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(en) DAVOS - a personal account

From "el desaparecido" <desaparecido@gmx.de>
Date Thu, 3 Feb 2000 13:17:16 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Dear all,
as there has been little feedback from the Davos demonstration against the 
WEF (World Economic Forum), here’s my personal detailed account of a 
pretty inspiring event.

I came down to Davos with 3 other friends from Germany. We decided only 
at the last minute that we wanted to be there. I knew about the World 
Economic Forum and that Davos was somewhere up the Alpes mountains in 
the East of Switzerland.

This years’ demonstration was the 3rd demonstration organised against the 
WEF, the meeting of the 2000 self proclaimed world leaders in business and 
politics. In the previous years, only 200 people made it up the mountain, 
holding banners in the snow, surrounded by a large police presence that 
wouldn’t allow them to move and get anywhere near to the Conference 

This year, the WEF had a special significance, since it was the one after 
Seattle and we know that TNCs and industrialised governments are still keen 
on opening more markets, do further trade liberalisation and finding new 
ways of capital accumulation as a (temporary) solution to the overproduction 
crisis. Even Bill Clinton made it to the WEF to try and convince the world 
business community of the necessity to go ahead with the Millennium 
Round, he’d never been in Davos before.

The anti-WTO co-ordination in Switzerland cleverly used the media to 
announce their demonstration. As a matter of fact the demo was prohibited 
for Saturday 29th, which was the day Billy Boy was coming. The reaction of 
the anti-WTO co-ordination was clear: no compromise, we’ll hold the demo 
on saturday 29th no matter what.

The mobilisation was surprising. Many people crossed half Europe to make it 
to the Swiss Alps. We ended up being 1300 people, from France, Germany, 
Switzerland, Italy....probably more.

Several busses loaded with people had arranged to meet beforehand and 
then make it in convoy to Davos, so in case the police stopped the busses, 
they’d be able to demonstrate together wherever they got stopped. Surprise: 
the police let all the busses come up to Davos. They were not expecting to 
see so many people. It seems to me that the strategy was the same as in 
Seattle, pretending to want a so called ‘dialogue with civil society’. 

People gathered at the train station and as they outnumbered the police 
forces, they simply broke through the police barriers, marching towards the 
conference centre. 

The mood was good, kind of euphoric. The demo was fluid, not divided too 
much into blocks, it had a nice diversity of people and statements in French, 
English, Italian and German were totally natural for everybody. It had a clear 
internationalist character. People’s banners and shouts were very diverse 
also including anti-fachist, free Mumia, against corporate rule, solidarity with 
the people in Ecuador, TNCs won’t rule the world, anti-capitalists and the 
usual ones personifying social relations into evil capitalists and TNCs. 

Jose Bove, the French farmer from the Confederation Paysanne was in the 
front of the demo. The French press has turned him into a pop icon of the 
resistance against global trade liberalisation. His strategy seems to have 
been one of being both in the street, doing direct action and trashing mac 
donalds and at the same time being ready to dialogue with Mike Moore and 
accept a plane ticket to Seattle paid by the French ministry of agriculture. 
The Bovemania surprised us also, half the bus that had come from his region 
was filled with journalists. At the same time it was an ideal tactic to have so 
much press in the busses to make it to Davos.
The anti-WTO co-ordination had a clear ‘no dialogue with the WEF’ position. 
Jose Bove respected that and announced previously that although he had an 
invitation to the WEF, he was going to request Claus Schwab (the organiser 
of the WEF) to come out and speak with him in the street with everyone 
else. The idea was Bove would go in, only if all his friends were allowed too.

The 3rd police barrier was the one preventing the demo to come too close to 
the conference centre. The demo wasn’t able to breakthrough here. Most of 
the people walked back. 

The small group which stayed there included Jose Bove. They did not 
succeed in getting Schwab out and were penalised with pepper spray and 
rubber bullets. This was of course filmed by all the press and it was one of 
the pictures that made it to most newspapers: Jose Bove in his Asterix look 
in front of the police line, as always dressed to kill. The interesting thing is 
that the following day, a press release was sent around signed by the 
Confederation Paysanne, Droits Devant and the representatives from ATTAC 
groups that made it to Davos, urging the NGO community to stop all 
dialogue with the WEF. 
A friend of mine said “nothing politicises more than a police truncheon”. 
Although this was all probably strategy, it will be interesting to see if these 
groups will continue their NGO line of pretending to represent civil society 
and willing to call for a citizens control of the WTO.....we’ll see.

The rest of the demo walked back towards on of the hotel where WEF 
participants were staying. On the way Mc Donalds windows were trashed in 
front of the cameras and the police who clearly had an order of not 
intervening. A beautiful moment was when a few people torn down one of 
these huge Mc Donalds ads saying ‘ think global - eat local ‘. It was just 
such a provocation that it was enthusiastically torn apart by the crowd and 
the tissue set on fire. The big smoke cloud resulting out of this fire went 
straight into the windows of the hotel. People joked “the ghost of Davos was 
exorcised” and things like that. 

The crowd remained in front of that hotel for quite a while. Several statements 
were made in different languages. An amazing thing was that a 
representative of Ya Basta Milan who had phone contact to Milan announced 
that the 20.000 people protesting against the Via Corelli (detention centre 
where people are inhumanly tortured before being sent back to their 
countries) had managed to penetrate. ‘This is a victory thanks to the only 
struggle of the people’ he said. A statement from the people in Ecuador was 
read out loud. Our resistance is more transnational than ever. 

As the police was not doing anything, some people that were keen on 
making property damage and hassling the police helped themselves. Flags 
were torn down from the hotel and burned (the US and the EU flag of course). 
Cars were damaged and snow balls massively thrown at the police line in 
front of the hotel. Violent and non-violent convictions coexisted pretty well 
next to each other at that particular stage. Someone said “we are playing 
their game if we do this”. I think most people didn’t mind property damage 
but felt uncomfortable with the fact that the violence was not used as a 
defence from the police.

In fact a small group of people took in on two policemen. They got both 
injured. These people were hitting them while the policemen even when he 
was already lying unconscious on the ground. This incident was condemned 
by everyone I talked to. People from the demo even started defending the 
policeman as he was lying between two cars. It remained also unclear from 
where these people came and what their motivation was, their act was 
simply brutal and has nothing to do with fundamental social change.

Result: the press coverage especially in the Swiss German boulevard press 
was mostly dominated by the pictures of Bill Clinton and the bleeding 
policeman. There was not one single picture of a banner. The articles 
reported only about the number of people, the temperature, the broken 
windows, the time, the street we walked and of course nothing about what 
kind of illegitimate bastards these self proclaimed world leaders are, nothing 
about people contesting further trade liberalisation and capitalism or about 
Ecuador or Mumia Abu Jamal.....ignored of course.

One bus coming from France did not make it and got stopped by a police 
barrier about 10km before Davos. The people got off their bus, broke through 
the police line and walked up the road provoking a huge traffic jam. They 
arrived in Davos when the demo was finishing, but they felt like had they 
contributed their bit too.

Several people that had come a long way to Davos stayed overnight at the 
Reithalle Bern, which is a huge squatted autonomous centre. [ To anyone 
passing Bern, I recommend you to have a look at it, it’s huge and you’ll find 
very nice and friendly people there.] 

The Reithalle was a good opportunity to have more in depth exchange with 
people. Something that became clear to me after talking to several people, is 
that Seattle marked the end of a period. The idea of Peoples Global Action 
was launched around the idea to focus on the WTO and “free trade”. This 
chapter is over now. Most people by now are aware that this is simply not 
enough: The discourse is easily recuperated by the NGO reformist 
community which goes hand in hand with the governments that playing the 
trick of so called “dialogue with civil society”. Almost everybody agreed that 
we need to extend our discourse and analysis if we don’t want to end up 
contributing to the stabilisation and modernisation capitalism. The WTO and 
“free trade” are nothing but expressions of underlying social relations in 
which we are all involved and which need to be examined, understood and 
tackled. If we don’t manage to formulate what we stand for, our protest will 
be easily recuperated and incorporated in the capitalist development. 
Quite a few people felt like using the opportunity of mayday2k to bring about 
more in depth discussion and exchange with many different social sectors. 

The spirit and mood was cool, we all felt exhausted but inspired.
I came back from Switzerland with the feeling of having closed a chapter and 
curious about the next steps we will be taking.

Love, rage and c h a o  s

Freiburg, Germany 2.2.2000

for more information on the World Economic Forum:
For more information on WEF: www.weforum.org

Anti-WTO-Koordination Schweiz 
c/o Reithalle Bern 
Postfach 5053 
3001 Bern 
tel: 031 302 66 60; fax: 031 302 78 74 
e-mail: anti-wto@reitschule.ch 
homepage: www.reitschule.ch/reitschule/anti-wto 

Peoples Global Action

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