Previous | SchNEWS 168 | Next | Index | PDF
CUCKOO! CUCKOO! IT'S YER SWISS CHEESE...
Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Issue 168, Friday 22 May 1998RESIST REFUSE RECLAIM
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:
"WTO ASSASSIN"... "WTO vs THE PEOPLE"... "REVOLUTION '98".
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."
However, those eight leaders whom US President Bill Clinton said "will focus on things that really affect people on the street" won't hear them cos they've moved 35 miles away. The reason, according to a report on BBC "Midlands Today" was the planned protests!
A few hours later and most of the Christians have gone and it's the turn of a ten thousand strong Reclaim The Streets (RTS) posse, to bring the Bullring part of the city to a standstill, as they party and protest in the street.
Welcome to the Global Street Party, happening in 37 cities across the world, not just against car culture but also free market globalisation...here's a selection...
TORONTO, CANADA: Hundreds of people took over one of Toronto's major streets, but soon after the party kicked off police did their best to spoil the fun, pushing people over and bursting balloons with knives just like the nasty kids that you didn't want at your party. A part of the crowd was intimidated and left, the rest tried to keep the street reclaimed and were met by more police violence. In the end four people were nicked under 'unlawful assembly' legislation. One man, Gregory Herrington, was also charged with three counts of assault police and one assault with a weapon, and released on a $2,000 bail with his wrist in a cast. He faces the most serious charge against political activist in well over a decade.
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL: Over 500 people joined Israel's first RTS. The organisers decided to get a police permission, but as the crowd got far bigger than they expected they ended up choosing their route as they pleased, ending in a pleasant sunset rave.
LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA: The Ljubljana lot went for Critical Mass instead where, unfortunately only 40 people showed up. Still they had a good time biking around at an average speed of 5.3km/h as their "Ministry of Correct Image, Department of Statistics" informed us.
LYON, FRANCE: Lyon crew (about 200) managed to block a main street for a while with tripods, drumming and a float, but decided to withdraw when "nearly a million police" (perhaps a slightly exaggerated estimate) eventually showed up with clear intentions to behave badly.
UTRECHT, NETHERLANDS: Nearly 1,000 had a wild party and blockaded a six lane highway for five hours. We don't know if there was a translation error but they say police mixed with the crowd at the meeting point, sat on the pavement, assisted to get the soundsystem generator going and were eager to go wherever the crowd would lead them, keeping a very low profile until the very end!
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA: No info about the numbers. Lots of arrests, after one hour police towed away the soundsystem. Still the party went on with drumming and whistling until dark.
SIDNEY, AUSTRALIA: The third RTS in Sidney seems to have been a massive success; about 3,000 people, three different stages (Rock, Techno and Reggae) and a nice and cheerful party. The English Judges on the scene voted "9.9 across the board, absolutely the best, culturally most diverse and interesting party we've ever seen"
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: The party set off very well with four soundsystems, drummers, puppet theatre and fire performances enjoyed by more than 3,000 people. Somehow police didn't get the joke and ensured what turned out to be the biggest riots in their for the last four years. Three McDonald's were destroyed and sixty four people nicked, but all were later released without charge except nine who remain in custody facing hooliganism charges.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN: Had a demo against "mad car disease" with party mood, colourful costumes, carnival drums and high spirits!
TURKU, FINLAND: 1,000 people occupied a bridge and a street in the city Centre; they had seven bands playing and a hell of a time.
Sat 6th June - meeting points @ 12 noon
The decision gives the go-ahead for the privatisation of life in Europe. Human genes, embryos and body parts will become corporate property along with animals and plants, including entire species. Already, under current stricter rules, human umbilical cord blood cells have been patented by US company Biocyte and the application for the cloning process that created "Dolly" covers all mammals including humans.
Massive lobbying by pharmaceutical and biotech companies has taken its toll on MEPs who finally adopted this directive. "This is a most deplorable step on the road to degrading life into an industrial commodity... [and] an open invitation to bio-piracy in Third World countries," says Greenpeace's Benedikt Haerlin.
As well as the obvious ethical implications of patenting human and animal genetic material for "medical" purposes, the freedom to patent plant species could, in a short space of time, wreak havoc with the lives of small-scale farmers. Already Nestle's L'Oreal has patented South Pacific ceremonial plant Kava, for use in reducing hair loss, while India has reacted furiously to news that Basmati rice has been awarded a US patent by RiceTec.
Indigenous peoples, who reject the whole concept that the discovery of living material can be owned, are at particular risk of having blood lines and genetic sequences patented. The Directive will blatantly legalise the theft of indigenous genetic resources.
Many genetically engineered crop test sites have been trashed by locals who object to being guinea pigs in these often secret environmental experiments. And pressure is still needed from consumers to persuade retailers and manufacturers to label foods which contain modified ingredients.
SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 2DX, England
Last updated 22 May 1998
@nti copyright - information for action - copy and distribute! SchNEWS Web Team (email@example.com)