Al Jazeera – 2017-07-02 23:35:47
Thousands Rally against G20 Summit in Hamburg
More rallies scheduled to take place before the leaders
of industrialised economies meet on July 7-8
(July 2, 2017) — Thousands rallied in Hamburg on Sunday to protest against next week’s G20 summit, where US President Donald Trump is due to make his maiden appearance at the forum of major economies.
HAMBURG (July 2, 2017) — Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Hamburg, Germany, to protest against a Group of 20 (G20) summit that takes place next weekend.
The G20 comprises leaders of the world’s major industrialised and emerging economies. US President Donald Trump is expected to make his maiden appearance at the July 7 and 8 forum.
Sunday’s demonstration in the northern German city was organised by environmental, labour, human rights and church groups protesting against the policies of the world’s richest countries.
A police spokesman quoted by the AFP news agency put the turnout at the protest at around 10,000, while organisers said the figure was far higher.
The rally was “completely peaceful”, the police spokesman said as more protests are expected in the run-up to the summit.
The gathering outside city hall took place in parallel with protests by canoeists on the nearby river Alster, while in the port of Hamburg, Greenpeace staged a climate demonstration near a ship laden with coal.
More Protests Expected
Hamburg, where summit host Chancellor Angela Merkel was born, is a bustling city that is also an anti-establishment bastion of left-wing activists.
Around 30 protests have been scheduled in the run-up to the summit, and the organisers are hoping for a total turnout of more than 100,000 people.
German authorities are bracing for trouble in Hamburg as they are worried that the protests could turn violent.
The German Federal Crime Office warned that violent G20 opponents could carry out arson and sabotage at infrastructure targets such as the Hamburg harbour and airport, said on Sunday.
“New and creative forms of attack have to be watched out for,” the German Federal Crime Office warned, according to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, in the Sunday edition of the daily Bild, warned that any violence “should be nipped in the bud.” “Freedom of assembly is only valid for peaceful demonstrations,” he said.
Around 15,000 police will be deployed to protect the summit, in addition to 3,800 officers monitoring airport and train security.
The G20 meeting follows a G7 summit in Sicily a month ago that exposed deep divisions between the United States and other countries on climate change, trade and migration.
Trump later announced he was pulling the US out of a landmark agreement to combat climate change reached in 2015 in Paris.
OPINION: Are Protests Enough to Bring Down the G20?
We have to take to the streets of Hamburg on July 7
with a clear idea of what we want our world to be.
Srecko Horvat / Al Jazeera
(July 2, 2017) â€“ According to a recent poll, every third person living in Hamburg wants to leave the city during the G20 summit on July 7-8. Their decision is not surprising: who is crazy enough to be in a city with Trump, Erdogan, Putin, Merkel and the Saudis, 20,000 policeman and most likely 100,000 people protesting on the streets?
When the last G20 summit took place in Hangzhou, a city with more than six million inhabitants, China found a brilliant solution to this problem. Weeks in advance of the 2016 G20 summit, where China announced its decision to ratify the Paris Agreement, the Chinese government declared a week-long holiday and encouraged citizens to leave the city.
After the trouble-free summit in China, the person who pointed to the map of Germany and said, “Let’s do the next G20 in Hamburg!” must not be exceptionally bright. With a long leftist tradition and strong activist presence, Hamburg is probably the city most unlikely to host a problem-free summit like the one in Hangzhou.
The grievances of the local population aside, there is a good reason to think this summer’s G20 summit will be the most important international political event of the year.
First of all, after Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, difficult and unpredictable negotiations will have to take place during this year’s summit.
Second, after the terrorist attacks in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for global internet regulations and Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emanuel Macron soon followed her lead. The three “leaders of the free world”, or also known as MMM, obviously want to use the G20 to push for more restrictions on internet freedom.
Third, the Saudis are also going to attend this summit, and most probably they are going to push for new arms deals.
And last but not least, there is the possibility of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) making an appearance. No wonder Germany reintroduced border checks before the G20 summit and the US is planning to deploy in the city Predator drones, which are usually used in warzones.
So if Hamburg is going to become a sort of warzone, a heavily militarised city under a “state of emergency”, the question which all progressives have to ask themselves is: What can we do differently this time?
Before the G20 summit in Hamburg, if one thing is clear from our past experiences of mobilising and protesting, it is that the main models of resistance are obviously not enough anymore.
The model of alter-summits, inspired by the spirit of the World Social Forum, is still necessary in order to gather and exchange experience and ideas (what the entrepreneurs would call “networking”), but unfortunately, it does not have the capability of really challenging the G20. In other words, counter-summits are necessary, but they don’t have the power to disturb the G20 and whatever deals world powers would be able to conclude during the summit.
The model of massive public demonstrations is also necessary in order to show the massive dissatisfaction with the current global system. But even if there are 150,000 people in the streets, this massive mobilisation won’t produce any concrete change.
If the demonstrations in 2003 of more than 10 million people in 600 cities against the invasion of Iraq couldn’t stop the war, why would a mass protest in Hamburg be able to make any difference? The power brokers of today’s world order, which caused several wars and the rise of ISIL, will be in Hamburg — Theresa May, Donald Trump, and the Saudis. But wars, unfortunately, can’t be stopped by mere protests in the face of those who lead them — whether peaceful or violent.
Even if protests or a mass uprising are able to overthrow a political system that is imposing austerity and wars, the real question is what do you do the day after? How do you run the economy and organise daily life? Our action at the G20, therefore, should not be only about disobedience. It should also be about proposing a viable alternative for the day after.
This is why beside disobedience we need something that we at the pan-European movement of democrats, DiEM25, call “constructive disobedience”. It is not enough to say “No” or protest. It is not enough to meet and discuss, criticise or disobey by enacting violence.
To be progressive and constructive, disobedience must be accompanied by counter-proposals fully outlining alternative policies to the ones that we disobey.
What does this precisely mean in the context of the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg? Just take the three main battlegrounds: climate change, internet freedom and arms trade.
Our solution to climate change would not be condemning Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, as the agreement itself does not constitute serious enough action. Our solution would be to demand complete carbon divestment, thus re-directing further energy investments from unsustainable fossil fuels into clean energy, accessible equally to all European citizens. In doing so, we should, following the examples of “rebel cities” such as Barcelona or Naples, urge for democratising energy governance systems allowing European citizens direct say in how energy resources are managed.
Given that the internet is already a panopticon of surveillance capitalism, owned and controlled by an oligarchy of Silicon Valley corporations, and given the ongoing threat against our digital civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, our “constructive” proposal should be a blueprint for the Internet of the People based on protecting human rights and the “digital commons”.
When it comes to the sale of weapons to repressive regimes, which consequently facilitate terrorism, the “constructive” proposal should go along the lines of the recent Labour Manifesto which explicitly states it would block the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Finally, in order to achieve a positive disobedience, we must look to create a new Non-Aligned Movement, which would work towards implementing these constructive policies. In the very likely case that the establishment represented by the G20 rejects these proposals, then it will be time for disobedience.
If our constructive proposals encounter the usual “there is no alternative”, then we shall disobey. The G20 is already suffering from major divisions and we should exploit that. We should be united in putting forward a real alternative.
Srecko Horvat is a philosopher from Croatia. His latest books include “Subversion!” and “The Radicality of Love” (2015) translated into more than 10 languages. He features in Al Jazeera‘s documentary film “Europe’s Forbidden Colony”
Integrating Activism into Governance Institutions
How the idea of ‘the commons’ made the journey
from popular uprisings to the heart of European government
Dan Hancox / Al Jazeera
BRUSSELS, Belgium (July 13, 2015) — As construction noise and traffic hummed in the background, two Turkish women sat on a park bench in Istanbul, talking about what they want from their city’s public spaces: “chit-chats, picnics, resting, walking, sunbathing.”
Other voices chimed in saying public spaces should be used for artistic activities, sports, theatrical performances, traditional games, or just congregating to drink coffee and talk. “Nothing happens if we don’t come together,” said another.
The clips are from a short Turkish film released this year, called Bi’ Dusun Olsun — Imagine It Into Being — as part of a European film project called Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons.
In their sunny idealism, they hardly sound like controversial demands, and even less like revolutionary rallying cries.
Yet these types of demands were what sparked the protests against the planned demolition of Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013, which would have been replaced by a Ottoman architecture style shopping mall.
The demonstrations grew into a nationwide uprising involving millions of people, and a police response that resulted in several deaths, thousands of injuries and arrests. At times, the unrest threatened to bring down the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who at the time was prime minister.
The protesters’ message was clear: Public space is serious business.
The notion of “the commons” is an ancient one. It is a broad term covering shared spaces, goods, natural resources, creativity and knowledge, which is held and governed collectively and democratically, rather than privately.
The concept has been growing in popularity among Europe’s social movements, especially since 2011, the year Spain’s “indignados” protesters took over their city squares, following the example of Egyptians in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Later that year, the international “Occupy” movement used similar tactics.
Now, the idea of the commons as an organising principle has moved from the streets to the heart of the European political establishment. For the first time, one of the European Parliament’s 28 Intergroups — groups made up of members from different political groupings, and that focus on certain issues — is devoted to discussing and defending the commons.
The Intergroup on Public Services and Common Goods was launched at the end of May, with support and members from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the Greens, the European United Left and Italy’s Five Star Movement.
The Intergroup’s stated goal is to defend shared, common goods — such as water, medical innovations and open-source code — from privatisation.
Last week, the Intergroup hosted an unlikely meeting of grassroots activists and members of the European Parliament (MEPs) inside the parliament building, to mark the finale of the “Reclaiming the Commons” project that spawned the Turkish film mentioned above, among others.
In a sense, it was an incongruous location for the discussion — in a meeting room in the heart of bureaucratic politics.
For many of the commons activists, the European Parliament would represent exactly the type of institution from which democracy needs reclaiming.
“I’m amazed we managed to get the Intergroup accepted, to be honest,” British Labour MEP Julie Ward said after the meeting.
Ward, who was elected for the first time in 2014, believes that activist movements have recently begun to filter up into EU parliamentary politics.
“There are a lot of new MEPs here, and a lot of them have activist or campaigning backgrounds,” explained Ward.
“And for some of us with activist backgrounds, we don’t want to let it go. Public services are under threat everywhere, and it’s up to us to stand up for them,” Ward said.
The tussle between state and private ownership highlights why the commons has become a fashionable piece of language — especially given recent history.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, centre-left parties across Western Europe have jettisoned the word “socialism”, or of anything that smacks of shared ownership.
In the case of the UK’s Labour Party, this was reflected in the modification of the party constitution’s Clause Four, on Tony Blair’s initiative, to remove a reference to “common ownership”.
But, some looking at the composition of the Intergroup, ask if the word “commons” is in fact just modish code for “socialism”? Ward said she is proud to have described herself as a socialist when campaigning, but noted that the Greens were also members of the Intergroup.
Ward conceded that such a working group — tasked with obstructing privatisation, dismantling intellectual copyright and regulating market intervention — will face staunch opposition from business friendly MEPs in the European Parliament and lobbyists close to it.
But, Ward added, “politics is a fight”.
The ‘Institutional Glass Ceiling’
The idea of the commons can often seem quite abstract, making it potentially difficult for the Intergroup to focus on tangible goals or legislation. But it doesn’t have to be that way, explained Sophie Bloemen of the Commons Network, one of the guest speakers at the European Parliament event.
“If you talk about participatory democracy, [the Intergroup] already is serving as an anchor for these political networks to convene,” Bloemen said.
“I think it could potentially start formulating policy proposals on specific issues — in particular the protection of water, and the digital commons,” explained Bloemen.
But the MEPs will not be able to do this alone, Bloemen believes, and will need to reach out to the same activists who generated this energy in the first place. This is something she witnessed first-hand while living in Oakland during the Occupy movement.
As an example of this grassroots energy, Bloemen cited the collaborative spirit of so-called “hacker spaces” for sharing knowledge and skills to collectively solve problems in local communities.
“These hacker spaces are not just a geeky computer thing. It wasn’t all about computer code or open-source software. There were a lot of different groups, it was very community-based. For example, there was a sewing group, and one on participatory budgeting, and a food network. It was about pooling resources, about a community doing things together,” Bloemen told.
In “Municipal Recipes”, a Spanish film produced as part of the “Reclaiming The Commons” project about the citizens’ platforms that last month launched many “indignados” into power in Barcelona, Madrid and beyond, Gala Pin asked her fellow activists, “How do you not hit your head on the institutional glass ceiling?”
Shortly after the film was made, Pin was elected to Barcelona town hall along with 10 other city councillors. In Brussels and in Barcelona, the coming months and years are going to provide a fascinating answer to Pin’s question — can the people elected to defend the commons do so from inside the institutions of power?
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