PGA Bulletin

Peoples' Global Action against “Free” Trade and the WTO

Issue number 2, June 1998

Part II:
May Actions in Europe


In the evening of the 20th of May there was a demonstration in the city of Vienna, Austria, against neoliberalism, the MAI and the WTO. More than one thousand people from different social and ecological organizations took part. The objective of the demonstration was to send a clear message to the WTO: we will not allow economic globalization to destroy our environment, our culture, our future, our lives.



The first ever Reclaim the Streets Party in Belgium took place on Wednesday the 13th of May, thus before the days of action since it was not possible to organize it in that period, but it was an act of solidarity against globalization.

About 250 people met at 4 pm in Leuven, a small city. The number of people was rather high, considering that these were working hours. The party took place at a rather busy but narrow road in the centre. The police didn't expect anything, so when they finally arrived after half an hour, they didn't know what to do. At 6:15 pm they led asked the organizers to move the party to a park, where the party continued until 9 pm.

Czech Republic  

On Saturday the 16th of May over 3000 people joined the first Street Party in Prague. They blocked the city's main road with 30 drums, a puppet show, fire performance 4 sound systems and 20 DJs. At the beginning the party went well, but the problems started when the police tried to stop the march by using truncheons without asking people to disperse. The next incident happened when a police car drove into the crowd at high speed: it was turned upside down but the policemen inside were not attacked.

The march was later dissolved by the organizers in front of the town hall. However, 300 people continued marching into the city centre, and a small group of them (about 30) broke the shop windows of Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, a butcher's and a fashion shop (whose owner supports fascist organizations). The police started to act about 9 pm, when the destruction of shop windows was over. The police attack was really brutal, and it took place so late that no “radicals” were present at that time. 64 people were detained, 22 of them younger than 18. All the arrested were beaten up, mistreated and humiliated until morning hours. Injured people were taken to the hospital, where the beating continued even in presence of medical staff. 25 people were accused of criminal offences and 10 of them (most of them about 18 years old) were kept 14 days in jail, where they were beaten so much that the police interdicted any contact with visitors or the media. All human rights organizations in the Czech republic have denounced the human rights violations linked with the detentions, but the responsible institutions and the minister for inner affairs still claim that the police intervention was adequate.

It is evident that people were not arrested and beaten because of committing any crime (which would also be inadmissible) but for political reasons. State institutions reacted by proposing to create a special police commando against this kind of demonstrations with 500 specially trained agents.

Slavomír Tesárek, spokesman of Rainbow Keepers Czech Republic and one of the organizers of the Street Party, was arrested on the 26th of May, accused of destroying the billboard with the portrait of Miroslav Sládek (leader of the racist and fascist Republican Party). He was arrested for 30 hours, precisely at the time when he had to participate in a TV programme. He was released thanks to the intervention of NGOs, the Czech TV and some prominent personalities. Now he is in trial and might have to spend two years to prison.

The organizers of the party ask you to organize actions in front of the Czech embassies, and to inform NGOs and the public about their situation.

More information: (Slavomír Tesárek), P.O. Box 587, 170 06, Prague 7, Czech republic
more prague global action days: A16 - S26 - A20


On May 15 the Estonian Green Movement organized an action in the centre of Tallinn. Around 50 persons gathered for a “happening” next to a 6 lane urban road. 25 persons laid down to the sidewalk and were covered with white blankets. As soon as the first person was covered the cars slowed down (although the road was not being blocked), thinking that it was a real corpse. The 25 people were lying for some minutes in the memory of those dead in an unequal traffic system.



In Helsinki the WTO agreement was burnt on the 19th of May in front of the government house. There were not many people, since it was just a symbolic action and not an announced demonstration. One newspaper, one radio and one TV station were there and reported the action.



Turku Street Party, 16 May – At noon, about 400 people gathered in both meeting points, one at Gabriel Porthan's park, another near railway station. Both of them walked drumming to the point where the party took place: one of the main bridges over the river, in the city centre. According to the organizers, it was the best party ever in Finland: there wasn't one cloud in the sky and there was no trouble with the police. They said “we have no problem with your illegal demo, but please a bit less volume” and that was done. Around 5 pm there were about 750 people, people were coming and going all the time, amounting a total of about 2000 participants during the whole day. The party finished at 8 pm.


Lyon Street Party went well, with 200 people, lots of crazy anti-corporate costumes and signs, a few dogs and bikes, several drums and whistles, and even a float. The party briefly joined a demonstration against the ongoing extraditions of Algerians, it passed through a flock of exotic feathered and bikini-ed dancers on a pedestrian street for the concurrent World Cup events, and later a tripod was put up and the street blocked under the gigantic Crédit Lyonnais Tower. That prevented people from getting to a major car park of the Part-Dieu shopping mall and especially its Carrefour supermarket – until loads of police officers looking quite serious started approaching the party and it was decided to make like fromage and scram. It moved to a square/outdoor amphitheatre that's directly under the CL Tower, splashed around in a fountain on this very hot day, unloaded food and drink from a couple bike trailers, and hung out in the shade for an hour or two.


Berlin   Street Party, 16th of May – The party took place on a road crossing in the centre of Berlin, 150 meters from Alexanderplatz (main square of East Berlin). About 1000 people took part in the party, despite the fact that it was not announced in order to avoid problems with the police. A huge sound system and a big drum group made the music, and people brought more drums, covered the streets with chairs and other furniture, danced, played volleyball, chess, etc. The party was really successful, the participants enjoyed it very much and now many people are encouraged to organize the next one.

We had almost no problems with the police: “only” 3 people arrested and a handful of people were hit by policemen. The reason for such a lack of repression was probably the fact that the police was not prepared (since the party had not been announced). Besides that, the media had reported a lot about the violence used by the police on the previous 1st of May demonstration in Berlin.

The Netherlands

The Hague  

On Wednesday afternoon the 20th of may activists of the Dutch group “MAI niet gezien!” (“MAI not seen! / MAI not for me!”) have chained themselves in front of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Hague, blocking the main entrance of the building for a couple of hours. The blockade was a protest against undemocratic institutions and treaties like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).

Activists of “MAI niet gezien!” have been campaigning against the MAI treaty since January 1998. There has been an information tour in more than 20 cities in the Netherlands in February, March and April, an occupation in the Department of Economic Affairs in February, and an action in the Dutch parliament in April. Furthermore there have been local street protests in more than 20 cities during the international action week in the end of april. Activists of “MAI niet gezien!” share the hallmarks of the Peoples' Global Action and clearly reject all treaties and institutions which are meant to enforce the “free” trade of globally operating corporations all over the world.


Utrecht Street Party (May 16th) – For five hours a wild dance party of more than 800 blockaded a six lane highway close to the train station. The demonstration at a certain point decided not to follow the rest of the announced route, and placed barricades to stay at that spot. At 20:15 the dancing crowd left the street and went to a nearby park where the party ended in high spirits. The behaviour of the police was a great surprise; earlier street parties in Amsterdam were confronted with an aggressive zero-tolerance attitude. In Utrecht, in contrast, they mingled with the crowd at the meeting point, sat on the pavement waiting for the sound system to arrive – and when it arrived they assisted in getting the generator going!
more utrecht global action days: S26


On the 20th of may the Student Revolution Committee and the Chiapas Committee took part in a large meeting (near 10 000) in Voronezh against the privatization of high school. They distributed a lot of leaflets against the WTO, multinational corporation and corporate products. Also, a press conference against WTO and corporate rule took place on the 30th of May.

Contact: or
more russia global action days: S26


Critical Mass in Ljubljana – Around 40 people with their bikes, inline skates, wheelchairs or on foot had a jolly good time biking around the city centre. The weather was really nice and, amazingly, there was no bigger hassles with the police – a really nice surprise, especially considering the aggressive repression that took place against the Critical Mass action in 1996. The next two protests are already planned for 20th of June and 10th of July, with a promise of being even more colourful, funny and loud.

Spanish state

Avilés, Asturies  

Action against the TNC DuPont, 20 May – 30 persons from the Asturian Ecologists' Coordination, the Aviles Ecologists' Collective and the Asturian Assembly against the WTO (Tracamundiu) tried to block the downloading of containers with hazardous material that arrive everyday to the Aviles containers' station in order to be used in the DuPont factory.

It was not possible to block the containers because the train that transported them, which arrives everyday at 6:00 pm, was stopped in another train station due to the presence of activists. In view of this, two activists climbed on other containers and opened two banners, one against the pesticide factory that DuPont wants to build 6 km away from the station where the action took place, and a second one against TNCs and globalization. This action made impossible for DuPont to transport the containers with hazardous chemicals to the factory where they are used in production.

Contact: e-mail: and

Barcelona, Catalunya  

A women's anti-Maastricht and anti-WTO group in Barcelona called “Divergent Women” (Mujeres Divergentes) distributed leaflets and information in schools and urban neighbourhood about the facts that have been silenced by governments – the consequences on women and disfavoured people – specially from the South – of free trade treaties. The dominant media of course silenced the action, but this will not stop this kind of actions to continue.
more barcelona global action days: S26

Durango, Bizkaia  

The local groups of the Assembly against the High Speed Train and the anti-militarist group made a little action against the WTO on the 16th of May. This action consisted on sticking a 5-meter banner on the building of the multinational Iberdrola in Durango, with the text “Iberdrola, BBV, Telefonica and the other multinationals destroying the world” and with a drawing of a bleeding South America being squeezed by a hand that wears a shirt with the symbol of the Euro and the logos of several TNCs (Iberdrola, BBV, Telefonica, Gamesa and Shell).

Telefonica is the Spanish telecom, which is already privatized. It has purchased several telecom companies in Latin America, and was object of a popular boycott in several countries and punished by the Highest Court of Argentina due to the abusive increase of prices (about 70%).

Iberdrola is the electricity company of the Basque Country and the North of Spain, owner of nuclear power plants. It has acquired a “strong position” in Latin America buying national power companies or a big percentage of their shares in several countries.

BBV is one of the strongest financial corporations in the country. Together with Iberdrola it created the holding IBV, which groups many industries, including some arms manufacturers.

Gamesa is a powerful industrial enterprise, but it has few factories since most of its production is subcontracted to other firms. Its biggest shareholder is IBV. Its biggest share of income comes from the manufacture of armament and aircrafts. Its most symbolic product is the European War Aeroplane EF-2000. It has contractual arrangements with the Brazilian Aeronautic Enterprise and with Bombardier.

Iruña (Pamplona), Nafarroa  

On Sunday 16th of May at 11:00 am, a bicycle march called upon by 25 different organizations started, visiting the commercial and economic centres which represent the economic oppression caused by global capital (banks, temporary work offices, insurance and construction companies, etc). In each of these centres the march stopped and the participants painted messages on the building's main walls, threw stinking liquid and put up stickers on the wall with the message “there is nothing to celebrate”. The march proceeded peacefully; the activists were dressed up, had balloons all over the place and sang little songs against the WTO. The police gave problems sometimes and some of the activists had to identify themselves. The police unsuccessfully tried to follow the activists and failed because of the disruption of traffic created by the march. At the same time, another group of activists put up stickers in the bank cash points with the message: “This cash point will be out of service today because of the 50th anniversary of the World Trade Organization”.

The march finished at the Castillo Square, where a public denunciation act took place in front of about 100 pedestrians, consisting on a symbolic burning of the final act of the Uruguay Round while some communiqués on the issue were read aloud. At 14:30 an anti-transgenic meal was offered at the “gaztetxe de Iruña” (squatted social centre) at the same time as a local exchange market was taking place. At 19:30 a street party begun with djembe and fireworks which went from the “gaztetxe” through the old town to finish in a street that was closed to traffic in order to transform it into a surprise party. Throughout the whole night, there was a huge Euro coin made out of gummy that disturbed people all over the place, went into bars crashing on people, etc.

The “Eguzki Irratia” free radio followed exhaustively the activities that were taking place not only in Iruña but also in Geneva and the rest of the world.
another report: march against wto

Lugo – Galiza  

On Wednesday the 20th of May a concentration took place in the main square of Lugo to show rejection against the WTO. Most of the people were young, but there was also some elderly people. A manifesto was read and distributed to all the journalists that were present, and then the Final Act of the Uruguay Round was burned with a fair traded candle made in Soweto (South Africa) by the cooperative “Ukukanhya” (Light in Darkness). The act finished with two songs and a dance.

The action was reported in two local newspapers and the two local television channels, and also generated some radio interviews. Since the action was prepared in the last minute, it was a nice surprise to see the amount of people who attended it and the good media coverage that it received. The main image was the burning of the final act.


Sevilla, Andalucía  

In Sevilla the Network of Struggles against Neoliberalism organized a concentration at the door of the Bank of Spain on Friday the 15th at 14:00. In the concentration we distributed a leaflet with a summary of the PGA manifesto which we called “For Humanity, against the Dictatorship of Money”. Members of different organizations participated in this concentration, the ones represented in the network of struggles: Entrepueblos, the Human Rights Association of Andalucia, trade unions (SOC, CGT, USTEA), anti-militarists, the Zapatista Committee, squatters, the Redundants' Assembly, etc. Several banners were put up and all the leaflets were distributed. The concentration lasted until about 16:00.


València, País Valencià  

In Valencia about 300 people reclaimed the streets on the 16th of May. First we took the market square, in the traffic-polluted heart of the city. But this only lasted for half an hour, because the police isn't a body which is made to dance. So we decided to move through the streets, blocking some main streets for a while. Later on the party turned to the centre, where there are less cars and more people. We joined some people playing drums in a kind of medieval market, turning the place into a big party with a magic moments. Finally we visited the Virgin at the place of the cathedral, who certainly didn't expect us and therefore didn't join the dance. In spite of this we offered a very nice sunny show till later the night, passed eleven o'clock, reclaiming the street for about five hours. The police had to wait for us and was following us every where, but kept surprisingly quiet all the time. This was the first street party in Valencia, but surely won't be the last.


On the 16 of June there was a mixture of demonstration and street party in Stockholm, with carnival drums and beautiful flags. It really was a wonderful demonstration, and hopefully next year it will be even bigger. On the same day there was a Street Party at Göteborg with about one hundred participants.
more barcelona global action days: S26

United Kingdom

Birmingham  (G8)  

Birmingham Street Party: When the polite but impassioned plea of the 50 000 debt relief human chainers had subsided, an altogether wilder and less conciliatory note began to be heard from the region of New Street Station, as pulses sped and sweating clowns were spotted making ready to laugh in the face of the G8 in the adrenalised melee. Then suddenly at 4.30 the crowd (by now about 8 000) felt a tug towards the waiting road, and the reclamatory hordes poured onto the Bull Ring roundabout. Eventually we laid claim to half the circle and got down to the party. A bangin' techno sound system provided the bulk of the entertainment while at the fringes fire was eaten and odd passages of unamplified music were heard occasionally. A second system and various other props couldn't make it through the police lines. There was a huge police presence throughout the day, often 3 or 4 lines deep. Nifty lamppost scalers had soon decorated and contextualised the space with banners reading 'Protest is Hope' (underneath the G8 Joker), 'Beneath the Tarmac the Grass', a huge red kitelike masterpiece with floating yellow tassels bearing the names of all the global street parties, and of course not forgetting that old favourite: 'Reclaim the Streets'. Other banners, like 'Local Vibes Not Global Lies' for instance, didn't make it up. When twenty policemen moved in apparently to remove the sound system they found more resistance than their superior officer had obviously expected, and beat a hasty retreat.

As dusk began to fall the party continued full pelt (as it were), some determined to have a good time in their temporary autonomous zone, others equally determined to have 'discussions' with by now riot geared-up law enforcement types. A white car abandoned hours before became the object of some fairly intense scrutiny, so intense in fact that it ended up on its back. When it came time to depart for pastures new (ie. a local club), our seasoned diplomats negotiated with the police, the result being the safe passage out of the sound system. Thus the blessed system was slowly escorted off site and across town by over a 1000 people, all the way to the pre-arranged after-party party venue.

Press coverage was, needless to say, only concerned with occasional outbreaks of conflict with the police, and chose to ignore the significance of the days' conclusive acts of transnational resistance clear across the planet.


York Street Party: about 250 people turned up. It was a fairly quiet street that was taken. The police didn't seem particularly bothered that it was happening at all: only about 5 of them turned up all day (in total contrast to Leeds RTS the week before when the tripods got confiscated). Loads of musicians turned up and the afternoon was mainly spent with celidhs, drum circles and various other jams. There was a small pedal powered sound system that some people had managed to rig together just in the few days before the street party. It all finished well, and then we went down to the river for a party till dawn...


index of part II