4 000 in anti WTO demo in Geneva November 28

4000 people joined the march November 28in Geneva protesting ahead of the WTO meeting in an International demonstration as part of a week of action and debate around the WTO Ministerial which runs from 30th November to 2nd December.

The mobilisation was seen very much in relation to the COP15 UN climate conference taking place in Copenhagen 7th – 18th December – Economic Crisis, Climate Crisis, Social Crisis: It’s Time to Change Course! (see http://www.anti-omc2009.org/spip.php?article8).

Indymedia reports in German states that activists without any provocation from the police broke out of the demonstration from the very start and smashed cars and windows and then came back. At the beginning targeted against banks but soon against anything, a bijouterie and other shops, many cars and bikes, a bus stop. When at least four cars also was set on fire the police attacked trying to separate demonstrators from people causing property damage. Police used tear gas, concussion grenades and water cannon. The police claimed they could identify about 200 members of what was labelled the black bloc: “violent elements that join other demonstrations to cause damage.” The police said they were spread out along the route and police had to separate them from the other protesters. No injuries to police or protesters were reported, police said.

An hour after the police separated the demo some thousand people gathered again and moved towards the demo final in a park. Most went then in the direction of the WTO conference building but was finally stopped again by tear gas and water cannon. A bank was smashed but otherwise there was little to destroy in this district close to the railway station.

People gathered than in the park close to the railway station, still one could see families with children and listening to a concert. Finally the police, this time without being much provoked a lot of tear gas into the park and the people fled without much resistance towards the railway station. The police followed also filling the railway station with tear gas. Some were shouting slogans against the police and than moved away into the immigrant district nearby. One component at this last moment was “immigrantenkids” as a sign of domestic social unrest.

The outcome of the demonstration have caused different reactions. One international participant states “Speaking for folks in the South, we will not allow ourselves to be used as cannon fodder for privileged white middle class youth from the North seeking to work off their “animal spirits,” to borrow a term from Keynes”. Via Campesina made the following press release:

Also on the Swiss Indymedia website some reactions are strong also from people normally accepting strong actions: “What is the political message to smash the window of a bus stop? That we want a more bad public transport? That we want higher taxes? Or simply a reduction of the profit of insurance companies of 0,00001 promille?”

The claim that only rich peoples cars were smashed are challenged by others stating the opposite including destruction of bikes and the like. Activists defending the actions claim they were targeted with a few exceptions, how few the present police were in the beginning, how the police tactic was confused ending with: “im dezember nach kopenhagen!”

The Danish security police have stated in the mass media last week in general that activists aiming at property damage use the tactic to hide in broader demonstrations. Some Southern activists seems tired of undisciplined Western demonstrations and want a more strict non-violent behaviour. The old fashion way of dealing with these problems was demonstration guards keeping provocations both from the police and among the participants out of the demonstration. But the falling apart of collective organisation culture and the growing social unrest in Europe caused by growing social inequalities and promotion of individualistic consumer culture causes problems for coherent political protest. Hopefully lessons can be learned for Copenhagen.

Tord Björk

Sources: Indymedia, Germany, Switzerland, German and French, Berlingske Denmark

Press release about the demonstration by Via Campesina:

Geneva mobilization: where is the real violence?

Geneva mobilisation: where is the real violence?

Tord Björk | Action,International action,Summits,Via Campesina,WTO | Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Press release about the demonstration by Via Campesina:

Geneva mobilisation : where is the real violence?

Sunday, 29 November 2009
Press Release

Via Campesina was present with an important delegation at the protest of Saturday 28 November against the World Trade Organization (WTO). The mobilization was strong with around 5000 people in the streets of Geneva. The objective of these people, as well as that of Via Campesina, was to demonstrate in a non-violent manner, but with a strong and radical message regarding the WTO.

Because of the dramatic consequences of liberalization on peasant agriculture around the world, we ask that the WTO get out of agriculture. We regret that material violence did not allow us to express this message in front of the WTO building in Geneva. Without minimizing yesterday’s events, we remark nonetheless that another form of violence – social, political and economic – is directed on a daily basis towards a large part of the world population, including farmers. Let us not forget that one billion people do not have access to sufficient food. That violent political decisions criminalize certain unions on a daily basis: this was the case for our three Korean delegates who were not able to join us for the various mobilizations and who have been detained at the airport since Friday November 27th, 11 pm.

Our delegates traveled several thousand kilometers to come testify here in Geneva and propose alternatives. Since they were not able to do this during the demonstration, we invite journalists to take advantage of their presence in the coming days.

For any additional information, please contact:
Valentina Hemmeler Maïga,
Solenne Piriou, La Via Campesina,

Complementary position of Uniterre on the Swiss aspects of the demonstration of 28 November:

* We wonder whether it is opportune to welcome international organizations of this scale if the only response to yesterday’s violent incidents is – for some people – the plain and simple prohibition to protest. This could lead to the impression that the authorities are not capable of dealing with events of this size while at the same time letting democracy express itself.
* We are also surprised that the Swiss authorities were able to obtain the names of three Korean delegates and detain them before a demonstration but that they are not able to identify 200 possible “rioters”.