Geneva: an eyewitness account of Usine raid
one from Moloko, 02.06.2003 21:35

On Sunday, June 1st, police raided the cultural centre Usine in Geneva and arrested a dozen people, at least three people were hurt by being beaten on the head. The police also entered the indymedia centre and geneva03 radio/TV studio and held the people for about two hours.

In the night of Sunday, June 1st, police started cordonning off the area around l'Usine (factory), a self-organised cultural centre in Geneva. There were riots going on at a street (rue du Stand) not far from Usine and the police actually directed protesters towards the Usine to stop them entering the city centre. The police shooted a lot of tear gas and rubber bullets in the streets around Usine.

There were not so many people at the Place des Volontaires on Sunday, there was no concert in the Usine. People were still returning from the big demonstration between Geneva and Annemasse.

When people from Usine asked why the cultural centre was being encercled they were told that the police expected "casseurs" (rioters) to retreat to the building. The police stayed there for one hour, the Place des Volontaires was calm, some activists were eating food. More and more police forces were deployed in the streets around Usine, but the police line just in front of the Usine looked relatively relaxed. We saw police running after people in the parallel street.

Suddenly a large group of plain clothes police stormed towards the building. People who stood in front of the entrance to protect the door non-violently, were badly beaten. One journalist was hit on her head, on of her teeth broken. Another grey-haired man on the square was beaten onto the ground. The 31 plain clothes policemen (and one woman) were all wearing masks, some of them motorbike helmets and a read bandage with police written on it. They were very fierce and were all armed with telescopic batons. Some of them were dressed like protesters, wearing Palestinian scarfs. People from Usine tried to speak with them, but one Usine member was brutally hit on the head and had to go to hospital. Riot cops protected the plain clothes policemen and shot tear gas towards the people on the square.

Without previous warning the plain clothes police brutally entered the Usine, breaking doors and shouting loudly. They made an incredible noise, obviously to intimidate the people remaining in the building.

I was in the cafeteria called Moloko inside the Usine, drinking beer. We were about 10 people inside the cafe. The raid came completely unexpected. Looking out of the window, we saw the plain clothes police suddenly storm towards the building. We heard the incredible noise outside and expected to be brutally beaten up. We all sat around a table and tried to be as calm as possible. The plain clothes policemen shouted in front of the door we had just locked from inside. One Usine member said we would open the door and be calm. "Put your hands up above your head when we enter and nothing will happen to you" the policeman shouted and the Usine member unlocked the door and we all held our hands up. They came in with their batons raised, handcuffed us with plastic handcuffs, searched our pockets and checked our passports and identity cards. They presented no identification as police officers. They pushed and shoved us. They shouted at us in French, we had to translate for those amongst us who did not understand the language. A journalist among us presented a valid International Press Card and official accreditation to the G8 Summit, but the plain clothes policeman showed no interest. All our belongings (including cameras) were packed into plastic bags which were hung from our neck. We were shoved downstairs into the hallway in front of the entrance. They shouted at us to all kneel on the stone floor in a row. They threw all the leaflets on the tables around us onto the floor. Then the police (dressed in real uniforms) entered the door, including a chief officer obviously in charge of the operation. They had let the plain clothes police do the work, now they gave the orders. We could see the riot police standing outside the entrance fencing off the people (including people from the legal team) in the square. For a short period, somebody from the Legal Team was aloud to enter and asked if we had been beaten. One man who was shoved in from outside had a bleeding head wound.

They separated us into two groups, local people from Geneva and international people. We international people were led one by one, still handcuffed, held tightly by a plain clothes policeman, into the police van, fenced off by riot policeman. Legal team members asked us to shout our names. We had to sit in a row each with a plain clothes policeman beside us. They offered us some mineral water to drink but we refused. They were making jokes because the van would not start at first. The handcuffs were extremely tight, and one woman asked them to be opened. A policeman attempted to cut them with a Swiss army knife and only succeeded on a second attempt with a bigger knife.

Then the van left the square towards a police station nearby. We were driven into the garage and there again were asked to kneel on the concrete floor in a row with the plain clothes policeman standing behind us with their batons in hand. When we started to speak amongst ourselves, we were told not to talk.

They then searched our body, we had to take off our shirts (the women had to take off their bra as well), trousers, and shoes, and they searched our pockets and put everything they found into a plastic bag. We also had to take off our watches, belts, and shoe laces. All belongings were put in a plastic box.

Afterwards we were processed. We had to sit at tables while the police typed our details into a laptop. This took a while, they were not fast at typing. They told us they would check our identities in various databases to see if there were any charges against us. If this was not the case, we would be released within one hour.

They then took us into cage cells, separated into men and women. After a while they unlocked the cell door, and led us out in small groups. Plain clothes policemen sat with us in a van. I was not sure whether we would be released as they had said or whether we were being brought to another prison. They were making nasty jokes, at first they said "you are going to be released" but then they said "don't tell them where they are going, let it be a surprise", "we are taking you to the coutryside". I assumed we would be taken to Champs-Dollon, a prison amongst the fields on the outskirts of Geneva. Instead, they did actually release us, but they took us in small groups to Bertex (at different times), a village to the South-West of Geneva, shortly before midnight. We then found out that the busses were still running (one bus drove straight past us) and took a bus back to Geneva. Just as the bus drove towards Geneva, a large number of German police vehicules (including the federal border police, Bundesgrenzschutz) passed us at great speed, including two German water cannons. The bus driver then told us he could not drive further (to the station) because of the riots and stopped at Jonction. That was not too bad, as we could walk back to the Legal Team situated in a building very close to the Usine. We managed to avoid the tear gas and rubber bullets on the way.

Indymedia centre also stormed

At the Usine, through a side entrance, there is also an indymedia centre complete with a radio/ TV studio. The police stormed into this building as well. The people present at the indymedia centre presented press cards and said they were journalists. They were not arrested and taken to the police station but had to all wait inside a dark cinema room for two hours. The crew maintained a stream live on the internet reporting from the raid. The police did not confiscate any material.

Saturday, May 31st

The police had already encercled Usine the night before due to the riots occuring in the streets surrounding the Usine. At the Place des Volontaires in front of Usine there was quite a festive atmosphere on Saturday night, streets cafes were open as well. People were chatting and drinking at the tables set up in the square and having a good time. Many people (maybe a thousand) were inside the Usine as well, since there were two concerts (one of them free of charge) and a theatre play going on. The police came towards the Usine and surrounded the building twice, the first time at 10 p.m.

Genoa 2001

On Sunday in Geneva, I was surprisingly calm considering the fact that I had been in Genova and saw the raid on the Diaz school on July 22nd 2001. I was in the building opposite where indymedia and the legal team was situated. The police entered the building and lined us up along the wall, first with our hands up against the wall, then sitting down. From the windows we saw them brutally storming into the Diaz school opposite, heard terrible screams of people being beaten up without mercy, sometimes saw people being beaten in the windows. Some of us had also seen Sky being beaten up brutally just in front of the school, the one single time he had left our building.

We then could go onto the street in front of the Diaz school. A large amount of riot police fenced off the entrance of the school and blocked the view. "Let us see what you have done" one woman among us shouted and we shouted other cries. The first we saw were two long bags being carried out which looked like body bags. We saw few of the activists in the Diaz school being led out of the school upright, most of them were on stretchers and unconscious. 93 people were injured in the Diaz school raid. After the raid, when the police and ambulances had gone, we entered the building. The whole floor was covered with blood, streaks of blood were on the radiators, and windows and doors had been broken.

Luckily, Geneva did not experience another "Chilean night" as in Genoa, but it was not the first time police raided a convergence centre. Police raided convergence centres during several summit protests, for example in Gothenburg. On Sunday in Lausanne, 200-300 people were encercled by the police at the camp for several hours.

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