Protesters disrupt economic forum
Melbourne, Australia, Sept. 13— It can only be described
as the latest incident in a rapidly growing groundswell of international
opposition to corporate globalization and unaccountable political
On Monday, ten thousand people blockaded all entrances of the
World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Crown Towers venue, forcing Victorian
leader, Denis Napthine to concede that “protesters have unfortunately
won the first round.” Hundreds of conference delegates have
been prevented from entering the forum with many already having
endured spectacular confrontations. The meetings, still attempting
to convene as of this writing, were to be held over the course
of three days. The WEF is a major international economic conference
organized to bring together business and government leaders
to discuss the global economy. This is a discussion in which
its critics —who identify themselves as representing the majority
of the world’s populace who are most impacted by decisions made
at these elite gatherings— contend that they are being ignored
or manipulated to the advantage of international financiers
and their political counterparts holding public offices. On
Wednesday morning, meeting difficulties persist, with legal
reports of rampant and brutal police misconduct continuing to
Protesters poured into the streets surrounding the site of
the WEF’s Asia-Pacific summit at 6am, Monday morning, some having
even slept at the site overnight. Despite Antarctic weather
conditions, over 5,000 people had gathered by 8:30 am.
forum started late because delegates could not get in, and when
it did start, 300-400 delegates (of around 1,000 said to be
attending) were locked out by the blockade. Most of them, as
well as a number of journalists, were unable to get in for the
rest of the day. They were kept out of the summit by protesters
with arms linked as police stood by, apparently powerless to
help. Some of the delegates managed to get to the conference
only after being ferried by boat or helicopter hours late into
the casino complex, on the Yarra River’s Southbank. Two busloads
of dignitaries drove around the entire complex for six hours,
repeatedly attempting to breach protester lines.
The entire perimeter of Crown Casino had been surrounded by
an eight foot wall of concrete and webbed steel. The only gaps
in the wall were the entrances. Here there were hundreds of
cops (over 2,000 in total had been mobilized for the front line
defense of the WEF, with more in reserve) at the ready with
their batons. This was a high-level security operation unusual
for Australia where so-called “violent” protests are infrequent.
However, in a highly organized deployment of their own forces,
all entrances to the Crown site maintained strong blockade contingents
of protesters. Witnesses said that overall, the blockades had
been remarkably peaceful and the protesters remained determined
and disciplined. A carnival atmosphere held sway at the blockade
sites, with a colorful array of costumes and contingents covering
all points of the left and progressive political spectrum. Some
protest organizers dubbed the demonstration as the “Festival
of the Oppressed.”
Media accounts have varied, but most estimate that about half
of the delegates were prevented from entering the Crown Towers
complex and that many of the speeches were delivered to half-empty
halls. The more sensationalist Australian media outlets, such
as Rupert Murdoch’s Herald-Sun, have nonetheless characterized
the protests as “violent.” But the only violence has come from
police, according to legal observer Pauline Spencer, whose team
has catalogued multiple instances of seriously abusive behavior
But nothing could quell the euphoria of the blockaders.
“We’re here to declare victory,” the S11 Alliance’s David
Glanz told a media conference this afternoon. The alliance was
the largest umbrella organization of demonstrators orchestrating
much of the protests. “We have delivered exactly what we promised.
We promised more than 10,000 people here and we delivered -and
the protests have been peaceful, they’ve been determined bu
tpeople have had fun too.”
Alliance media spokesperson Jorge Jorquera told Green Left Weekly,
“these people have made history here today,” he said. “They’ve
cut through the tissue of lies that this protest was going to
become a riot. They’ve been totally committed to non-violent
blockading but also just as committed to doing it properly,
in an organized and effective fashion.
They’ve been diverse and united and strong.”
Demonstrators achieved at least one major success in persuading
Australian Treasurer Peter Costello, a conference delegate,
of the need to heed public opinion on globalization.
“If policy makers think that they can ignore public opinion,
I think we would be making a rather large mistake,” he said.
“We can talk about the benefits of an open trading system,
but let’s remember that the last opportunity to put some detail
on that was in Seattle and it was a failure.”
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of Melbourne unionists delivered
a stunning blow to the legitimacy of the World Economic Forum
and corporate globalization, filling city streets with noise,
color and people.
The workers have rebuffed WEF attempts to paint the protesters
as “violent” by marching directly to the blockade’s main base
on Queensbridge Road from Trades Hall in Carlton.
The marchers filled Swanston Street in downtown Melbourne,
marching past a Nike superstore chanting “Stop global sweatshops.”
Fearing it would be targeted by protests similar to those
that shut down last year’s World Trade Organization talks in
Seattle, Nike closed its flagship Melbourne store Sunday and
boarded up the windows.
The S11 Alliance had agreed to allow Trades Hall use of its
stage for a platform, which featured some of the Australian
union movement’s most prominent leaders, including the Textile,
Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia’s Michelle O’Neill,
the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union’s John Maitland
and ACTU president Sharan Burrow.
Indonesian union leader Romawaty Sinaga, the international
officer of the FNPBI union coalition, received an especially
warm reception while speaking from a platform. “We want Australian
workers to support Indonesian workers. We need your solidarity.
We all, workers in Australia and workers in Indonesia, have
common interests in stopping these people,” she said angrily,
pointing at the conference venue across the road.
Several thousand unionists marched around the casino before
joining the blockaders at different entrances. Later, that afternoon,
the police attacked.
Brutal police attack
On Tuesday evening, September 12, lawyers and members of the
activists’ legal support team were shocked and outraged by brutal
police assaults on protesters outside of the casino. Witness
statements and observations by the legal support team documented
the following account of the police brutality, including the
use of potentially lethal force.
Without warning or any attempt at negotiation, police attacked
a peaceful blockade outside of the casino. Police charged through
and over the protests wielding long PR-24 side handled batons,
striking protesters over the head and body. Protesters were
kicked, punched and dragged behind police lines. Protesters
trapped between lines of police horses and the casino fence
were beaten and prodded through the fence with batons.
One man was beaten by police, while lying prone, and possibly
unconsciousness, behind police lines. He was subsequently taken
to a hospital by ambulance with suspected spinal injuries. Over
30 people were taken by ambulance or had to go to a hospital
for treatment. Several protesters have serious injuries, predominately
to the head and neck. Some remain hospitalized.
Earlier in the day the legal support team had called on the
Victorian Ombudsman to investigate police actions at the protest.
Damien Lawson said today, “The Victorian Ombudsman must intervene
as a matter of urgency to prevent further unlawful action by
the police and serious injuries to members of the public exercising
their right to protest. If protesters have breached the law
they can be dealt with by the courts, rather police have acted
as judge and jury circumventing the justice system by meting
out their own arbitrary brutal and dangerous punishment.”
Legal observer Pauline Spencer commented, “we had Victoria
Police just storming with batons, thrashing people about the
head ... breaking ribs, breaking hands.” She added that batons
had been thrust into stomachs, breasts and genitals and some
demonstrators had been dragged away by their hair.
In the repressive police responses to popular protests such
as these, many activists are beginning to casually expect them
as common protest hazards and they are not deterred. So far,
if anything, a collective feeling of growing empowerment seems
to be at hand. “Victory” in Melbourne has clearly nourished
this shared sentiment of international solidarity and resistance.
Bob Brown of the Australian Green party said the Greens were
in attendance to oppose the growth of a new aristocracy among
multinational corporate bodies who are becoming a de-facto,
undemocratic world government. “We’re also concerned about the
impoverished people of the world not having a voice,” he said.
His concerns were echoed by protesters at Treasury Gardens,
many of whom wore pins with the words, “Smash corporate tyranny.”
The WEF has been severely disrupted - a bit of a bummer for
the delegates, some of whom were paying $22,000 per night for
the privilege of staying at the Crown Casino.
Source: Indymedia, Reuters, Agence France Press, Green Left
Weekly, Associated Press
Chileans march in coup anniversary
By Eva Vergara
Santiago, Chile, Sept. 11— Thousands of Chileans marched
in a downpour Sunday to recall the 27th anniversary of the bloody
coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, demanding the former dictator
be brought to trial.
Amid a heavy police presence, demonstrators walked 2½ miles
from downtown Santiago to the cemetery where Salvador Allende,
the Marxist president who died during the coup against him,
Cold and a steady rain did not dampen the spirits of the leftists,
human rights activists and families of those who died during
Pinochet’s dictatorship, many of whom carried banners demanding
his prosecution. Police said between 4,000 and 5,000 people
took part in the march.
The way was opened this summer to the possibility of a Pinochet
trial — something long viewed as inconceivable — when the general
was stripped of the immunity from prosecution that he enjoyed
as a senator for life. The Supreme Court announced in August
that it upheld a lower court decision to end the immunity.
An official report after Pinochet left power in 1990 said 3,197
people died or disappeared under his right-wing military regime.
Allende died on Sept. 11, 1973 in the coup. Pinochet took power
and ruled for more than 16 years.
On Sunday, socialists gathered on the side of the presidential
palace at the exact site where Allende’s body was found 27 years
Source: Associated Press