Huge demo, media concentrate on scuffles.

Jun 03, 2007

Yesterday (Saturday 1 June) saw the biggest demonstration in Rostock anyone can remember, it also saw the biggest mobilisation of police anywhere in Germany since the end of the second world war.

A massive demo of 80,000 people gathered in two places, the train station and Schtower Kreuz, a big road junction where coaches dropped off protesters. GR supporters gathered at the latter and were in a lively anti-capitalist and anti-war contingent made up from people from many different european countries.
Greenpeace had some huge inflatable snowmen highlighting climate change, there were placards and banners denying the legitimacy of the G8, against war, neo-liberalism and corporate power. Many German left parties, groups and campaigns were there in numbers.
As the protest entered the quayside where the rally and concert were being held, the demo slowed to filter into the area. We were stopped on the road, and for the first time on the day saw a heavy police presence. One squad of police alongside us suddenly lowered their visers, pulled on their gloves and stormed into the crowd ahead of us. We never saw what, if any reason they had for this, but we did see them pull a man from his wheelchair. After perhaps a dozen protesters intervened, the police allowed the man to be placed back in his chair. He was clearly shaken by this action. Time and again we saw similar incidents, groups of people being attacked without any discernable reason.
And what of the people in black hoodies and sunglasses? Yes they were there, mostly teenagers, adrenaline rushing at the spectacle, but skittish and running from any hint of danger before it had actually materialised.
Having scanned the media reports, and been interviewed by UK media outlets, it appears to be the accepted wisdom that “a small number of protesters” were there intent on violence. If this is the case, some police tactics were entirely inexplicable. About 6pm, just after Walden Bello had spoken from the stage, water cannon, loaded with a water / CS mix were sent into the back of the crowd spraying all and sundry. If it is the case that there were a small number of troublemakers, why did the police use such indiscriminatory weaponry? Collective punishment for the actions of the minority was the way german police saw fit to respond to the day’s events.
Looking at German TV this morning, the media are enjoying the denouncement of the protests. Much of what the police got up to yesterday was great for the cameras, a great detraction from the politics of the day and very very useful indeed for the G8 leaders who are set to do nothing on the issues that we desperately need addressing..
Walden Bello’s speech summed up the mood of the protesters. I paraphrase:
Two years ago we were at Gleneagles where the protest organisers [Make Poverty History] asked the G8 for favours and o deliver on Aid for Africa. This time we have no rock stars , thankfully, and our message is not to request things from the G8 but to tell them to clear out of the way. MPH told us not to talk about the war, but without peace there can be no justice, we demand that western troops are pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately.
Skirmishes occurred throughout the evening, at about 2am outside the hostel where some of us are staying, four wheelie bins were overturned in the street, 200 police soon arrived, marching up and done and generally looking intimidating but achieveing nothing. No arrests, no violence, just a big show of strength and bravado.
We now have a day of rallies, meetings and an agricultural protest against GMOs and corporate control of our food. we shall report more from the streets of Rostock later.

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