Art goes to Heiligendamm
There are different ways of approaching the fence, which has become the symbol for protesters, a source of provocation for those, unfortunately, inclined to violent action and a statement of exclusion to all of civil society. Artists without borders have come together to transcend the fence, the power it stands for – and the violence – with a range of activities from international art installations, through street theatre and cross-cultural concerts, to unexpected interactions at the fence itself. With the help of giant power puppets you can get the G8 leaders to say what you want to hear. And the world parliament of clowns founded by Antoschka aims to bring ‘a wave of wisdom and a smile’ to the proceedings. I’m hoping this kind of creativity wins out.
The stile: Francis Zeischegg, Berlin
Stitching the wound: Bankok Project
Stories under occupation:Al Kasaba theatre, Ramallah
Clowns protest at Wittstock
Guest at the fence:Powerhasi (Superbunny)
From Nairobi to Heiligendamm
by Patricia Daniel
I have official press accreditation to go inside the fence to the G8 summit itself. But I am more interested in the alternative summit outside. As I did when I blogged the World Social Forum in Nairobi 2007, I’d like to focus on the extent to which women are involved in the process and what they are saying. I also want to gauge how well the bridge has been built between Nairobi and Heiligendamm – one of the intentions of the G8NGO Platform – in terms of civil society networking and strategising. But I have mixed feelings setting off from Berlin to Rostock, with the escalation of violence that began on Saturday and continued Monday. I’m not afraid for my own safety but those (yes, at least 99% male) protesters have cast a dark shadow over what should have a positive week for global civil society action – using aggression against the aggressors rather than, like the majority of men and women here, celebrating the collective vision that a different world is possible. I’d welcome other women’s comments on this. Readers who wish to keep up with events in detail can check out the ticker news from Indymedia which gives a rather different account of the proceedings to Germany’s official press website.
The G8 is an institution without legitimacy
by Patricia Daniel
As the police crack down on alleged terrorism, Sven Giegold of Attac says: “the world is increasingly terrorised by the economy.” There’s an ever-wider range of organisations involved in the anti-G8 protests against globalisation. Representatives from forty countries worldwide have been invited to participate in the alternative G8 summit which takes place 5th to 7th June in Rostock (I’ll be there to cover it). Flor Martinez coordinates a rural development project in the north of Nicaragua – a region where one telephone serves 21,000 inhabitants. Due to ‘free’ trade agreements with the US, Central American countries are forced to increase agricultural production for the north American market rather than using their land to grow basic food such as rice and maize for local consumption.
In an interview to the press this weekend she says:
It’s not acceptable that a minority should decide the fate of the rest of us. They have the economic power, but we have the social power. The only problem is that we haven’t yet learnt how to use it.
The threat of peaceful demonstration
by Patricia Daniel
The first rally of the week-long anti-G8 protests, which began today in Rostock, started off in a light-hearted atmosphere, with balloons, giant puppets, banners and drummers.
Unfortunately it was by marred by violence when a small minority of protesters attacked police vehicles, setting one on fire. The police retaliated with the use of water cannons and physical violence – a ratio of at least six police officers to one protester, as shown widely on German television. It’s a bad start to the week, undermining the work put in by the organisers and the intentions of the vast majority of protesters who are here to demonstrate peacefully.
I’m afraid the violence was predictable, a self-fulfilling prophesy, largely driven by the confrontational behaviour of the police, raids on alleged ‘ terrorists’ and their massive presence around Heiligendamm. Not to mention their increased presence in all major cities where demonstrations have taken place over the past month, leading up to the G8 – and where police, overdressed for the occasion in brand new riot gear, have outnumbered the protesters. The police have also introduced a ‘demonstration-free’ zone of I kilometre around the security fence surrounding the G8 summit venue of Heiligendamm. In addition to that, the government is moving to pass legislation to ban demonstrations altogether – which is due to be decided this coming week.
So in taking away people’s freedom to demonstrate, I can’t help feeling that the police and the government have been responsible for provoking the violence. All I’ve seen is an unnecessary show of macho power. As Bettina Vestring writes in today’s Berliner Zeiting:
“The G8 stand for everything bad in the world. They are powerful, they are arrogant and the walls behind which they come together get higher every year.”
It’s clear there’s no physical threat from most of the protesters. What was the German government afraid of? People asking questions, taking shared responsibility for the future of the world, acting creatively, having fun?
GOOGLING FOR WOMEN TALKING TO THE G8
by Patricia Daniel
As we did for our coverage of the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women we googled to see who else was talking to – or about – the G8 from a women’s perspective this year.
In fact what we picked up were a number of links to initiatives that happened around the Gleneagles (Scotland) G8 summit in 2005. These included wimmin vs G8 and Action Aid’s travelling exhibition – portraits and statements from 8 women worldwide to the G8 – which was carried in the protests in Scotland. The international human rights organisation MADRE held a meeting with Maasai women in Kenya about what they demanded from G8 while worldpulse magazine covered women’s experiences of the anti-G8 Gleneagles events.
We found much less on the 2006 summit in St Petersburg, notably AWID’s coverage of global economic justice and women – and a BBC report on flametree about the ‘poor G8 summit’ held in northern Mali at the same time.
This year so far there are a number of calls from different organisations to women to raise their voice on specific issues in relation to the G8, some of which we have highlighted in our blog. For example, genanet’s call on climate change and the declaration ‘women won’t wait’ from the international community of women living with HIV/Aids (ICW) who also made 8 requests back in 2005.
The US-based health and equality organisation CHANGE have recently been successful in lobbying the World Bank on women’s sexual and reproductive rights – proving that online campaigning does work.
Also of interest are the German site WDEV (World Economy and Development) blogging G8 (it’s in English) and a post on the World Bank private sector blog about women on the G8 agenda.
So, please continue to send us your own links and updates along with your comments and blog entries.
We're not obliged to accept the world's definitions
by Bev Clark, manager of Zimbabwe’s civic and human rights website kubatana.net
Without access to information women from all walks of life experience an impoverished existence fraught with a variety of serious challenges and risks. One way or another, for the last 20 years much of my energy has been spent addressing this problem.
For a long time I produced a newsletter for the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe. Back in the late 80s we were considered daring and provocative as well as improper for including explicit information on the subject of HIV/AIDS. The fact that an isolated and marginalized community could access information materials developed specifically for them was very important especially because we live in a country where the authoritarian government either denies the existence of homosexuality, or criminalizes it.
During the time that I edited the gay and lesbian newsletter my offices were raided by the police. About 8 of them arrived with their search warrant, swaggering in and claiming that I was housing pornographic material. This was simply because the material was homosexual in content. After rifling through every drawer and cupboard they eventually left with their “evidence” – a booklet listing worldwide gay, lesbian and bisexual support groups.
Since then, as both a gay and political activist, I’ve spent many nights making my own bonfires. Burning materials which are informative, useful and inspiring, yet which the authorities would seek to harass me for. I’m angry about this. I’m angry because gay and lesbian people shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed, or be made to hide who they are and what they read.
In an old copy of one of our newsletters there’s a piece of writing by Maya Angelou that I’d manipulated in attempt to contextualize her writing for our Zimbabwean environment:
She heard the names,
swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
dyke, queer, pig, homo, poofter, lesbo, faggot,
But my description cannot fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world,
and I shall not, I shall not be moved.
I wonder if the G8 has made any attempt to include sexual orientation in their policies? Even if they did, it would have very little effect in reducing the intolerance and hate of Robert Mugabe who has clearly stated that he believes that homosexuals don’t have any rights at all. When I think of the G8 I think of a bunch of men, self-satisfied in their suits and their power-giving statesmen-like speeches which sound really good but couldn’t be more empty.