Crossing the border into Switzerland was surprisingly easy for the Tactical Frivolity team from England in our minibus. But we were in Zurich less than three hours before we got nabbed in a police surprise checkpoint selectively pulling cars over. So the search began and an hour of fun playing innocent to the gang of cops sniffing through bags and passports and papers. The illegal stop and search were but a mild precursor to the police state to come up hill from the German speaking city were activists organized under the banner Wipe out the WEF (WOW) were converging in an old factory legalized squat (the red bricks) and planning their assault on the mountain citidel of Davos, Europe's highest city, where the World Economic Forum (WEF) was being held.
The WEF is an invite only private club, the elite of the elite, the wealthiest of the world allowing political leaders to attend to receive their marching orders; thereby shaping the economic course of the coming year shaped in their personal best interests. Here backroom deals claiming economic territories thus carving up the world's resources and ecosystems are modus operandi for the elite attendees. The association is brings together a specially select group of 2000 invitees, 90% male (almost entirely euro / us), the most influential transnational corporate ceo's all present in secretive "Governors' Groups" behind closed doors solidifying their domination over international politics. The forum was started by academic / entrepreneur / billionaire Dr. Klaus Schwab in 1971 with their laughable motto: "committed to improving the state of the world." The most exciting news first off was that the mere threat of protests caused many of the most powerful to cancel their trip to the high alps ski resort town. Protesters shut down a significant segment of the procedings before any arrived!
Despite a judges order to force the police to allow protests within Davos, the Swiss police catagorically denied anyone entry to the mountain pass who had any resemblance to a protester. Multiple check points greeted all who drove up the mountain pass for days before the beginning of the economic summit, complete with a black list of names who would be immediately deported. This list was described as "people who have been to too many protests and dangerous to the swiss public." This frightening development codified the repression escalating internationally and cumulated to criminalize any means of dissent. The list was never made public. Police asked the local farmers if they would supply them with liquid fertilizer for their water cannons, but the sympathetic farmers who made top story on the news denying their request for this biological weapon. In addition to the local regional police force the mountainside was littered with Zurich police, special anti-terrorist forces, and swiss military. In this unlawful and unprescedented deployment of "peacekeepers" the Swiss government enraged the general public. Each province in Switzerland has a great deal of autonomy and the pressence of "outside" police and military forces was a shock to the citizenry who were greeted with the same contempt on the mountain pass as protesters with repeated stops and searches and questioning and denied access to holiday time in the mountains, restricting freedom of movement and tespecially targetting youth. Even Swiss school buses were subjected to stop and searches and verbal warnings of "sanctions" to students if they participated in demonstrations. Invited speakers for the permitted counter conference, Public Eye on Davos, were sent back to France, Germany, Italy and one Indonesian was put on a plane to the Netherlands. Those who more closely resembled protesters were greeted with forced detensions, sometimes for hours outside in the snow without facilities, strip searches, "verbal" expulsions (false and illegal) from the country threatening huge fines upon reentry, and some activists had retna photos taken without knowing what was happening. One vehicle had its front window smashed and the driver had a gun pressed to his head. Actions closing the highway the day before the summit began were met with extreem intolerance and violence to remove them, confiscating personal property and vehicles without reciepts or explanation how they may be returned. Not one officer had identification and many confiscated film or forcibly erased their images from video; further uphill most officers went masked. The "greatest democracy in Europe" was in a state of martial law.
While the world's financial elite were busy giving politicians marching orders, the people of the majority of the world were represented in the Porto Alegre, Brasil. The World Social Forum was organized in direct opposition to the meeting in Davos, bringing together 15,000 representatives from 122 countries. Jose Bove, famed French farmer who helped trash a MacDonalds, was there and joined a caravan on January 25th for a 4 hour drive to join the Brazilian Indigineous Landless Movement (MST or Sem Terra) to Nao-Me-Toque to Monsanto's research facility. 1300 indigineous people stormed the farm and buildings occupying it with hammocks and boxes of food ready for a long stay. They painted slogans "Monsanto is the end of farmers!" and "The Seed of Death!" (in Portugese) and by the next day had uprooted 5 acres of genetically modified corn and soy test crops, burning most of it (decontamination) and held a burial ceremony with a coffin with "Monsanto" drapped in a US flag. Bove said, "Monsanto says transgenics require less pesticides and chemicals, but that's a lie. Transgenics increase dependance on those products." The Brazilian authorities tried to deport Bove but the courts interceded. Brazil is the only country in the western hemisphere to ban the commercial use of GM crops, only allowing research crops, but seeds are smuggled in and grown across the country. Back in Porto Alegre a group of 200 anti-capitalist youth marched against the inclusion of "NGO's, union beauracrats, directors of institutionalized political parties" (from their manifesto) especially the Social Democrats. They were rightfully enraged by the inclusion of reformist and even neo-lberal elements invited to the Forum and their stated objective of "humanizing capital". The Forum as a whole was a major step in the right direction for building a movement coming from the global south for the global south, especially indigineous people, but it is important to stay critical and engaged in this growing movement.
Back in Switzerland, while most of the Tactical Frivolity brigade were temporarily under lock and key on the mountainside attempting to breach the security riding up to Davos, the rest of the caravan was teaching tactical and they samba, not explicitly Brazilian-style, but borrowing the name for a similar cultural resistance marching band that was successful in moving large crowds, keeping people together, and signaling changes in movement and police attacks in Prague (IMF/World Bank protest) and the Hague (UN conference on Climate Change). Planning meetings at the red bricks in German, French and English were deeply aware of the unlikelihood of most of the protesters reaching Davos on the day of action and made vague reference to "plan B" in the likely chance we were kept from expressingly our free speech on the mountain. But four caravans were organized to come up the mountain pass and coverge on the only road that led to the high alpine capitalist lair. They would come from outposts near the borders and from within Zurich. One group converged from Spain after successfully squatting a train into the country. The bus containing Ya Basta! and activists from Italy were stopped at the border in the town of Chiasso and were water cannoned and beaten when they did highway actions protesting their denial of entry. One French bus was detained and when one woman was discovered to have been arrested in Prague the entire bus was srtip searched, address books stolen, detained for hours, and expelled from the country for one month or risk six months detention.
Finally the day had come and the red bricks was alive with energy at the crack of dawn. The caravans were mobilized from four directions and all we could do now was focus on getting our group, the largest, moving from Zurich. We walked in mass with a hundred and fifty and took a tram free of charge and grouped at the meeting location in down town quite suspiciously. Our numbers increased and word went out and a masked crew burst through with a defensive banner line in front and the samba band kicked in full force loud and proud, joining with a drum crew from Geneva with beauty home made instruments and a band of rowdies took the road with only one cop van in tow. We flooded the main train station, police absent, totally caught off guard. Ordinary citizens would either scurry away, or come over smiling with their kids and show support. Our numbers doubled with many covertly awaiting our arrival. A moments pause getting everyone sorted and the samba broke into a break, driving louder, and back to the main beat and everyone raised a cheer and over 500 swarmed the train. No opposition. The train was ours. We got busy getting comfortable and soon we were off. The first ever train squatting action in Switzerland was underway. We shared treats and songs and laughed crawling through the beautiful alps higher and whiter each turn of the track. No one was surprised when the train stopped at Landquart, the stop just before Davos and the attendant politely announced this would be the final stop. We poured out onto the platform and the megaphone made it known they were not allowing our train to continue. The response was spontaneous. If we our train is shut down then I guess all the trains must be shut down. And the drums rolled and everyone covered all the tracks going every direction and the trains purred stuck and patient and the rito cops filled in the fringes of the staion but didn't make a move. We got word from one of the larger caravans that they were stuck a kilometer away at the edge of the town. They had tried to shut down the highway but were immediately attacked by the police. While organizers tried to negociate with police so we cold meet up with our friends on the other side of town a few affinity groups moved down and scouted the highway across a patch of nature next to the tracks. There was a roll of barbed wire six feet tall stretching the length of the highway as far as you could see. At first there were only five riot cops on the other side of the wire. Nods were exchanged. The samba band kicked in and fifty follwed down the slope to the highway just as the twenty or so below started piling scrap wood over the barbed wire roll and everyone surged toward the highway to take it. The cops had just barely doubled their numbers and without a word of warning opened fire with these fat mouth guns that would spit out six rubber bullets at once, skatter shot without real aim, they blasted multiple volleys of tear gas and the muddy slope was full of scrambling feet except for a those who responded to the attack with stones from the side of the tracks. We massed up back on the tracks and held our position. After a while of playing music and taunting the police an arranged ride back to Zurich was agreed and rolled up, boarding our private train and slowly started back down the mountain with "plan B" underway. We pulled the emergency brake to stop and show support for the highway caravan, running across a field despite the organizer's pleading over the bullhorn. Once we saw that the caravan was safe and their buses were getting loaded we allowed the train to continue.
Meanwhile up in Davos almost 400 people managed to reach the mountain citidel and to defy the ban on protests. People slipped in disguised as skiers on holiday (some almost a week before), some were escorted by Swiss TV, some IMC people were repelled and got special permission of a government official. The peaceful protest was met with the specially designed 4-wheel, gas guzzling riot vans with huge fence / plows attached to the front. Two of these line up next to each other and you are faced with a serious obstacle with cops on the top with excellent advantage to shoot down on the crowd. The cold, snowy day was hillarious with people singing old civil rights tunes while a crew climb over a snow drift and launched an assault on the WEF with snow balls cascading down on the police lines safe behind three rows of barbed wire. The police ordered everyone to fuck off in direct opposition to the Swiss constitution. Not a moment later the tear gas came and a water cannon stormed in blasting everyone in the freezing weather and rubber bullets showered on the fleeing crowd. The couter summit, Public Eye on Davos was a success, though attendance was small to no one's surprise. The same day hackers broke into the high security computer system of the WEF and obtained sensitive personal information, including credit cards numbers and home addresses of the participants. The caravans came from every direction but the largest Italian crew was repelled at the border and the Spanish one got close but ended up joining the fun back in Zurich.
Plan B had a meeting location was at Burkliplatz, a park adjacent to the wealthy shopping district in down town Zurich. Our private squatted train pulled into the first stop in the city limit, quite far from the downtown, greeted by a hundred riot police. Polite insrtuctions came over the intercom that this would be our final destination and the police have instructed us to leave our demonstartion equipment and masks on the train and there will be no arrests. We ignored their requests and piled out to the street and samba kicked in and we marched the long way to Burkliplatz. Folks took the time to volunteer a little free street information on key government economic buildings along the route with spray paint: "Seattle, Praha, Davos. We are always right behind you" and "Smash the WEF!" (both in German). We arrived at the meeting location early and waiting for reinforcements from the caravans and the sound system truck proved impossible after riot cops arrived opened fire. They never made any clear warning. Only one window had been broken but as people rallied in the park the water cannon arrived shooting and it was full on war people using up the stones they saved from the train tracks and slowly retreating wet and wild through the gas and taking over the main road through the center. We crossed the river making it difficult for the riot vans and cannon to reach us in the tied up traffic. Weaving through the narrow streets we drummed up to a MacDonald's all boarded up except folks got to the ornate glass across the top and sign smash smash and the banner across the front said "try it with bacon." Alright. Through small skirmishes with the gas happy boys in body armour we made our way to the main train station to rendezvous with the sound system truck and lots of friends, our numbers at almost 2000 by now. With the electronics the samba insrtuments were retired for the evening. We did nothing to provoke a prolonged series of gas attacks except turn on the music and started pouring down the length of the station. As people fled the area shit heads inside a small cop shack in the station thought they would hurry us along by shooting a barrage of rubber bullets at our backs. The crowd swarmed on them, taking a position behind a small bilboard where the tracks began and had an unlimited amount of ammunition to and shielding to fight. While the rest of the crew and the sound system kept on its way, the battle grew fierce as the cops kept shooting as they retreated into the station. We got clear of their fire and they stopped following us. A few blocks away all hell broke lose to the driving techno, a luxury car flipped and torched. Down the line closer to people dancing people piled over thirty pallets into a huge bonfire three stories high and growing with the addition of a mercedes. People tore down swiss flags and kicked corporate office windows in. Mad street party for almost an hour before the cops could get their shit together to attack this scene. They love that fucking gas, volley after volley and the wind not our friend and we made it out of harms way a few more streets over. People started smashing up a gas station and I was glad they did not choose this as the spot for another bonfire. Word over the sound system was spread out in small groups and disperse. As about half of the group was making its way peaceful out of the area riot police formed a line far off opposite tio their former position. With the river at one side this was starting to feel like a box in. One clear way out and most made it quick and splintered. The small group I was with got a little off course and ended up passing by the now shut down train station with a fence erected up and small lines of riot cops at every corner. You had to cross by them to get to the tram stop and they did not look happy. We made our way to the red bricks and fell down exhausted. While we rested and ate and started celebrating. Word came out that the police had surrounded a tram full of protesters and they were all detained. Folks had time on the tram to unload their personal belongings and slowly were searched and questioned with over thirty arrested blamed for the smashing of a Swiss bank near one of the tram stops. The sound system truck was confiscated and all its crew arrested for making music. Four were hospitalized with eye injuries from rubber bullets and baton blows. Still no more than seventy arrests for such a full on riot in the streets. We played music til the wee hours. We survived.
The political backlash of extreme police repression was swift, NGO's drafting a letter of condemnation, parliament ministers and citizens angrily denouncing police terror and planning slews of lawsuits. On Feduary 4th 2000 marched (almost entirely Swiss nationals) in Berne against the repression for the sake of WEF elite. Most of the arrestees were released immediately and check the web for new developments.
For more info check out:
WEF Davos 2001 | WEF NYC 2002 | PGA