late report from geneva noborder demo 1 (30th may)
02.06.2003 11:29

This was written a few days ago but could not be uploaded then - sp here it is now.

Noborder G8 Demo, Geneva : 30th May 2003

The lack of police today was strange. A demo of some thousands took the streets throughout geneva in an area where protests were forbidden, and there was not one police in sight apart from the places the protest had said it would pay a visit to. Some said this was because the authorities did not want to appear too repressive, others that they were just seeking to allow people enough rope to hang themselves on. Either way it felt pretty strange to take to the streets without the expected police escort or attempt to cordon people in.

The noborder demo sought to make the connections between the freedom of movement of people and the freedom of information. Blending anti-capitalist ideas together with immigration and open source and copyright the demo toured around the World Trade Organisation HQ, the IOM (International Organisation of Migration) and WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organisation). Speaking in the same breath about the criminalisation of people trying to move from country to country, TRIPS, and the criminalisation of common knowledge, a new link was being forged between different interest groups. It had particular resonance given that Geneva will host the UN World Summit on Information Society in december later this year, around which a whole host of ngo and grass roots media projects are already organising. On top of this the noborder demo brought some much needed life to the city - given that it seems half empty with very few people around - as well as lots of colour, not least from the beautiful girls and boys in pink with the samba band.

There were great scenes of people climbing fences and dancing through the streets. The gate to the WTO being forced open drew a huge cheer and the WTO signs pulled off the two pillars ended up carried around by various people throughout the rest of the demo. A line of riot police stood well back from the gates in front of the building itself as some people entered just a little bit through the gate, while a few flares were fired high into the sky - a couple of rounds of smoke / gas were also fired by the police and a few stones thrown back. The rest of the demo began to move off, and after quite a few minutes the rest of the crowd still by the gates followed on.

En route to the IOM offices the demo passed by the UN HQ and the russian consulate where a few stones and rocks were thrown at the building and people shouted 'putin, assasini' - graffiti also played a part with many slogans sprayed along the way. At the IOM people marched right up to doors which were protected by a single line of riot police. As some folks danced and others threw confetti over the police speeches began denouncing the role of the organisation - this was cut short however by a surge of the crowd from around the corner who were closely followed by a couple of rounds of exploding tear-gas - people began to move away and continue the march towards the WIPO building, but in a calm manner.

The day had been very hot and sunny and as the demo paused outside the WIPO tower people sought the shade of the trees. More speeches were made here from the tractor soundsystem focussing on issues around free software / open source / copyright and tactics for using networks to strengthen movements.

The demo then moved off again back into the centre of Geneva. Along the way a small black bloc group smashed the windows of an audi car showroom that was next to a shell garage (it all started as a group ran towards the shell petrol station - here we go someone said, but the people simply wanted to fill up their water bottles and buy food - a few people followed up no doubt thinking the same but when they saw the other protestors inside backed off - soon though and the audi showroom next door became the focus).

A bit further down the street and another building had many of its windows smashed - it was a large building with several organisations including the International Trade Centre, a WTO office, and more trade related bodies - graffiti left behind read "Capitalism is Organised Crime".

Soon and the demo which had run for over 3 hours arrived back near the train station and many headed to the lake / river side to rest and relax.

The alternative summit and forums also continued today, as well as an evening critical mass bicycle protest involving hundreds of people (you can hire bikes here for free!). I also heard reports of an attempt by some people this evening to blockade one of the roads to Evian itself, although it sounds like the blockade was broken. There were also several concerts through the night.

Tomorrow will see many discussions and forums as well as planning meetings for the sunday demonstrations, while in the evening various celebrations and the lake on fire bonfire beacon event will herald the start of the protests proper.


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