Le Havre against the G8

May 21, 2011

About 8000 people marched though Le Havre in opposition to the G8 summit, which is due to start in neighbouring Deauville later this week. As France is hosting both the G8 and G20 this year, much of the focus has understandably been on the G20 in November, but even so a small turn out has to be assessed.

Certainly the authorities have done their utmost to undermine the participation in the protest. People in Le Havre reported that there was constant warnings of mass violence coming from the police in the lead up to the day – they were obviously lying as the organisers never estimated more than 10,000 to attend, and in the end were satisfied with 8k.

Our experience in reaching Le Havre – questioned by cops at Portsmouth ferry terminal, searched and all political paraphernalia (stickers, leaflets, sticky tape with slogans and bandanas) carefully documented, along with details from our passports, by police. We might have been forgiven for thinking they knew something we didn’t, but it was all an exercise in intimidation and bravado as they ramped up the propaganda and treatment of activists to scare others away. Even schools in the area warned students against attending.

Nevertheless, there was opposition to the policies and the legitimacy of the G8. Trade Unions, NGOs and radical left parties mobilised across the Normandy region, and despite the Dissent network taking a decision not to mobilise there was a group of young anarchists present. It appeared to us that the mobilisation was largely kept internally in these groups and the others, non-affiliated people who demonstrated were those who sought out information and made a real effort to be there.

The protesters concentrated on an anti-austerity message, the various Unions and NGOs forming their own contingents. As the protest reached the centre of town a few bangers and paint filled egg were thrown, but the day remained entirely peaceful and enjoyed a festive atmosphere in the brilliant sunshine. A group from No Pub were working alongside the march covering advertising boards with their anti-G8 messages, a huge banner hung from the footbridge over the canal, loud music blared from cars with speakers and slogans were screamed out. The march circled the town centre before arriving at a rallying point near the train station. In an act of sectarian lunacy, the CGT stewards refused to let the anarchist contingent into the rally area, but tension from that soon melted away.

A very French rally ensued with no translations, understandably as the mobilisation from overseas was, shall we say, minimal. From the UK there was a smattering of people from small groups, the Coalition of Resistance and GR, The concert will be starting soon, and tomorrow we have a counter summit happening at the University in the town.

More on that later.

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