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patrice riemens: (fwd) The 'real' story of June 18

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From: Patrice Riemens <>
Subject: The 'real' story of June 18 (fwd)
Date: Sat, 3 Jul 1999 11:02:25 +0200 (CEST)

----- Forwarded message from Helena Earnshaw -----

Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 16:19:36 +0100 (BST)
From: Helena Earnshaw <>
Subject: The 'real' story of June 18

The real story of June 18

By Mark Lynas

When Mexico's Zapatista rebels surged out of the mountains and jungles of
Chiapas to occupy San Cristobal de las Casas, they probably had little idea
that their local revolt would eventually transform itself into the
beginnings of a global revolution.

But even back then on January 1 1994, the ideas were formed which five
years later would help galvanise an unprecedented coalition of Western
environmental activists and Third World social movements to hold a global
day of protest on June 18.

No-one, not even Reclaim the Streets, one of the principal organising
forces behind the UK end of June 18, expected the day to end with the
financial heart of London looking like a battle zone.  But dramatic as
these scenes were, they don't tell the whole story.

In Nigeria, June 18 saw 10,000 brave military repression in Port Harcourt,
Nigeria, to march to the gates of Shell Oil, and to hear a speech by Owens
Wiwa - brother of the executed Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa.  Half a world
away in Tel Aviv, hundreds held a peaceful street carnival where torches
were lit for the victims of 'corporate rule'.

In Gujarat, Pakistan, union leaders in disguise evaded police cordons to
speak at a mass rally demanding 'bread not nuclear bombs'.  In Minsk,
Belarus, McDonalds was picketed by leafletters, while in Montevideo,
Uruguay the main square of the town's financial centre was converted into a
'trade fair' - looking at issues as diverse as education, child labour,
consumerism and community radio.

There were street parties in Toronto, Los Angeles, Madrid, Prague, Zurich,
Amsterdam, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Eugene (Oregon), Austin
(Texas) and Barcelona, with reports still coming in of others.  In almost
all cases, the targets chosen focused squarely on financial capital.  In
Geneva 50 protesters 'washed' major banks, and in Madrid and Vancouver the
stock exchanges were blockaded by hundreds of people - including, in
Melbourne, a group of dead wombats.

Press coverage of the June 18 protests has - perhaps unsurprisingly - been
almost entirely negative.  Coverage in the UK focused almost exclusively on
the riots, with right-wing Murdoch-owned tabloid 'The Sun' printing
pictures under the headline: "Savages".  The Sunday Times, also a Murdoch
paper, recently launched a smear campaign - labelling several people
'masterminds' of a terrorist-style network.

On the contrary, the June 18 events were the apex of a very wide and
entirely open global movement.  This was largely sparked by the Zapatistas,
who held two 'encuentros' (meetings) - one deep in the Lacandon jungle of
Chiapas in 1996, and the second a year later in Spain, to which delegates
from countless different groups converged.  They sought to highlight not
just the symptoms of poverty, landlessness and environmental collapse, but
their perceived causes too - free trade, corporate control and capitalism

In February 1998, a third international meeting was held in Geneva -
People's Global Action (PGA) Against 'Free' Trade and the WTO - attended by
400 people, who in turn represented activist groups and social movements
from 71 countries.  Six months later, as the G8 met in Birmingham, 200,000
Indian peasant farmers in Hyderabad marched to demand India's withdrawal
from the WTO. Over 30 Reclaim the Streets parties in over 20 countries took
place, while in Brasilia 50,000 unemployed, workers and landless peasants
took to the streets.

Through People's Global Action - an 'organisation' without offices, funds
or paid staff - a global movement was beginning to crystallise.  And with a
great irony, its formation was hugely assisted by the invention of that
most paradoxical spin-off from the computer age - the Internet.  As the
realisation dawned that the power of global finance could only be
challenged through global resistance, the Internet proved an ideal medium
through which to organise.

The long struggle of the Mexican Zapatistas was paralleled through the
1990s in the UK by the rise of the anti-roads movement, which in the
mammoth battles of Twyford Down, the M11 Link Road and the Newbury Bypass
left thousands of people dedicated to the use of non-violent direct action
as a preferred means of achieving social and environmental aims.

Across the Third World too, direct action seemed to promise a new way
forward.  The million-strong landless peasants movement in Brazil didn't
just lobby the government for land reform, they occupied empty ranches and
brought the land directly back into use to provide for the hungry.  An
estimated 150,000 people have been resettled through direct action in
Brazil - an amazing feat, far outstripping meagre government anti-poverty

In the run-up to the latest G8 Summit, which began in Cologne on June 18, a
group of 500 farmers from India and Nepal toured Europe in an
'Inter-Continental Caravan', holding protests and making links with
European activists.  In the UK the farmers visited a genetic engineering
test site which had been recently cleared by activists and converted to
organic agriculture.

"We have come here to build bridges between people who want to reclaim
their future, to disobey the institutions that run the current,
self-destructive system of global economic, political and military
governance, and to take their own power in their hands in order to
construct a different world," wrote Professor Nanjundaswamy, leader of the
Karnataka State Farmers Association, as the G8 Summit got underway.  The
likely next focus of globally-coordinated protest will be the World Trade
Organisation's Third Ministerial Conference, taking place in Seattle from
November 30 to December 3 this year.

As we head into the new millenium, two powerful forces are on a global
collision course.  From above, a powerful coalition of multinationals,
financiers and rich-country governments are pushing for stricter free trade
rules and an intensification of economic globalisation.  From below,
millions-strong social movements across the Third World are uniting with
activists in the West to demand an end to poverty and the unsustainable
exploitation of the earth's environment.

There can be no compromise between these two competing forces - their
agendas are utterly irreconcilable.  And as the two worlds collide, the
riots in London on June 18 1999 may come to be seen as a small foretaste of
the upheavals yet to come.

See also OneWorld's June 18 campaign page: