we are everywhere

the irresistible rise of global anticapitalism

The Restless Margins 1997

moments of resistance and rebellion: 1994 - 2003
index | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998

\\ 1997 //

>> January >> South Korea is rocked by a three week wave of massive general strikes - the largest in the country's history - as workers protest new causalization laws. The strikes costs $3 billion in lost production. The government backs down and withdraws the new laws.

>> February >> A leaked copy of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) text - secretly being negotiated at the "rich-man's club," the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - is posted onto the internet. Up to this point negotiations are conducted in relative isolation - the revelation sparks off a world-wide campaign, which scuppers the agreement before it can pass.

>> February -May >> In Thailand, a coalition of 20,000 disenfranchised farmers, refugees of dam flooding, and other rural people from the Assembly of the Poor stage a 99-day protest camp in front of Government House in Bangkok.

>> February 5 >> IMF restructing in Ecuador forces overnight price rises of electricity (500 per cent), gas (340 per cent) and telephone charges (700 per cent), among others. A general strike brings over two million people into the streets under the slogan, "No one stays home." Leaflets circulating before the event declare: "We invite all Ecuadorians to the giant going-away party for [President] Bucaram... This event will take place in the country's plaza and streets... Dress informally. The entrance fee is a street barricade, a burning tyre, and the will to save the country's dignity." President Bucaram flees and is dismissed by Congress two days later.

>> March 9 >> In Glasgow, Scotland over 50 people occupy the City Council chambers for 19 hours, in an attempt to prevent the Council from announcing nearly $131 million worth of cuts, 1,500 redundancies, the closure of 133 community projects, and 22 per cent rise in council tax. George McNeilage of the North Pollock Community Council says, "We have as much right as the councillors to be in this building; they were voted in two years ago in a stand against cuts and redundancies. Now they have betrayed every citizen of Glasgow and should resist our resign."

>> April >> One of Britain's last colonies, the tiny island of St Helena, goes into open revolt against its dictatorial British Governor, setting the island's only police van on fire.

>> April >> A large white tent is erected in Buenos Aires. It will pay host to 1,500 teachers on a rotating liquid diet strike, and to more than 5,000 personalities and 3 million supporters. Known as the 'White Tent of Dignity', it is erectrd by a teacher's union as part of a campaign for an increase in funding to guarantee the future of the Argentinean public education system. Within a few weeks, however, the tent far exceeds this original purpose, and becomes the focus for other popular demands - and eventually the symbol of a social movement opposed to the spread of official neoliberal policies. Other 'white tents' spring up around the country.

>> April 12 >> In Cutral-Có and Plaza Hunicol, south-west Argentina, protest flares into outright rebellion when police attack a protest of unemployed workers and fatally shoot Teresa Rodríguez, a 24-year-old domestic worker. Roads are blocked with barricades and burning tyres, preventing police reinforcements from entering the city at several strategic points. "This is Chiapas" says a frightened police chief as he orders his forcves to withdraw and the government is forced to send aid pachages and work subsidies to the area.

>> April 12 1997 >> The March for Social Justice takes place on the eve of the general election in London, UK, demanding a repeal of the Criminal Justice Act, the reinstatement of jobs and union privileges for sacked workers, and more. It is organized by a unique alliance between Reclaim the Streets, the Liverpool Dockers, Women of the Waterfront, and the Hillingdon Hospital Workers. The original plan of squatting government buildings is foiled by police, but 20,000 people march through London and end up enjoying what the music media describe as "the best illegal rave or dance music party in history". The radical coalition is clearly a threat to the authorities; police confiscate all printed propaganda and try to frame people with the "attempted murder" of a policeman.

>> April 17 1997 >> The streets of Brasilia, capital of Brazil, are lined with 120,000 people to welcome thousands of Brazilian landless (MST) ending a two month march from São Paulo to demand land-reform and protest against the violent clampdown on their movement, arriving on International Peasant Farmers' day, the one-year anniversary of the massacre.

>> April 28 1997 >> Two factories of workers making Nike shoes for subcontractors near Jakarta, Indonesia, go on strike separately on consecutive weeks to demand a ten per cent wage increase.

>> May 1997 >> Throughout the month protests against unemployment and privatization take place in numerous provincial towns of Argentina. In Libertador General San Martín, where unemployment is over 33 per cent, the highway is blocked for three days and police attack with rubber bullets. Defending the police, Argentina's President declares, "I am not going to allow them to block my highways. This is a legitimate and democratic government."

>> May 20 1997 >> In La Plata, Argentina, police provoke rioting by removing street vendors. After occupying the TV station, vendors seek refuge in the university where students protect them against mounted police charges, though many are injured. In Buenos Aires, outraged students hold rush hour actions in solidarity, blocking major avenues at five key points and organizing teach-ins and rallies. As they march, they are greeted with confetti raining down from balconies and cheers from the local residents.

>> June 8 1997 >> The first (known) action against GMOs in Britain takes place outside of Cambridge. Activists stage a rousing game of cricket with a test crop of GM potatoes, destroying the entire crop.

>> June 14 >> The European march against unemployment, job insecurity and social exclusion converges in Amsterdam, Netherlands, arriving from all points in Europe and culminating with a demonstration of 50,000 during the EU summit. Several thousand Italian activists commandeer a train from Italy to Amsterdam. Throughout the course of the summit, 750 people are arrested, in the largest mass arrests in the Netherlands since 1966.

>> June 19 1997 >> The McLibel case, England's longest ever trial, ends after 314 days. McDonald's was suing two activists for handing out leaflets criticizing the corporation. The verdict devastates the corporation. The judge rules that they exploit children with their advertising, produce misleading advertising, are culpably responsible for cruelty to animals, are antipathetic to unionization, and pay their workers low wages. But the judge also rules that the activists had libeled McDonald's and should pay close to $98,000 damages. They refuse and McDonald's declines to pursue it further, having already spent over $16 million on the trial, unintentionally inspired a global solidarity campaign, and generated an enormous amount of negative exposure.

>> June 20-22 1997 >> The G8, having officially brought Russia into the group, meet in Denver, US. Several counter-summits take place, including a Women's Summit which features a 'hunger banquet' to show up the feasting going on inside. A trial is held of the eight most industrialized nations and their multinational corporations in front of an international panel of judges from eight indigenous nations. Unsurprisingly, the G8 are found guilty.

>> July 1997 >> Financial crisis hits Southeast Asia and reverberates across the world's markets. The IMF steps in to rescue the region with a $100 billion restructuring programme, generating protests across the region. Social movements from Indonesia to Thailand link the crisis to economic globalization and predatory financial speculation.

>> July 26-August 2 1997 >> Over 3,000 people gather in Spain for the Zapatista-initiated Second Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism to continue the first Encuentro's work by building networks of resistance and communication to link struggles around the globe. A decision is made to target the Second Ministerial meeting of the WTO in Geneva in May 1998.

>> July 31 1997 >> A 24 hour general strike brings Bangladesh to a standstill; ports and factories close, and all public transport grinds to a halt. Workers demand that the government agree to an eight point plan, which includes safeguarding jobs, guaranteeing a minimum wage, and reopening abandoned factories.

>> August 1997 >> Thailand's economy collapses, causing a domino effect of social and economic crisis across Southeast Asia. Unrest ripples out across the region.

>> August 14 1997 >> A general strike called by unions and government employees wreaks havoc through much of Argentina. Bridges, ports and roads are blockaded, and teachers walk out of their schools. The government continues to make empty promises and forges ahead with free market policies and social spending cuts.

>> August 21 1997 >> "It's a good day to pie!" The Biotic Baking Brigade (BBB) emerge from their secret headquarters and ovens, located somewhere in the mountains of the Californian northwest, and commit their first act of pie-rect action. Infamous corporate raider and Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz receives an apple pie on top of his head for his role in clear-cutting ancient redwoods in Headwaters Forest. He responds "Too bad it's peach. I like blackberry." As Special Agent Apple says, "What does one say about a man who can't tell an apple pie even when he and his stained suit are wearing one?"

>> August 22 1997 >> Earth First! activists in Humboldt County, California, US lock down to a gate at Pacific Lumber's main entrance into the Headwaters redwood forest. Blocking the road is a 'living room', with couch, coffee table, and smashed up television. The activists are covered in mud to spotlight the local town of Stafford, which recently experienced a mud slide from a Pacific Lumber clearcut. Three arrests are made. Three weeks later, 7,000 people converge for the third annual mass rally for Headwaters, and help Stafford residents sandbag their homes.

>> August 23 1997 >> One thousand Hondurans from the Lenca indigenous nation arrive in Tegucigalpa for what they called the "First civic day for the dignity of the Lenca people." After a march, a public meeting takes place in which they outline their demands to the government: land titles; the creation of a National Council of Ethnic Groups; definitive delimitation of municipalities; recognition of the National Lenca Indigenous Organization of Honduras (ONILH) as the only legal organization representing the Lenca people; and community development programmes, among other demands.

>> September 1997 >> Workers in Ecuador occupy the Paute Power Works in an attempt to prevent privatization of the company during a wave of threats to publiclycontrolled health care, social security, oil, telecommunications, ports and docks, education, water, and irrigation.

>> September >> Workers protest against a World Bank/IMF meeting in Hong Kong, saying they take inspiration from workers resisting lay-offs and privatization in Sichuan, China and in South Korea.

>> September 8 1997 >> An international day of action for dockers who were sacked in Liverpool, UK, for fighting casualization results in dockers taking action in 21 countries spanning five continents. Every port on the West coast of North America, from Mexico to Alaska, is shut down.

>> October 3 1997 >> The peoples' movement Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) bring together 10,000 villagers in Mandleswar, Madhya Pradesh, India, who will be displaced by the proposed Maheshwar dam. The villagers call for a work stoppage and review of the project in consultation with residents. The company responds with a speed-up of work, and the police seal off roads to prevent an occupation. However, the villagers reach the dam site in the middle of the night, using pathways only known to area residents, and the occupation begins.

>> October 6 1997 >> Workers in a Hyundai-affiliated maquiladora (Mexican sweatshop) in Tijuana, Mexico, vote overwhelmingly for an independent union, despite the company's efforts to sway the vote by paying unemployed people to illegally vote. The union would be the first in the vast maquiladora system along the US border. All other maquila workers are 'represented' by a company union with close ties to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) dynasty. Days later, the company fires the pro-union workers, and one month later the election is declared invalid by the National Conciliation and Arbitration Board.

>> October 15 1997 >> Zimbabwe's impoverished farm workers, the largest single group of workers in the country, win a hefty wage increase as a result of their first organized national strike against the country's wealthy, predominantly white, commercial farmers. Farm workers, who walked out at the end of September, were demanding wage increases and additional leave days. During the strike, thousands of singing, chanting workers blocked highways, invaded farms, and chased union officials from a tea plantation after suggestions that the strikers return to work.

>> October 15 1997 >> Thousands of members of two Zambian public workers unions, the Civil Servants Union of Zambia (CSUZ) and the National Union of Public Service Workers (NUPSW) start a three day strike, demanding implementation of a 1997 contract. Hospitals, courts, and all government offices come to a virtual standstill nationwide. On the second day, with thousands more joining the strike, the government declares the strike illegal, threatening unions with degregistration and individuals with jail sentences. The unions comply, and call on their workers to return to work the next day.

>> November 10 1997 >> A US coalition of labour, environmental, farm, and other groups block the passage of 'fast track' legislation which would have allowed the president to negotiate new trade agreements without Congressional approval. This defeat is seen as the first major check to the growing power of trade regimes.

>> November 11 1997 >> A two day general strike in the Dominican Republic is declared 80-90 per cent effective in the capital and 100 per cent effective in much of the interior. Strikers' demands include a 40 per cent wage increase, lowered prices on basic goods and fuel, improved transport and electricity services, and reincorporation of workers fired from the state-run electricity corporation. The president declares the strike illegal, as his government's efforts to neutralize the strike, which included preemptive arrests of hundreds of organizers and journalists, and the distribution of about $4 million had so clearly failed.

>> November 16 1997 >> Over 250 unionists and activists from 20 countries participate in the Western Hemispheric Conference Against Privatizations and NAFTA in San Francisco, US, to hear testimony from across the Américas of the effects of Mercosur, NAFTA, and rampant privatization. Strategizing occurs about how to fend off the MAI and the FTAA. A call for a common day of action at next April's FTAA meeting in Chile is developed from the conference.

>> November 25 1997 >> Canadian students protest against the annual APEC summit in Vancouver, BC, and are met with preemptive arrests and an unprecedented attack with pepper spray, leading to a national inquiry known as 'Peppergate'. Intelligence files later released show that police requested the arrests of, and specified criminal charges for, certain activists "with a view of eliminating some of the more high profile members" of anti-APEC groups.

>> November 28 1997 >> MST members establish a protest camp in front of the state Rural Development Secretariat in Fortaleza, Brazil. Military police attack as the protest begins, injuring five peasants. The camp survives the attack, remaining in place for over two weeks until 1,000 military police agents surround the group of landless protesters, sealing off the area, and harassing and attacking journalists.

>> December 1997 >> Support groups around the world protest at the news that 45 unarmed peasants have been massacred by paramilitaries in Acteal, Chiapas, in one of the worst incidents of repression during the Zapatista conflict.

>> December 2 1997 >> About 120 people from the Committee of Unemployed of Central Montreal carry out a 'Commando Bouffe' food grab at a posh hotel in Montreal. They storm the exclusive buffet restaurant and reappropriate the food, taking it into the street to feed fellow homeless and unemployed people. Riot police are called and 108 of the commandos are arrested.

>> December 3 1997 >> In Brasilia, Brazil, a group of people from the MST seize the Ministry of Land Policy and the national headquarters of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform for four hours. The protestors issue a list of ten demands, including the immediate settlement of the landless families in encampments set up on expropriated lands, the expropriation of 20 more rural properties, and the provision of grants and seeds to those already living in the encampments. This action is one of a series of similar, and mostly successful, MST protests in five states.

>> December 9 1997 >> The Bolivian Workers Central (COB) labour federation stages a national 24- hour strike and a march in La Paz to protest the gasolinazo, or governmental fuel price hikes. The march in the capital brings together nearly 8,000 teachers, campesinos, factory workers, miners, retirees, university students, oil workers and even small-scale business people and artisans in a broad-based rejection of the government's economic policies. The strike is widely honored in Cochabamba, site of a second mass demonstration, which also pays homage to Pablo Rocha, a miner who recently died of silicosis.

>> December 10 1997 >> Julia 'Butterfly' Hill climbs 'Luna', an ancient redwood in the Headwaters Forest, California, US. She lives in the tree for over two years, protecting the trees surrounding her and helping to draw international attention to the destruction of the redwoods.

>> December 11 1997 >> More than 30,000 people, mainly auto workers, march in São Paulo, Brazil, to defend their jobs and to protest against the central government's economic policies, including a rise in interest rates to 40 per cent. The protest takes place in the industrial zone, San Bernardo, where most of the automotive factories are located. Workers' Party leader Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva speaks at the protest, blaming the central government for the economic crisis and demanding that authorities lower interest rates.

bulletins & leaflets | www.agp.org | www.all4all.org | www.weareeverywhere.org

moments of resistance and rebellion: 1994 - 2003
1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998