From A World to Win News Service

G8 Protests: on the Frontlines in Geneva

Revolutionary Worker #1205, June 29, 2003, posted at

We received the following from the A World to Win News Service:

16 June 2003. A World to Win News Service--from a report by a member of the World People's Resistance Movement. If you didn't know the stakes were high for the G8 meeting in Evian, you certainly did once you arrived at Geneva's international airport. Passengers getting off every plane during the summit period had to walk a gauntlet between two wall-to-wall lines of big burly Swiss cops, from the airplane all the way to the exit from the terminal. The Swiss authorities said this was because they were "taking no chances on a terrorist attack," but it was pretty clear that it was really more intended to "shock and awe" people who were coming to protest the summit and the imperialist world order.

By Saturday morning, however, it was clear that the efforts of the authorities to intimidate people into staying away had fallen flat. Tens of thousands were gathering around the summit area, in Annemasse, France, as well as Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland. The police had cordoned off the area around the summit itself. Political meetings and debates involving many thousands took place Saturday afternoon in Annemasse. There were people from many different groups, from Globalize Resistance and the Stop the War Coalition in the UK, to Attac in France, anarchists, Trotskyists and other activists like those of us from the World People's Resistance Movement who gathered from around Europe. Many others coming to thir first summit demonstration, outraged in particular by the war and occupation of Iraq, or by the crushing burden of third world debt to the rich countries, or by the continuing outrages being committed by the US/Israeli regime in Palestine, or...well, you could go on and on. Quite a few were just fed up with the whole world!

After the day's political discussions, a concert was held, featuring musicians from many different parts of the world. The many protesters from Turkey were surprised to see Group Munzer come on stage, a group from Turkey that is well known for music that gives heart to the revolutionary struggle there.

Thousands spent the night under the stars in different camps, and discussion ebbed and flowed under the stars...for many it was a sleepless night trying to complete our last-minute preparations for the next day's events.

By 4 a.m., well before dawn, a few hundred people had already worked their way into the center of Geneva, where they were met by police. An initial attempt to seize one of the bridges spanning the river in central Geneva failed. But the protesters were determined to make sure that Bush and his fellow imperialist leaders would simply not be able to conduct their business as usual while the blood of thousands of Iraqis was still fresh on their hands.

So a second attempt was made, with reinforcements and better planning, and this time succeeded. Once the first bridge fell to the protesters at 5:30 a.m., a second quickly followed, then a third. Different political trends among the protesters tended to gravitate to different bridges. WPRM activists mingled with anarchists, and were joined by a group of French musicians who joyously trumpeted the victory. By taking over the bridges the protesters had become an obstacle along the main route for provisions heading to the summit. It would now be hard for the media to ignore the depth of the anger at the crimes of the G8 leaders.

For weeks preceding the summit the Swiss authorities had created an atmosphere designed to isolate the protesters and turn the locals against them. Residents of Geneva were bombarded with the message that their city was going to be invaded by "rioters and hooligans" whose real intent was looting and destruction. They were told they were in danger, and that unless they had urgent business to attend to, they should take their families and go stay with relatives outside the city until the "rioters" had left.

The Swiss police had brought in reinforcements from Germany--the first time ever. This caused a lot of anger among Swiss people who dislike the Germans' reputation for being heavy-handed. But a heavy hand was exactly what the Swiss authorities and their senior partners in America wanted. The police got out their sound bombs, water cannon and riot clubs, and prepared to attack. Debate kicked off among those holding the bridges: some retreated, while others chose to stay and fight. Spirits lifted when a 70-year-old French woman rode up on her bicycle--she spat out that she'd had enough of Bush and his warmongering, and that all the slanders of the Swiss authorities against the protesters made her even madder. "I'm going to stand my ground," she declared. "Let them come!"

A series of police attacks finally drove the protesters off the bridges. In any event, the main march of the protests had been scheduled for later that morning. Tens of thousands of us set off from Geneva, while tens of thousands more were heading from Annemasse to meet us at the French-Swiss border. All my images of the cool Swiss Alps gradually melted as the sun burned down brighter and brighter--the day was incredibly hot, but the marchers fought to keep their spirits up through 8 or 9 hours of marching. One middle-aged political refugee from Turkey, who had lost a third of each foot to frostbite while in the mountains there fighting against the troops of the Turkish regime, insisted on going along. He wanted to be on the frontlines of the action, and if he couldn't do it there, he damn sure intended to do it here, no matter what!

The dedication of the marchers and our determination to get out our political message won some people over. It was a real joy--and relief--to see elderly Swiss matrons come outside to offer a spray of watery relief from their garden hoses. Spirits also got a lift when a large contingent of Spanish protesters began to sing the revolutionary anthem, The Internationale . It was taken up in French, and then in other languages. It was a rare sight for a Swiss autobahn.

When the marches from the two sides of the border met up, we were happy to see that by boldly putting out their politics the WPRM on the French side had managed to pull together a significant contingent that linked up in particular with a group of young Palestinians. Tens of thousands of WPRM leaflets went out during the march, each bilingual, with English on one side and either German or French on the other.

The march arrived back at the starting point in early evening. Everyone was exhausted, and ready to collapse... when suddenly we found out that the authorities had taken advantage of the fact that most people were gone to stage a police raid on one of the camps and arrest people for the bridge protests. Several thousand people immediately marched in protest late into the night, and again the next morning.

One of the main slogans of the protesters had been, "They are eight, we are millions!" We had shown again this truth, that they are a handful who can only come together behind rings of steel to plot their crimes, while we represent millions and will resist them wherever they gather.

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