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Russia

Pirates Against Poverty: Russians Find Their Own Way To Protest Inequality

Though the global momentum of the “Occupy” and “Indignados” movement has not hit Russia, a group of self-styled anarchists in St. Petersburg are trying to undermine the establishment in other ways.

Onlookers cheer the protesting
Onlookers cheer the protesting
Vladislav Litovchenko
ST. PETERBURG – The "Occupy Wall Street" movement of mass rallies that has spread around the world has mostly missed Russia. Still, a group of Russian Indignados are finding their own way to protest against injustice and inequalities.

Unknown perpetrators raised a pirate flag on an administrative building in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. This followed a similar symbolic assault on Sunday, when a Jolly Roger was raised on a mast of the Aurora, a historic cruiser long associated with the Russian Revolution that has been converted into a museum, and is moored on St. Petersburg's Neva River.

Responsibility for the Aurora pirate flag was claimed by two activist groups, "The People's Share," and "Food, Not Bombs." Organizers dubbed the "boat invasion" "Remember October, or Aurora Sunday," and was meant as a protest against poverty. The name makes reference to the fact that October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The group of eight arrived at the Aurora on Sunday evening, and split into two groups. The first group, who were headed for the first mast, was stopped by museum employees. But the second group of three people managed to scale the second mast of the boat and hang the Jolly Roger flag, as well as a cloth emblazoned with slogans. In spite of rain and a cold wind, the "occupiers' stayed up on the mast for five hours, talking to the crowd down below and outlining demands. When they finally came down, shivering from the frigid conditions, they were immediately taken to the police station.

No group, political or otherwise, has yet claimed responsibility for the pirate's flag on the administrative building. The flag, adorned with a skull and crossbones, fluttered above the office building for around three hours before being taken down by authorities.

Those behind the "takeover" of the Aurora presented themselves immediately, after the prank had been organized on the organization's website. "The People's Share" outfit identifies itself as anarchist. They did not consider the "pirate attack" a simple prank, but rather a practical beginning of "political post-modernism."

So far, eight participants in the demonstration on the cruiser have been sentenced to administrative arrest or have been fined.

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Ideas

Calmez-Vous, Americans: It's Quite OK To Call Us "The French"

A widely mocked tweet by the Associated Press tells its reporters to avoid dehumanizing labels such as "the poor" or "the French". But one French writer replies that the real dehumanizing threat is when open conversation becomes impossible.

Parisians sitting on a café terrasse.

Parisians sitting on a café terrasse.

Dirk Broddin on Flickr
Gaspard Koenig

-Essay-

PARIS — The largest U.S. news agency, the Associated Press (AP) tweeted a series of recommendations aimed at journalists: “We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing 'the' labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead use, wording such as people with mental illnesses.”

The inclusion of “The French” in this list of groups likely to be offended has evoked well-deserved sarcasm. It finally gives me the opportunity to be part of a minority and to confirm at my own expense, while staying true to John Stuart Mill's conception of free speech: that offense is not a crime.

Offense should prompt quips, denial, mockery, and sometimes indifference. It engages conflict in the place where a civilized society accepts and cultivates it: in language.

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