Statement on the Gothenburg violence

Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 23:05:50 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Non-violence Network of Gothenburg
Our statement on the Gothenburg violence

All parties are responsible for the violence
- the need for nonviolence has become evident

It is not possible to blame a single party for the violence during the EU
summit in Gothenburg. We are all responsible for what happened. The course
of events in Gothenburg, in which violence bred violence, clearly show that
nonviolence cannot be taken for granted but demands hard work and careful
preparations. The Nonviolence Network of Gothenburg's six months of
preparations had some positive effects, but we were too few to make a big

We must not forget all the positive things that happened in Gothenburg.
Thousands of people from many different countries and movements got
together and exchanged thoughts and experiences; participated in debates
and seminars. This gives hope for the future for a more democratic world
order. The three peaceful demonstrations that were held gathered more
people than any demonstration in Sweden has in a very long time - this too
is a clear sign of a resistance that is rooted deep in the community.

However, with all the violence in Gothenburg, it is important that we all
dare to critically examine our own actions. It is a big disappointment that
both the AFA (Anti-fascist Action) and the police blame each other for the
violence. The lack of self-criticism is also symptomatic of an escalating
conflict. This conflict is intensified by the stereotypic images that the
parties have of each other; the police view all demonstrators as
"hooligans" and activists consider all cops to be fascists. The results are
that fear and panic govern people's actions instead of sense and calm.

We believe that there are several factors that contributed to the violence
in Gothenburg.

* The AFA and a few other autonomous groups that believe in violence as a
strategy did not participate in the dialog meetings that were held on a
regular basis during the months before the EU summit. The purpose of these
meetings was to prevent violence.  The AFA only blames the police and is
not willing to acknowledge the fact that their threats and spreading of
violence propaganda, as well as their use of violence, are all important
factors in the escalating violence. Fascist methods such as violence and
threatening to use violence do not tally with organizations that work
against fascism and Nazism.

* The Gothenburg Action, to which the Nonviolence Network belongs, wanted
to integrate all the groups that are critical of the EU in a common
network. The intentions were good, but unfortunately the violent groups had
too much influence on the Gothenburg Action. It is not enough to unite
around a common goal, it is also important to problematize the methods. The
Gothenburg Action should have demanded from the participating groups and
organizations to respect the nonviolence principle throughout the EU summit
- not only during the arranged activities. Through the participation in the
Gothenburg Action, violent groups had access to an infrastructure, like
community schools, which facilitated their work. This also resulted in
peaceful demonstrators getting in the way when the police went searching
for weapons. However, the Gothenburg Action supported the nonviolence
strategy by encouraging all its organizations to make sure that their
members had the opportunity to participate in nonviolence training, which
many of the organizations did.

* The police took the initiative and started a promising dialog, which
unfortunately was not continued.  The appointed contact group within the
police was ignored by their superiors at the most critical point in the
conflict. The police are therefore very much responsible for the escalating
violence. They treated all demonstrators the same and thereby provoked
violent acts that would otherwise never have occurred. They arbitrarily
beat up and arrested a lot of peaceful demonstrators. Th fact that riot
police have used live ammunition is totally indefensible.

* The media made the situation worse by reveling in the violence. This gave
the violent activists the attention they wanted, at the expense of the
peaceful activists. The media are responsible for the escalating violence
because the coverage reinforced the stereotyping of demonstrators as

Neither the Nonviolence Network can escape criticism. Despite six months of
work to prevent violence we were too uncoordinated to achieve our goal.
More interventions could have been made, such as human chains between
police and violent activists, or making circles around violent activists to
protect both people and horses.

"The violence problem" within the left is not solved by simply renouncing
violence in the media - we need first to enforce the nonviolence strategy
in political coalitions, and then to be present at the scene of the
resistance to actively stop the violence.

The Nonviolence Network of Gothenburg took several steps to prevent
violence at the EU summit. We arranged seminars about nonviolence and held
nonviolence training courses for over three hundred activists all over
Sweden. We took part in a dialog with the police and the local authorities.
We carried out nonviolent civil disobedience actions as an alternative to
violent protests. During the summit, many activists in the network
intervened in violent situations, by calming activists, discussing with
policemen, making blockades between the police and the violent activists.
Our two actions, the base camp and the getting-in-action, were completely
nonviolent, as were all the demonstrations. The Nonviolence Network would
wish for the future that the organizations and movements that organize
demonstrations and other kinds of political manifestations use nonviolence
tactics and organize an international network with this purpose.

The Non-violence Network of Gothenburg

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