demonstrated at a local Verizon store; D.C. members shut down a Bank of America branch; Jackson, Mississippi members presented a bill for unpaid taxes to Verizon; Minneapolis shut down a Bank of America loan office due to “fraud”; and in Philadelphia, members demonstrated at a downtown Bank of America office.
This was a truly horrifying thing to watch, and even more upsetting to wonder what’s happening to this woman now as a result of telling foreign journalists of her ordeal:
It was just another breakfast time at Tripoli’s smart Rixos Al Nasr hotel, sleepy foreign journalists helping themselves to cereals, rolls and terrible coffee in the restaurant, looking out over a neat garden unusual in the dour capital city.
But the Groundhog Day conversations – more overnight coalition air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, rebel advances in the east, how to escape the minders – were suddenly interrupted when a distraught woman burst in to describe how she had been repeatedly raped by government militiamen.
Iman al-Obeidi was quickly manhandled and arrested by security officials – an extraordinary spectacle for the journalists staying in the luxurious hotel-cum-media centre, hemmed in by severe restrictions on their movements and fed barely credible information.
The scene – filmed by several of those present – unfolded when Obeidi entered the Ocaliptus dining room and lifted up her abaya (dress) to show a slash and bruises on her right leg. “Look what Gaddafi’s men have done to me,” she screamed. “Look what they did, they violated my honour.”
Distraught and weeping, she was surrounded by reporters and cameramen. Libyan minders pushed and lashed out at the journalists, one of them drawing a gun, another smashing a CNN camera. Two waitresses grabbed knives and threatened Obeidi, calling her “a traitor to Gaddafi”.
Obeidi said she had been arrested at a checkpoint in the capital because she is from Benghazi, stronghold of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion in the east. “They swore at me and they filmed me. I was alone. There was whisky. I was tied up. They peed on me.” She said she had been raped by 15 men and held for two days.
Charles Clover of the Financial Times, who tried to protect her, was pushed, thrown to the floor and kicked, and Channel 4 correspondent Jonathan Miller was punched.
Obeidi was frogmarched, struggling, into the lobby and driven away, shouting: “They say they are taking me to hospital but they are taking me to jail.” Minders again tried to stop journalists taking pictures. It was impossible to verify her account. Musa Ibrahim, a government spokesman, said he had been told Obeidi, apparently in her 30s, was drunk and suffered from “mental problems”.
The incident made a powerful impression on journalists who have heard of, and occasionally seen, brutality but are subject to stringent controls to prevent them reporting independently and have a frustrating sense of being manipulated for crude propaganda purposes by the authorities.
“There was a desperate sense of our failure to prevent the thugs taking her away,” C4′s Miller said afterwards. “There was nothing more that we could have done as we were overtly threatened by considerable physical force.”
An American TV cameraman said: “I think she probably was raped, otherwise I can’t see her having the courage to put herself at such risk to let us know what the regime is doing. We see the fear in people all the time. But this is the most blatant example of the vicious way the regime treats the Libyan people.”
Geraldine Ferraro, 75, of complications from multiple myeloma.