The crowd was slow to build yesterday afternoon at Place de Neuve, Geneva. But by the time we set off for the planned two hour march to WTO headquarters we were a 5,000-strong collective of activists from across Europe and the world. Excitement levels were high, costumes were creative, youth were out in force, and though we don’t make it to the WTO, the march reminded the world how much resistance there is to the unbalanced and non-transparent global trade regime. Here are a few photos from yesterday’s march…
Leo Broderick, vice president of the board of the Council of Canadians, reads a pamphlet as protesters gather in downtown Geneva. Behind him (middle) is Deborah James, director of international programs at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Our World Is Not For Sale organizer.
Leo Broderick and I marched with the OWINFS group whose “Change Trade, Not Our Climate” report draws the links between WTO policies and climate change but also discredits many of the false, business-as-usual-friendly solutions that have been proposed to fight deforestation, reduce carbon emissions, grow biofuels, etc. As a member organization in OWINFS, the Council of Canadians endorsed the report.
An unholy alliance if there ever was one, between the WTO TRIPS agreement (Trade Related Intellectual Property) and Monsanto, which benefits from the patenting of seeds and elimination of barriers to exports of genetically modified grain and produce. For an extensive list of reports on progress to TRIPS and other intellectual property negotiations, see the Third World Network.
We had marched for only half an hour when we passed down a road covered in broken glass from where a small group of protestors at the front had targeted (with mallets) jewelery and watch stores, banks, expensive cars, hotels and a Starbucks.
Turning a corner we saw smoke first and then the burnt out cars. Police directed protesters away from the smoldering vehicles but the march continued.
A group of clowns dressed as soldiers are seen here mimicking police a few metres in front of them, holding the line. The march came to a standstill after going only a third of the way to WTO headquarters when police blocked its route. After some idling, we took another route north with OWINFS.
But of course at that point, aggressive protesters had pushed police limits and the march was declared over. After passing the Geneva train station, marching through a park and continuing toward the WTO, we could see the water cannon working half a kilometre ahead of us and rising clouds of tear gas. Several canisters fired well into the crowd landed a few feet in front of us. That, and charging police, forced the marchers back toward the train station
Events continue today and all week, including a public conference today at the International Labour Organization building on Trade, Growth and Development: Can the WTO Promote Decent Work? More updates (and photos) soon.