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(en) "Old" story about Geneva anti WTO May 1998

From OdM <red-red2@span.ch>
Date Wed, 17 Nov 1999 03:02:39 -0500


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In the heart of the beast: Squat WTO !
(a personal view )
After the demos and riots of the 1998 WTO summit in Geneva, there was some
criticism within the movement in Geneva about the way different kinds of
events where handled by the local PGA organising committee, and it was
agreed that the next time it should be quite clear that there was no
monopoly or franchise on a PGA call to action and that different groups
could organise to respond in different ways.
And thus it came about (some times people really do what they say) that
while "Action Populaire Contre la Mondialisation" was seriously organising
for the Geneva demo within the general "Anti-Millenium Coordination", a
nefarious band of squatters, subversives, etc., the "Et Paf!" (the
"Whammo!") collective, decided that the best call to action was action.
Its a bit more complicated to occupy WTO headquarters than a McDo. There
are guards outside, you need a pass to enter, there are more guards inside.
You need special clothes not to be spotted immediately, etc. How to stay in
long enough? No effort was spared. A whole fake class of student social
workers was organised. Others slipped past security thanks to a stratagem
that was so marvellous that it can’t even be told. Several people worked
hard at the mobile-portable-webcam system that was supposed to beam images
directly from the occupation onto the Web. A 40 yard banner small enough to
be sneaked in was prepared.
And it all worked like clockwork! A dozen people pretending to eat at the
cafeteria on the top floor. A bit more pretending to listen to a guided
tour of WTO in the lobby, thirty friends with bicycles holed up down the
street in a café, waiting for the word. A few more trying to restrain a
small mob of journalists from rushing into WTO too soon. All at once,
people running on the roof, people locked to the main stairway, people
sending faxes in empty offices and outside the bicyclists turning in
circles to make a trafic jam. Mobile phones CAN sometimes be useful! And by
pure luck (?), all this just when Mr. Moore and the U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture were coming past. Some of the funniest things happened outside.
When bicycling got tiring, the people blocked the avenue with the barriers
that the police had conveniently stacked there. To shut the entrance gate
of the WTO, the demonstrators had to actually lift two limousines out of
the way. It suddenly seemed a natural thing to do. All this under the
astounded gaze of the outnumbered police and guards. Surprise and secrecy
can also be handy. Even when more arrived, the police were hesitant and on
the defensive. Their principal - highly symbolic act - was to cut the
chains that the demonstrators had shut the gates with, and replace them
with their own! Inside, the WTO officials first did nothing, then after
several contradictory decisions, finally let people leave without any
police intervention or even identification. Sometimes, when you hit just
the right note, you get a game free. And obviously, WTO knew that their
image is so bad, that repression could only make it worse. So help
yourselves in Seattle!

A la prochaine!
El Paf



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