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(en) Gothenburg 2001 Aftermath, an Overview - The Summer of Resistance and the Swedish Model Gothenburg 2001

From <ksvensson@hushmail.com>
Date Sun, 20 Apr 2003 22:01:46 +0200 (CEST)


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The following text is based on a discussion held at an info meeting* about
Gothenburg and Genoa prisoners in March 2003.
Background: The Swedish Model
Sweden has long been regarded as a model social democratic society; where
an extensive welfare state has existed parallel with a highly developed
capitalistic economy. This peculiar situation has been the result of a
long tradition of cooperation and collaboration between the antagonistic
parties, namely the Social Democratic Workers Party, its closely allied
Lands Organisation union and the economic forces of capitalism with the
industrial giants ABB, Ericsson, SAAB and Volvo at the forefront. The
state and national ideology is based on the thought that through dialogue
and understanding, all conflicts, no matter how large or small, can be
amicably solved.

This approach of amicable cooperation and collaboration was also applied
during the planning stages of the EU Top meeting held in the second
Swedish city of Gothenburg in June of 2001. Through dialogue between
representatives of the state and the globalisation movement, the riots of
Seattle and Prague were hoped to be avoided. The local city government in
Gothenburg launched ?The Gothenburg Spirit? as a guiding premise in this
process. In return for helping with the planning for, and accommodation
of, the thousands of activists that were converging on Gothenburg, the
city government felt as if it could expect peace and tranquillity in
payment.

The Swedish police however, had a different idea of how to deal with the
situation. In line with their longstanding strategy and tactics of
dealing with radical politics, they separately forged plans for hard-
line and definite ?preventive? measures. These were not necessarily
forged with the prevention of the immediate situation in Gothenburg in
mind,
but rather preventive in relation to future expressions of radical
politics
by making an example of the current one. In Sweden, as well as in the EU
as a whole.

Three Days that Shook Europe
The events that occurred during the EU Top meeting in Gothenburg are well
documented. By the huge mainstream media presence that was in the city
covering the meeting itself, as well as by the globalisation movement?s
own media channels. A short recap follows.

Unrest began on Thursday the 14th of June. The Swedish police forces
initiated a massive ?pre-emptive? storming of a school building being
used by activists as a convergence centre. This police action lead to
riots in both the vicinity of the school and in connection with a
demonstration held against the American President George W. Bush, who was
also a guest at the meeting.

On Friday morning the 15th of June, a manifestation was held in
conjunction with the opening of the EU Top meeting. This manifestation
then turned into a symbolic demonstration that attempted to march to the
conference facility where the EU Top meeting was being held. After a
brief march of a few hundred metres, the demo was stopped by defensive
lines of police and subsequently attacked by the same police force. This
police action resulted in extensive riots that culminated in the complete
destruction of Gothenburg?s main shopping boulevard. It also supplied
spectacular TV pictures of a literally helpless police force being
pounded by stone- throwing activists.

Later the same day, in conjunction with a Reclaim the City street party,
the police again attacked the gathering of several thousand
participants.
In addition to activists, a large contingent of local youth that were
attracted by the TV pictures of the previous riots, were also in
attendance. The police attack, and the inevitable riots they caused,
culminated in three people being shot by the police with live ammunition.
One of the victims was seriously injured and in danger of death for
several days.

On Saturday the 16th of June the day began with a large demonstration (by
Swedish standards) consisting of circa 25, 000 people. During the demo,
the police held a low profile after the preceding night?s shootings and
the demo ended without incident. Later that same day, however, the police
stormed yet another school being used as activists and surrounded a large
anti-police violence demonstration, subsequently interning large numbers
of people presumably identified from the previous days riots.

Three Days that Shook Sweden
The result of these events was traumatic. It was traumatic for the
Swedish state. It was traumatic for the Swedish people. It was traumatic
for the city of Gothenburg. And it was especially traumatic for the many
young activists participating in the counter summit?s activities. The TV
pictures of ?the black block? throwing stones, battling with the police
and vandalising the city were imprinted into the minds of the Swedish
public. And this created an explanation - and scapegoat - for the trauma.
I this context it should be noted that Sweden has never had riots of the
likes that regularly occur in other European cities. And live ammunition
hadn?t been used on Swedish demonstrators since a strike in 1931. A week
after the Gothenburg meeting at a meeting in Brussels, the Swedish Prime
Minister Göran Persson described the globalisation movement, and those
activists who defended themselves against the police aggression in
Gothenburg,
as ?fascists?.

The TV pictures, the prime minister?s comments and the general public?s
disbelief at the level of destruction caused in Gothenburg were all used
to brand the radical and extra-parliamentary left as an official ?enemy
of the state?. And, in desperate attempts to save their own reputations,
much of the established left, from environmental groups to parliamentary
parties, immediately distanced themselves from the ?stone throwers?, as
well as from all forms of ?political violence?. The radical left, and
especially those groups that did not actively distance themselves from
the self-defensive violence of activists, were immediately and
effectively isolated.

In the following 18 months this isolation was deepened and solidified. As
a result, many well functioning political coalitions and networks from
the pre-Gothenburg era, where the radical left had influence far greater
than their actual size warranted, crumbled. In addition, the isolation of
the radical left enabled the judicial processes that were awaiting many
young activists in the Gothenburg aftermath to continue practically
unquestioned and unnoticed, no mater how exaggerated the sentences of how
flimsy the evidence.

Kangaroo Courts
The judicial aftermath of Gothenburg bears all the signs and indications
of nothing less than political trails where all the basic guarantees of a
representative democracy and its legal system were bypassed. Arrested
defendants, in some cases minors, were held in isolation for extensive
periods of time, in some cases up to three months. Defence advocates were
denied access to pertinent information for their client?s cases.
Important evidence disappeared. Identical crimes were judged differently
according to the defendant?s political opinions and when the court cases
were held. People were sentenced solely on witness accounts from policeman,
even when these accounts were contradicted by other evidence and even
when the police witnesses themselves provided contradictory accounts of
events. The political message from the Swedish state was clear; this type
of resistance was not to be tolerated.

The sentences for rioting, which in the limited extent that rioting had
previously actually occurred in Sweden, had more often than not resulted
in no more than probation. After Gothenburg, punishments were suddenly
set at two years for the throwing of singular cobblestones. In one
relatively well publicised case, 8 youths were sentenced to sentences of
up to four and half years imprisonment for sending SMS messages informing
people on the streets of what was occurring in other parts of the city.
Not only is this an activity that regularly occurs at all demonstrations
in Sweden but, the information was almost identical to that available
through the mainstream media, radio and the Internet.

The foundation for all judicial argumentation in all of the Gothenburg
cases was that the riots were well organised and planned in advance. They
were also regarded as being different from previous rioting charges in
Sweden because of the ?fact? that they were directed against the EU Top
meeting, and were therefore ?crimes against democracy?. These ?facts?
were used as justification for the extraordinary severe punishments.

These court cases are still continuing, and continuing without being
questioned. Many of the societal forces that could have questioned the
judicial procedures, and the questionable legal security they provided,
were effectively silenced by a long-lasting medial and political campaign
directed against the radical left. As this campaign continued and gained
a momentum of its own, the media was unable to question it own
exaggerations that it engaged in, for instance, during their reporting
during the actual EU Top meeting. The social democratic party and the
state, including the police, had a vested interest in continually
propagating their explanation of the riots. The established left had to
protect their own reputations in the face of public outrage and the legal
community, because of how the system of appointments in both the judicial
and university system work, remained silent for fear of their own
careers. It should also be noted that there were, of course, exceptions
to these rules, but that they were either very limited or immediately
marginalized. Add to this the occurrences of 9-11 and the following
hysteria and discussions regarding anti-terrorism and a situation of
virtual passivity in regards to the Gothenburg processes was created.

It should also be noted that while more than 70 individuals have been
tried for ?crimes? in connection with the EU Top meeting (and more are to
be expected), not a single police officer has been sentenced. And this
despite well documented accounts of police exceeding their jurisdiction,
using extensive violence well beyond that which the specific situations
demanded, and completely innocent people being denied their ?democratic?
rights guaranteed them by the Swedish constitution. In the public
discussion these, in many cases undisputed facts, have simply been linked
to a strong tradition of camaraderie and a code-of-honour that prevail
within the police forces. The fact that the police themselves investigate
claims of crimes committed by their members hasn?t helped the matter.
However, in order to appease complaints directed towards this factual situation,
this peculiar internal investigation practice is currently the subject
of yet another internal investigation.

The following short story is an example of how self-censorship functions
in the Swedish society following Gothenburg. At one point in the autumn
of 2001, video pictures of several police beating a young man bloody in
Gothenburg - in the classic ?Rodney King circle-of-pigs? style - were
shown on the evening TV news. The sheer level of violence in the
situation caused an immediate uproar amongst the Swedish general public.
The next day, however, the Gothenburg police responded to the incident by
simply saying that the young man in the pictures, had previous to his
beating,
kicked a policeman. He was therefore welcomed to ?come forward? and
lodge a complaint against his attackers, as the police wanted to ?speak?
to him anyway... The incident was never again mentioned. End of story.

Independent Reports
Several independent organisations have compiled reports about the
occurrences in Gothenburg. Most notably amongst these are Amnesty
International and The Helsinki Committee. All were quite critical of the
police?s actions in Gothenburg and their role in the following riots, as
well as of the aftermath of the judicial proceedings. However, none of
these reports received much public attention and none were taken too
seriously. In addition, no completely ?independent? report on the
judicial proceedings has been, nor will be, commissioned by the Swedish
state. The latter is explained by the argumentation that the ?political
community? (i.e. the government) should not interfere with the
independent nature of the judicial system.

In the beginning of 2003, a long awaited (and long delayed because of the
ongoing judicial procedures) report on the occurrences in Gothenburg,
ordered by the ruling social democrats and lead by a former Prime
Minister
Ingvar Carlsson, was released. It can be regarded as an attempt to ?heal
the wounds? caused by Gothenburg. It was appeasing to the NGOs involved
in the Gothenburg counter summit by placing a great deal of the blame for
the occurrences in Gothenburg on a poorly organised and poorly prepared
police force. And it appeased the state with conclusions that the police
should be given increased resources to deal with ?similar? situations in
the future. Currently, the Swedish police force is already employing
these increased resources in the form of new, non-lethal weapons such as
pepper spray. Another major ?conclusion? of the report was that a new
law, forbidding masks to be worn at demonstrations, should be
implemented.

The judicial proceedings
As mentioned above, the judicial proceedings in the Gothenburg aftermath
have lived a life of their own. Sentencing was increased dramatically,
group responsibility has been introduced as an accepted means of
judgement
in cases where specifically guilty parties, for whatever reasons, could
not be identified and, the implications of evidence requirements in order
to prove guilt of recent UN and EU-wide anti-terrorism legislation has
been all to evident.

The Swedish court system has two levels of appeals courts. The lower
local courts, located in Gothenburg, dealt out the harshest sentences.
The next level of regional courts, also located in Gothenburg, upheld the
sentencing, but in many cases mildly reduced the punishments. The Swedish
High Court, located in Stockholm, refused for an inexcusably long time to
review a single case. When it finally did review cases, more than a year
after the first sentences became legally binding, their judgements were
somewhat contradictory. But, basically the High Courts concluded that the
police actions on Thursday caused the first wave of riots and that these
were not directed towards the EU Top meeting as it had not yet begun.
Therefore people sentenced for these crimes should receive milder
punishments. Unfortunately many people had already received harsh
punishments and the Swedish judicial system does not provide for de-facto
changes in already binding sentences. With regards to the riots on
Friday, the High Courts upheld the lower courts judgements that these
were well planned and organised and that they were to be regarded as
?crimes against democracy?. However, they did reduce the punishments
somewhat, from two years for singular stone throwing to nine months.
However, many of the sentences had, again, already become legally
binding.

The judicial proceedings are currently in their third phase. The first
phase consisted of cases against foreign and Swedish citizens arrested
ion Gothenburg. These individuals received harsh sentences and, in the
case of the foreigners, served them immediately. The second phase
consisted of investigations and trails of Swedish citizens identified in
Gothenburg but not arrested there. In these cases large amounts of video
and photographic materials were used to identify people. Investigators
employed a software program developed for use in child pornography cases.
The software allows for tiny visual details to be identified and then
large amounts of video footage to be searched through and matches to
these specific elements made. In this way, people could be identified by
small things, such as the type or brand name of shoes or clothing worn,
patches on clothing or of other unique and identifiable elements. When
house searches against suspects occurred, these identifiable articles
were searched for, as well as other ?compromising? evidence, such as
political literature. Many of these cases were completed before the High
court passed their judgements, however not all of them. The third phase
is currently in full swing and it entails foreign citizens identified in
Gothenburg, but not arrested there.

These cases are of particular interest for at least two reasons. The
first is that many of the people under investigation in Germany, Holland,
Denmark, Norway and Finland were not physically identified in
Gothenburg.
This means that they have been identified solely by distinguishing
characteristics found in video footage, which in turn suggests and
extensive collaboration between different national police forces. Not to
mention a large EU-wide database of possible ?suspects?. Publicly in
Sweden, it is only known that members of the American secret service were
present in Gothenburg (because of George W. Bush?s presence), but it may
now be assumed that police observers from at least the other Scandinavian
countries were also present and working in Gothenburg. The second point
of interest is the level of punishment of the Swedish courts. As the
first German sentence has recently been reached, it can be assumed that
an attempt to harmonize EU sentencing in cases of rioting directed
against ?democratic? institutions (in accordance with EU anti-terrorism
legislation) is well underway.

Finally, there is an assumption that a fourth and final phase has yet to
be begun. This is based on known, but as yet unpublicised, investigations
of individuals in Sweden. These are individuals that may have appeared in
other investigation documents or have been mentioned by investigators
themselves, but have yet to be accused of any crime. It is also based on
observations of the activities of the Italian police in the aftermath in
conjunction with the Genoa G8 meeting riots. The assumption is that
supposed ?organisers? of the riots against the ?democratic? institution
of the EU in Gothenburg will be tried for their organisational activities
prior to the EU Top meeting. This assumption can explain the Swedish High
Court?s judgements concerning the Friday riots in Gothenburg as
well-planned and organised. If this assumption proves to be true, it will
undoubtedly incorporate EU anti-terrorism legislation and be used as an
effective measure against all future ?organised? radical left activities.

Summary and Practical Assistance
The Summer of Resistance 2001 can be regarded as the culmination of the
globalisation movement and its demonstrations that began in Seattle 1999.
The judicial aftermath of Gothenburg can in turn be regarded as an
attempt to criminalize all future resistance to globalisation. An attempt
that has received a boost from both the events of 9-11 and the EU police
forces? attempts to harmonize their international collaboration.

In Sweden there are currently a large number of people serving long
prison sentences. And many more are waiting to serve their sentences.
There are also several trails waiting to be carried out in other
Scandinavian and European countries. All of these political prisoners
need our solidarity and those individuals currently under investigation
or awaiting trial need our support and assistance.

ks

Information can be attained from the following sources:

Gothenburg Prisoner Solidarity Group.
c/o Syndikalistiskt Forum
Box 7267
SE-402 35 Gothenburg
Sweden
solidaritetsgruppen@hotmail.com

Financial support can be sent to:
Swedish PostGirot account:
276 02-2
Account holder:
"Nisse Lätts Minnesfond"
Label the payment: "Gothenburg Solidarity"
PostGirot has the SWIFT code:
PGS ISESS
and address:
SE-105 00 Stockholm, Sweden

Please visit the following website for a list of the Swedish embassies
and consulates across the world:
http://www.utrikes.regeringen.se/inenglish/missions/index.htm


Information on the situation in Germany can be obtained from:

Berliner Ermittlungs-Ausschuss (EA)
EA Berlin
Gneisenaustraße 2a
10961 Berlin,
Tel: +49 30 6922222

or the Berliner Soli-Treffen für Göteborg:
solitreffengbg@gmx.net

or
gipfelsoli infogruppe
gipfelsoli@nadir.org
gipfelsoli mailinglist subscribe - unsubscribe
https://lists.nadir.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/gipfelsoli-l

Information on the situation in Holland can be obtained from:

www.steunmaarten.org

Other information in English can be found at:
http://www.statewatch.org
http://se.indymedia.org

[*Ed. note:
A vast majority of the people who participated in the Gothenburg 2001
riots, and later faced the severe state repression, where anarchist and
other people from the anti-authorian movement in Sweden and rest of Europe.

The organistaion "Gothenburg Prisoner Solidarity Group" mentioned after the
article is a solidarity group that is made of anarchist and syndicalist
individuals, similar to an "ABC"-group. "Syndikalistisk Forum" is the local
anarchist infoshop in Gothenburg.]





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