From Barcelona to Seville

Time was when an EU summit was every leader's wet dream. Who remembers the heady days of Ireland's EU presidency as the limos sped through the streets with their garda escorts? What minister didn't relish the opportunity to be broadcast throughout the world exchanging limp handshakes with the other dickwads and making vague claims about jobs and economic growth?

But not any more. The EU summit in Barcelona over the 9th to the 16th of March saw between 250,000 (police figure) and 600,000 (Indymedia) people take to the streets in a massive anti-capitalist manifestation! Most protestors appeared to have decided to avoid playing the police in the "game" of set piece confrontation.

The 50,000 strong CGT (anarcho syndicalist union) declared "We called for walking out on the script, for using direct action and civil disobedience as mechanisms for struggle that go beyond violent confrontations with the police. We have to regain the furiously festive and subversive nature of our activity, breaking military frameworks (summit-blockade-clash with police) the powers want to confine us to."

They opted for decentralised actions, "as many as the people proposed," under the idea of convergence and mutual respect. During one of the many meetings, it was argued: "We are not afraid. The entire police strategy is based on creating a state of exception, where people stay inside their houses, and an activist elite confronts 10,000 police. Given this reality, the movement should go back to using its creativity and decentralization. Achieving, through that, a more complete visualization of the resistances, of their diversity, beyond the framework of a medieval joust, which is what the police are proposing." (quoted in the Mexican daily La Jornada Sunday, March 24, 2002)

In spite of the mainly peaceful tactics there were a large group intent on making trouble! These were the Spanish police who used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd at several points. Scores of demonstrators, tourists and reporters were injured. However the MRG-International group who organised the anti capitalist end of things claimed:
"that the success of the demonstration on the 16th was historic not just because there were 500,000 people, but also because the vast majority of the demo was grassroots, anti-capitalist and in opposition to the political classes."

One of the most widely read newspapers in Catalonia, El Periodico, included a headline the day after the march that read "Tie in the Summit - Victory in the streets"

The next EU summit is the Heads of Government meeting in Seville over the 21 - 22nd of June. The Spanish government's presidency of the EU has been particularly draconian. Among the measures our lords and masters will be considering is the further criminalisation of protest. The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union has presented the EU Working Party on Terrorism with a draft which would introduce the exchange of information on suspected protestors to protect EU Summits and other international meetings.

The Spanish Presidency proposal said such protests were:
"the work of a loose network, hiding behind various social fronts, by which we mean organisations taking advantage of their lawful status to aid and abet the achievement of terrorist groups' aims." And went on to propose that the Council of the European Union should introduce "a standard form for exchanging information on terrorist incidents" as this would be very helpful in: "prosecuting violent urban youthful radicalism, which is increasingly being used as a cat's paw by terrorist groups in order to achieve their criminal aims"

The Spanish have been also leading the way in the privatisation of education. They have introduced the "Ley Organica de Universidades", whose aim is to privatise the Spanish higher education system, to increase the involvement of business in universities, to force contracting-out of services inside the education system, and to reduce the levels of democracy (student representation) inside universities. Already four students have been jailed in Seville itself for occupations protesting the LOU. We can expect one very large mobilisation in Seville.

Conor Mc Loughlin

Information on the Seville protests will be posted to

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This edition is No70 published in June 2002

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