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 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?