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Today, doctors and medical students, labor and faith leaders and activists across the U.S. and around the world are holding vigils and protests as part of a global call to action demanding the suspension of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that are prolonging the global COVID-19 pandemic by providing monopoly control to a few pharmaceutical corporations which limits supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Protests are being held in a dozen American cities and two dozen locales worldwide in support of an emergency waiver of WTO rules that now empower a few pharmaceutical corporations to decide how much vaccine and treatment is produced and where it is sold. A waiver would allow medicines to be produced in as many places as possible as quickly as possible.
The day of action was planned to coincide with the start of a WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva, the body's first major decision-making summit in four years. The meeting was postponed indefinitely due to global travel restrictions spurred by the new Omicron variant. Even as the organization that has blocked global access to vaccines is forced to shut down due to a new variant, activists continue to demand the WTO get out of the way of ending the pandemic.
COVID-19 variants like Omicron and Delta develop in regions where few people can obtain vaccines. Today, only 7% of people in low-income countries have had their first dose due to ongoing shortages of vaccine supplies. Participants in many of Tuesday's vigils and protests are observing a moment of silence with the ringing of a bell every four seconds, with each toll symbolizing another preventable COVID-19 death caused by the WTO's inaction.
At his Monday briefing on Omicron, President Joe Biden explained: "But we need to do more than vaccinate Americans. To beat the pandemic, we have to vaccinate the world as well. And America is leading that effort. ... The Delta variants and now the Omicron variant all emerged elsewhere in the world. So we can't let up until the world is vaccinated. We're protecting Americans by doing that as well." On Nov. 26, just before the WTO announced the postponement of the ministerial, Biden reiterated his position and called "on the nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines."
"The Omicron variant and the Delta variant before it are the endless pandemic that public health experts have warned about unless everyone around the world can get vaccinated and there are no raging COVID outbreaks to hatch dangerous new variants," said Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "The world has wasted more than a year of trying everything but the necessary emergency suspension of pharmaceutical firms' monopoly control over how many vaccines and treatments are made, which is necessary to get the supplies needed to end the pandemic. We need U.S. leadership at the WTO to get our European allies to stop blocking the 100-plus nations that want this waiver and to get a special online WTO meeting to enact a comprehensive waiver immediately."
Advocates for the waiver are holding vigils and protests this week not just across the U.S. -- but also in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Uganda, the U.K. and more.
This global call to action is endorsed by powerful labor, health and other organization worldwide including the global labor federation, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Public Services International (PSI), Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Oxfam, Avaaz, the People's Vaccine Alliance, Greenpeace, and many more.
A full list of events is below.
BACKGROUND: More than 100 nations support a temporary, COVID-specific waiver of WTO rules that are part of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). The Biden administration announced its support for this TRIPS waiver in May and Pres. Biden reiterated the urgency of enacting a waiver in his statement on Friday about the omicron variant. But the U.S. government has not acted to get the few close U.S. allies blocking the waiver, the European Union (pushed by Germany), Switzerland and the UK, to allow progress on the critical initiative. A meaningful WTO waiver that can facilitate the necessary scale-up in production will only be agreed to if the Biden administration applies maximum diplomatic and political pressure to make it happen.
Last week, members of Congress joined health, labor, faith and development leaders to deliver three million petition signatures with this demand, and nine U.S. Senators called on President Biden to "deliver on your promise to defeat the pandemic" by actively pushing for the TRIPS waiver at the ministerial. With the ministerial now postponed, advocates are demanding Biden work with the European Union and WTO Director-General to hold an emergency, online meeting to approve the waiver.
This week, a coalition of nurses unions representing well over 2.5 million health care workers from 28 countries around the world -- coordinated by Global Nurses United and Progressive International -- filed a complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on Physical and Mental Health, alleging human rights violations by the EU, UK, Norway, Switzerland and Singapore, for their opposition to the TRIPS waiver. Waiver opposing countries were also directly named and shamed this week by the Council of Global Unions (CGU), which represents over 200 million workers.
Since being introduced over a year ago, support for the waiver has poured in from the majority of U.S. House Democrats, ten U.S. senators, 170-plus former heads of state and Nobel laureates, 400-plus U.S. civil society organizations, 250 international organizations and over 100 international intellectual policy academics.
PROTESTS DEMANDING A COVID-19 WTO WAIVER
*All U.S. events on Nov. 30 unless noted
CHICAGO, IL -two events
@ 103rd and Western
@ Location TBA
@ Denver Public Library, east lawn
10 W. Fourteenth Ave. Pkwy
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ
@ Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
NEW HAVEN, CT
@ Location TBA
NEW YORK, NY
@ Times Square
Duffy Square area along 46th St.
@ The World Trade Center
Corner of SW 2nd and Salmon
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
@ UCSF, Parnassus Campus
505 Parnassus Ave.
WASHINGTON, DC-two events
@ Foggy Bottom Metro
23rd and I St. NW
@ White House
Pennsylvania Ave. & Lafayette Park
Time and Date: TBA
Time and Date: TBA
Time and Date: TBA
November 30, 5:00 PM CET
November 30, ALL DAY
9AM: International Press Conference
10AM-6PM: Picket @ Centre International de Conferences
5PM-8PM Candlelight march
December 1, 9:00AM - 6:00PM
Picket @ Centre International de Conferences
December 2, 9:00AM - 6:00PM
Picket @ Centre International de Conferences ATTEND
December 3, 9:00AM - 6:00PM
Picket @ Centre International de Conferences
November 30, 9:00 AM
Rally & March @ Embassy or Switzerland
November 30, 11:00 AM
Photo stunt shaming the government for opposing the TRIPS waiver.
November 30, Time TBA
Vigil & Moment of Silence @ Mbarara University Of Science & Technology
November 30, 12:00 PM AEDT
Vigil for Global Vaccine Justice.
November 23, 9:00 AM ET
"WTO: DON'T TRADE WITH OUR LIVES!" Online Global Rally
November 30, 6:00 PM ET
"La vie plutot que les profits! Levez les brevets!" Rally & March
November 22, 12:00 PM AEDT
Rally to tell Pfizer: "End the Vaccine Monopoly!"
November 22, 4:00 PM ET
"All Out for a PeoplesVaccine" Rally
Time and Date: TBA
Starting 11:00 AM Nov. 28
Youth activists will hold a 7 day vigil outside the Ministry of Economics Stubenring
November 30, 6:00 PM
March & Rally
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.(202) 588-1000
"Charging or jailing the killers is not enough," said the national director of the Working Families Party. "Justice is changing the conditions so no one dies during a traffic stop."
This is a developing story… Please check back for possible updates...
Editor's note: The videos at the end of this article contain graphic and violent content.
The city of Memphis, Tennessee on Friday night released four videos of the January 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black motorist who died after being beaten by five officers who were subsequently fired and charged with murder.
The footage was privately seen by Nichols' family on Monday. Three of the videos are from body-worn cameras issued by the Memphis Police Department (MPD). Another is from a camera mounted on a pole and contains no audio.
Before the videos were released, MPD Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis warned that they show "acts that defy humanity."
Nichols was pulled over by Memphis officers for alleged reckless driving that Davis has since said her department has been "unable to substantiate." After three days in the hospital, he died on January 10 from cardiac arrest and kidney failure.
\u201cA young father, son, skateboarder, a photographer. This is who Tyre Nichols was.\n\nHe should still be alive today.\nhttps://t.co/JbsgEMTxMI\u201d— Vera Institute of Justice (@Vera Institute of Justice) 1674862160
"I am disturbed and disgusted by the sheer brutality and lack of humanity on display in the footage released today," said NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson in a statement Friday night. "No person should ever be subjected to such violence, to have to call for their mother as they are being brutalized by police."
"This video is a stark reminder that in America, on any day of the week, a Black person can be brutally beaten to death less than a hundred feet from his home by those who are supposedly here to 'serve and protect' our communities," he continued. "Let me be clear—a traffic stop should not result in the brutal death of an unarmed man—period."
\u201cCPC Chair @RepJayapal and CPC Policing, Constitution, Equity Task Force Chair @RepBonnie echo community demands for justice for Tyre Nichols and call for fundamentally reimagining public safety in their statement on the release of the body camera footage of his killing.\u201d— Progressive Caucus (@Progressive Caucus) 1674865377
As Common Dreamsreported Thursday, former MPD cops Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, and Desmond Mills Jr.—who are all Black—were charged with second-degree murder and various other crimes.
In a series of tweets responding to the charges, ColorOfChange president Rashad Robinson said Friday, "Let's be clear, while the mass movement of people demanding some level of accountability has succeeded in this one instance, convictions aren't the goal."
"WE WANT AN END TO POLICE MURDERS OF BLACK PEOPLE. So, this moment isn't about Black vs. white, it's about blue vs. Black. Diversity cannot and does not solve systemic problems," he continued. "If we don't change the structure of policing and safety in our country, Black people will continue to be killed, by police of all races. The evidence is clear—investing in communities will keep us safe, not the police."
\u201cCharging or jailing the killers is not enough. Justice is changing the conditions so no-one dies during a traffic stop.\n\nPolicing is fundamentally broken. Trading white officers for Black ones was never a solution.\n\nIf we're serious about public safety, we'll fund our communities\u201d— Maurice Moe Mitchell \ud83d\udc3a (@Maurice Moe Mitchell \ud83d\udc3a) 1674866194
Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Friday evening that "Tyre's death is a bitter reminder of the Black lives that we've lost due to police brutality. Thirty years ago, we were horrified by the footage of police beating Rodney King. And yet, despite our decades of protest, we're still fighting the same battle."
"The only difference now is more of the horrific incidents are being captured on video, whether it be bodycams or bystanders," he added. "Tinkering at the margins of a violent police state is not enough. It never was. This death must amount to more than just another viral moment or hashtag. It must spark a serious reconsideration and shifting of priorities, deployment, and resources."
Before the footage was released, major cities across the United States were preparing for potential Friday evening protests.
According toThe Associated Press:
As a precaution, Memphis-area schools canceled all after-class activities and postponed an event scheduled for Saturday morning. Other early closures included the city power company’s community offices and the University of Memphis.
Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters of the "horrific" nature of the video but pleaded for peace.
"I don't want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that's not what my son stood for," she said Thursday. "If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully."
Noting that "there's been a lot of focus on the perceived threat of violence,"MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit Memphis newsroom, on Friday published a collection of stories and columns "to add context to this tragedy" for those who may be unfamiliar with "the antagonistic relationship police have cultivated with the community, dating back decades."
The coalition Decarerate Memphis shared on Twitter demands from Nichols' family and the community, including reforms to reduce the chances of similar future events.
\u201c\ud83d\udea8\ud83d\udea8\ud83d\udea8 Save and share everywhere. We demand #JusticeforTyreNichols\u201d— Decarcerate Memphis (@Decarcerate Memphis) 1674851240
The Movement for Black Lives tweeted advice on "how to limit viewing sensitive content" on social media platforms, for those who do not want to be traumatized by the footage.
\u201cToday a video of Tyre Nichols\u2019 murder will be released. Do not share it. Do not traumatize our people further by putting it in front of us. We feel the overwhelming rage and grief without subjecting ourselves to a video of his life being taken.\nTo protect yourself online: \u2b07\ufe0f\u201d— Movement 4 Black Lives (@Movement 4 Black Lives) 1674850469
"We grieve with Tyre's family, friends, and the entire Memphis community," the movement said in a statement. "Had those officers not pulled Tyre over, he would be here right now with his four-year-old son, taking photos of sunsets and skateboarding. Yet, even as we try to grieve and stand in solidarity with Tyre's family, we know the police are ramping up to criminalize our actions—meeting our calls for justice and accountability with more state violence and suppression."
Editor's note: The videos below contain graphic and violent content.
"These lobbyists are not getting hired to advocate for American energy consumers—they will push an agenda that benefits the new majority's donors no matter what it costs taxpayers."
An analysis published Friday by the nonpartisan watchdog Accountable.US revealed that numerous former fossil fuel lobbyists are being hired to work for the Republican-controlled 118th Congress, including in high-level positions on the House Natural Resources Committee.
"As the Republicans majority begins the new Congress, former oil industry lobbyists will have new and growing influence as top staffers for congressmen on key committees," the analysis states.
Accountable.US detailed the close ties between Nancy Peele—chief of staff to House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)—and fossil fuel interests.
"It's no surprise that Big Oil is infiltrating the halls of Congress after spending millions to elect some of the most extreme legislators in American history."
Peele's history includes:
Majority Leader Steve Scalise's [R-La.] Chief of Staff Megan Bel Miller came to Scalise's office straight out of working as an oil and gas lobbyist... Miller lobbied Congress on behalf of National Oceans Industry Association, a group representing the offshore oil and gas industry. Bel Miller advocated for polluting industry interests on numerous conservation issues, including the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and offshore leasing. Majority Whip Tom Emmer's [R-Minn.] new Policy Director Ian Foley is an energy and mining lobbyist. In 2022, Foley lobbied Congress on behalf of the uranium mining industry and public utilities with oil and gas portfolios.
These are but a handful of the many examples of the revolving door between Big Oil and Congress highlighted in the analysis.
"It's no surprise that Big Oil is infiltrating the halls of Congress after spending millions to elect some of the most extreme legislators in American history," Accountable.US energy and environment director Jordan Schreiber said in a statement. "These lobbyists are not getting hired to advocate for American energy consumers—they will push an agenda that benefits the new majority's donors no matter what it costs taxpayers."
Underscoring the analysis' findings, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation that would require the federal government to lease a portion of public lands and waters for fossil fuel extraction for each non-emergency drawdown of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The bill was introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was the top recipient of oil and gas PAC money in the House Republican caucus during the last election cycle.
\u201cNEW: MAGA Republicans in Congress just passed a bill that would obstruct one of @POTUS\u2019 only powers to protect consumers from Big Oil\u2019s price gouging\u2014letting oil companies get rich at Americans\u2019 expense. https://t.co/pcwPGdVkIs\u201d— Accountable.US (@Accountable.US) 1674844979
"We grieve for all this unthinkable loss. And with our grief, we also rage," said Jewish Voice for Peace. "The Israeli government's domination and oppression of Palestinians is the root cause of each of these senseless, tragic deaths."
Human rights defenders condemned a Friday attack outside a synagogue in an illegal Israeli settlement by a Palestinian gunman who murdered at least seven people—a massacre that followed the killing of 10 Palestinians by Israeli forces during a raid in the occupied West Bank Thursday.
TheTimes of Israelreports the unidentified gunman shot and killed seven people and wounded three others during the Friday evening attack in Neve Yaakov in East Jerusalem. Friday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The attacker was shot dead during a gunfight with police as he attempted to flee into the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina. An ambulance service said the deceased ranged in age from 20 to 70.
In a statement, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said the U.N. chief "strongly condemns today's terrorist attack by a Palestinian perpetrator outside a synagogue in Jerusalem, which claimed the lives of at least seven Israelis and injured several others."
"It is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship, and on the very day we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day," Dujarric added. "There is never any excuse for acts of terrorism. They must be clearly condemned and rejected by all."
\u201c\ud83d\udea85 #Israelis killed & 5 wounded in a shooting attack near a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.\n\nViolence begets violence begets violence....\n\nPeople don't understand how close the occupied territories are to a full disastrous explosion!\u201d— Muhammad Shehada (@Muhammad Shehada) 1674846498
Tom Nides, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, tweeted that he is "shocked and disgusted at this heinous terrorist attack on innocent people, including children. Praying for all of the victims and their loved ones."
The synagogue massacre came one day after Israeli occupation forces killed 10 Palestinians including an elderly woman and wounded around 20 others during an early morning raid on the Jenin refugee camp. Israeli forces then bombed Gaza early on Friday morning after Palestinian resistance fighters fired two rockets at Israel.
The Jenin raid was part of Operation Breakwater, a nine-month campaign targeting Palestinian resistance in the camp and nearby Nablus. Human rights groups say 30 Palestinians, both fighters and civilians, have been killed so far by Israeli forces in 2023. Last year was the deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians since the second intifada—or general uprising—a generation ago, with 150 people including 33 children killed. Another 53 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2022.
\u201cInstead of linking today's terrible attack in Jerusalem to Holocaust Remembrance Day, which it has nothing to do with, you might connect it instead to the 30 Palestinians that have been killed by Israel just this month. This is a cycle of violence borne of Israeli apartheid.\u201d— Arielle Angel (@Arielle Angel) 1674851482
In a statement following the synagogue murders, the U.S.-based group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) called the attack "the inevitable, horrifying outcome of decades of Israeli apartheid"
"We grieve for all this unthinkable loss. And with our grief, we also rage. The Israeli government's domination and oppression of Palestinians is the root cause of each of these senseless, tragic deaths," JVP contended.
"The violent, racist speech coming from the Israeli government makes it clear that the Israeli military will continue to escalate its violent attacks on Palestinians. Already the Israeli army has invaded Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem," the group said.
\u201c10 killed in #Jenin and now 5 dead, 5 wounded in Jerusalem shooting attack: these are the ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE RESULTS of a vicious extremist #Israeli government that leaves no room for hope, no room for peace, more to come. https://t.co/kQt5NgIMw3\u201d— Sarah Leah Whitson (@Sarah Leah Whitson) 1674845638
What we are witnessing is not a "conflict," a "clash," or a "war" between two equal parties. There is no mistaking the massive disparity of power between the Israeli government and the Palestinians it targets. Backed by $3.8 billion in annual military funding from the U.S. government, the Israeli government controls, dominates, and dispossesses Palestinian lives and lands.
"We are on the side of unconditional commitment to justice, equality, freedom, and dignity for all people, no exceptions," JVP added. "To achieve a future where all are safe and free, we must end the Israeli government's settler-colonial apartheid regime."