At European Summit in Sweden, Police Also Fired on Protesters


Göteborg, a Prelude to Bloodier Police Action in Genoa

by Jan Malewski


[The following is an edited version of an article in the July 2001 issue of International Viewpoint.]

Savage police repression will be the abiding memory of the European Union summit in Göteborg, Sweden, which began on Friday, June 15, with three demonstrators wounded after having been shot by police.

As the streets of Göteborg filled with groups of demonstrators, from the morning on the police attacked them with dogs. This resulted in a violent response to the violence of the attack. Throughout the day groups of demonstrators were harassed by police officers on horseback-whereas the organizers of the afternoon demonstration had the agreement of the authorities that mounted police officers would not be used against demonstrators.

Starting in the morning, the police charged peaceful processions, trying to divide them. It was at this point that the first barricades, later set on fire, were built to protect the demonstrators. Moreover, the latter were attacked on several occasions by bands of neo-Nazis, apparently tolerated by the police.

Speaking to the organizers about the anti-capitalist march, Tommy Lindqvist of the Socialist Party (SP, Swedish section of the Fourth International) denounced this attitude at a press conference held at 6 p.m. on Friday: “The responsibility for what is occurring falls entirely on the police. They provoked the demonstrators from the beginning.” (Quoted in “Cronica detallada de los sucedidos en la ciudad de Gotemburgo durante las manifestaciones en contra de la Cumbre Europea,” Equipo Nizkor, <nizkor@derechos.org>, June 17, 2001.)

Anders Svenson, representative of the SP on the June 18 demonstration steering committee (which brought out 15,000 demonstrators), told the SP’s weekly, Internationalen (June 19 issue): “The media behaved scandalously. They echoed verbatim the police version of events without even trying to look at any other account of what happened.”

European heads of state may have been privately critical of Sweden’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Goran Persson. (Television viewers saw French President Jacques Chirac tell him, “This is very dangerous. You could have killed people.”)

But the official line was different. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “It is significant that we did not yield an inch to these people.” French Premier Lionel Jospin asserted that the demonstrators should “be dealt with—with absolute determination.” Finally Otto Schilly and Daniel Vaillant, respectively German and French Ministers of Interior, both Social Democrats, meeting on June 17 in Berlin, called on the European Union to adopt “a common and tough attitude against this new form of extremist criminality which crosses borders.”

Strategy and Tactics of the Anti-Globalization Movement

While noting that “the exasperation of certain militant milieus and social layers is real,” Christophe Aguiton, in the name of ATTAC, stressed: “We are in favor of non-violent demonstrations. We do not take part and will under no circumstances take part in acts of a violent nature. But nothing justifies the use of the firearms which were employed in Sweden.” (Interview in the French newspaper Liberation, June 18, 2001.)

Some organizations or networks in the movement against capitalist globalization, such as the German “autonomes,” try to surf on the increasing exasperation of radicalized youth, who see their future obliterated by the stranglehold of the multinationals on the resources of the planet that all of us depend on. These organizations, not much interested in the extension of the movement, in building its mass base, try to transform the demonstrations into scenes of looting. In Göteborg, provocations by the Swedish police helped to swell their ranks.

In its leading article, the June 19 Internationalen wrote: “The attitude of the Socialist Party toward individual terrorism and rioting as a political method has not changed for many years. We condemn it and we carry out a political struggle to convince those young people who might be attracted by the violence of those dressed in black. [What is required] is a patient fight within the mass movement, alongside our comrades from work, to build a democratic and socialist alternative.”

After Göteborg it is time to prepare for the Genoa Summit. And the conclusion drawn by the EU leaders after Göteborg is neither to democratize nor to modify the neoliberal policy. On the contrary, the political and financial regime wants to be locked up more firmly in its shell. Genoa will be subjected to a veritable state of siege.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has already announced the mobilization of 13,000 police officers, the prohibition of access by air and rail, and the installation of the leaders in a luxurious yacht somewhere on the Mediterranean.

At Göteborg the leaders were only interested in banning demonstrations, and using water cannon and tear gas, along with the generalization of body searches. In short, one step more toward a police state. Contributing to this result are the anarchist elements who prefer to act separately when tens of thousands are demonstrating in the streets against the system.

But one thing should not be forgotten. For four days Göteborg was the scene of the most massive demonstrations against the policy of the European Union ever held in Sweden. The thousands who organized three immense demonstrations without having recourse to any threatening attitude whatsoever are the true winners. They represent the future.