Preparing for G8 Summit in Genoa

THE ITALIAN authorities are planning a “ring of steel”, in effect closing the city to the outside world. Railway stations and motorway junctions - and possibly even the city’s airport - will be closed to prevent an estimated 100,000 demonstrators reaching the city. 

A force of up to 20,000 police and troops (against 2000 in Gothenburg) is being trained and is rehearsing scenarios from street battles to terrorist attacks. Europe’s declining steel industry is happy at the prospect getting huge orders to meet the requirement for steel fencing running into several kms. Tear gas and water cannon are being prepared, and helicopters, planes and rooftop squads will back up the huge force on the ground. Fifteen helicopters, four planes, seven naval boats, a fleet of armored vehicles, and satellite surveillance will be pressed into service to put down the protests. A mini-civil war modelled after the Gulf War? Well, look forward for the carnival on July 20.

On the streets of Gothenburg


ON THE streets of Göteborg, where demonstrators of varying stripes crowded beneath sunny skies to decry Bush, his policies and the general growth of American influence over global affairs. 

“I think he should hang himself for the sake of his country,’’ said Lowander. “I don’t like American politics that much anyway, but he’s the worst.’’ 

One group of protesters built a nine-foot-high papier-mache bust of Bush -- wearing a necktie in an American flag motif -- and paraded it through Goteborg’s centuries-old cobbled streets.

“Bush go home,’’ hundreds of protesters chanted, as dozens raised a middle finger in anger before the giant Bush bust.

“He’s been way too radical,’’ said Douglas Ohlsen, a 36-year-old artist-activist who built the effigy along with some friends. “We came to argue with his administration’s foreign policy and economic policy and domestic policy, all of his policies.”

In a decidedly un-presidential greeting, dozens of the demonstrators parted with protocol and dropped their pants to wag bare bottoms toward the luxury hotel where Bush stayed.

“I don’t like the guy, so I’m going to moon him,’’ said Adrian Lowander, a 20-year-old student who traveled 14 hours by train to this Nordic crossroads of half a million people.

“It’s not violent, but it’s an insult,’’ said Lowander. “He’ll understand it.’’(Courtesy: Cox Newspapers)


Spectacular protests against Bush

Police shoots protesters in a “civilised country”

GOTHENBURG, the port city in SW Sweden, literally went up in flames of protest as European anger against Bush erupted there in full force. Spain and Belgium had already set the stage for Gothenburg. But Gothenburg was incomparably superior. Only the focus shifted to the US rejection of Kyoto Protocol and NMD from death penalty in the US, as they figured prominently on the Summit agenda. More than 20,000 protesters – mostly greens but also peace activists and anti-capitalist reds as well as a sizable section of anarchists from all over the continent – fought pitched battles on June 14. The Swedish riot police proved to be no match for them. Their sheer desperation combined with the toughening stance of the Western leaders, increasingly panicky about the street protests coming in waves after waves, resulted in the first ever incident of police firing live bullets on such a demonstration in the socalled civilised world. There was however no outrage in the Western media against this mini-Tiannanmen.

The police did not use tear-gas or water cannon but were issued live bullets and hence they quickly turned trigger-happy. The veneer of democracy was stripped and the claim of civilised handling of demonstrations lay in tatters at, of all places, in Sweden. The police who launched so much terror propaganda among peace-loving Swedes about invasion by “anarchist caravans”, were deliberately “unprepared” for handling the protests without use of force and resorting to firing. The Swedish Radio’s repeated exhortations asking the people not to go anywhere near Gothenburg sounded very much like earthquake warnings. Yet, on the D-day, the police who shot and critically injured three protesters with live bullets said they were unprepared. In the face of mounting criticism, they came up with the strange excuse that they did not have rubber bullets! The anarchists, caring two hoots for increasing mass participation in such rallies, did their best to lend a bad name for such protests among a section who otherwise would support the cause. But the media which criticised the protesters for throwing cobblestones at the police never questioned the latter as to why they let loose attack dogs on the former.

The highhandedness by the Swedish police might have succeeded in preventing the demonstrators from reaching the venue to shut down the event. But they advanced almost to a point one mile from the venue. Moreover, they succeeded in disrupting a dinner schedule for the visiting heads of state at a famous city restaurant which had to be cancelled because of the intensity of the protests and the leaders had to remain huddled inside the venue. Four official delegations attending the Summit had to change their place of stay after the Swedish police expressed their inability to guarantee their mobility in view of the strength of the protesters.

The media lamented that at the end of the day hundreds of protesters and 56 policemen were hurt. Around thousand people were detained. And millions of dollars worth of property damaged. But the real damage was to the credibility of the leaders who had gathered there at the summit. A tough anti-US stance adopted by most of the European heads of state looked a bit tame in comparison with the popular outrage on display outside the venue. But the European leaders had their own share of setback when an Irish referendum, coinciding with the Summit, said a loud No to the Nice Treaty on expanding the European Union to include Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus. The Treaty needs to be ratified by all the existing 15 members to come into force. This item was also on the agenda of the Summit. Moreover, Bush too said a firm No to any American rethinking on Kyoto Protocol. Thus, substantially too, the Summit was a flop show.

The European leaders, with Tony Blair, leading the pack, condemned the protests as a “threat to democracy”. Though fresh from his impressive victory over conservatives back at home, he cut a sorry figure when he demonstrated the true worth of that victory commenting caustically about the protest that, “This is effectively a sort of anarchist travelling circus... with the sole purpose of causing as much mayhem as possible.” The ‘democratic mandates’ and the ‘will of the people’, invoked by the governmental leaders, paled into insignificance before the democracy on the streets. The media tried to drive a wedge between “violent anarchists” and other “legitimate but peaceful protesters”. While the Americans tried to dismiss the official criticism from the European governments as the “residual opposition from the declining Socialists of yesteryear”, they were really at a loss to explain the popular protests that landed like an egg on the President’s shrunken face. All that a Bush aide could do was to wryly comment that these protests were a “modern way of life”.

The protests outside the US Embassy in Spain and against the NATO leaders meet at the alliance headquarters in Brussels and, above all, the grand finale at Gothenburg to disrupt the US-European Union Summit have made the leaders in Europe jittery. Like a pre-war situation, urgent security reviews have been ordered. The proposal now is to hold the next month’s G8 Summit in the Italian port city of Genoa on a warship to save it from an estimated 100,000 protesters!

— BS