road protests 1998   |   road protests (current)   |   movement links

From: "SchNEWS"
To: "SchNEWS Subscribers"
Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 21:47:42 +0000
Subject: SchNEWS 168, 22 May 1998

reclaiming the world


Tripods tower against the Birmingham skyline as people dance around in a 10,000 strong street party, in front of a canary yellow army of nation-wide conscripted police. Only streets away, inside the secure walls of Birmingham's G8 conference hall, Clinton, Blair and the global summit team are dancing away to "All you need is love". By Monday the G8 globalisation tour has moved to the Palais des Nations in Geneva for World Trade Day to pay their respects to the great dollar of capitalism. Meanwhile, out on the street, hundreds of protesters are being arrested, beaten and deported by the Genevan authorities. And that's just for starters. Here's the SchNEWS guide to reclaiming the world...

As Clinton, Castro, Mandela and Blair flew out of Geneva this week, they left a city in shock after the worst riots seen here since 1932.

For four days this small city was under siege as the leaders of the 132-nation World Trade Organisation (WTO) met for their 50th anniversary at the United Nations building. The opposition was led by People's Global Action rejecting the whole process of globalisation and corporate power that is the new world government.

Even before the Ministers had stepped off the planes, the city had erupted. Five thousand people came to Saturday's Street Party, and by midnight it had turned into a full scale riot. One car was set alight and thousands of police charged the main encampment, firing tear-gas into the crowd. The demonstrators smashed hundreds of windows, mainly banks and corporate offices, until 5am causing over half a million pounds damage.

Genevans awoke as one on Sunday to a tense atmosphere of confusion, and a city resembling a warzone. On pavements, phone boxes and walls the graffiti message was clear:


From the moment the world leaders sat down on Monday morning to the conclusion on Wednesday evening the streets were filled with riot police and demonstrators, with the constant noise of sirens and low-flying helicopters.

MONDAY: The offices of Lockheed, multinational arms traders, were occupied by one group, while another spontaneous street demo stopped traffic and set off smoke bombs. By lunchtime the United Bank of Switzerland was forced to close and police kept back while road after road was blockaded. The group continued up to the UN building, surrounded by armed police, chanting in French, Spanish and English. By nightfall there was a highly-charged stand-off as a party kicked off next to the University.

TUESDAY: Activists from Colombia, India, South Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Aotearoa/NZ and across Europe, continued a frenzy of meetings under the banner of People's Global Action, networking and organising direct action. In a deliberate display of non-violence, hundreds marched gagged and bound through town, symbolising the global muting of human rights. At the Rousseau statue, they enacted a burial of his "social contract" between people and rulers. Meanwhile the director of the WTO, Renato Ruggiero, told the conference that everyone must pedal faster towards globalisation, or face the danger of falling off. (His Mercedes was later overturned.)

Then, as darkness descended, so did the people. A crowd of around 500, many "L'Hiphop", kids from nearby council estates, confronted police at Plain Palais, systematically trashing the nearby McDonald's and Pizza Hut. The police fired CS gas to disperse the angry mass, who began to smash more shops, overturn cars and run through the city in small groups, causing chaos. Plainclothes police on mopeds gave chase. At 2am they surrounded Artamis, a huge squatted alternative Centre, and arrested everyone. Since Monday the total detained stood at 287. As SchNEWS went to press over 100 people were still being held in prison.

WEDNESDAY: Hundreds assembled outside the UN for a final push - an attempt to enter the building and stop the General Assembly using Gandhi-style tactics. As they walked headlong into the line of riot police, there was a blur of truncheons and the ambulances began to arrive. According to staff at the hospital over 60 people a day have been treated, some requiring major operations. The squatters are organising demonstrations against police brutality tomorrow (Saturday), and the inhumane treatment of those arrested: strip-searches, lack of medical assistance, and psychological stress. The conference is over, and for now Geneva is quiet.

"This is without doubt a popular uprising against the issue of globalisation," one activist told SchNEWS. "Not just in Geneva but in cities all over the world people are beginning to realise the consequences of this crazy process and the importance of resisting by any means necessary."

* The next meeting of People's Global Action will take place from April 1st 1999 in Bangalore, India.

* SchNEWS and Squall have produced a little booklet 'United Colours of Peoples Global Action' - interviews with people involved in global resistance from East Timor to India. For a copy send SAE to SchNEWS.

Global summits like the G8 are not cheap. Entertaining the world's richest robber baron national leaders costs a cool $15 million dollars a shot. In contrast, for every pound that reaches Southern countries in aid, £10 is paid back in debt to the World Bank.


To subscribe, send a message to the address below with the word "subscribe" as the subject. Feel free to say more in the message!


road protests 1998   |   road protests (current)   |   movement links