Global Policy Forum

Police Arrest 200 in Second Day


By Colin Nickerson

Boston Globe
April 22, 2001

Thousands of protesters joined in two massive marches against globalisation on Saturday, overshadowing the discussions on trade and democracy by 34 leaders of the Americas inside their well-guarded security zone. In the streets outside, about 200 arrests were made as police fought pitched battles with demonstrators for a second day, using water cannon, tear gas, "flash-bang" grenades, plastic bullets, and batons to drive angry crowds back from the massive steel fence surrounding the summit site.

At least 79 people, including 34 police officers, dozens of protesters, and several journalists were injured in the melee, none seriously. Ambulance sirens rose in counterpoint to the chants and beating drums of the armies of dissent. As the summit agreed only democratic countries would be allowed to join the pact - Cuba was the only nation in the Americas not invited - US President George Bush pledged to make free trade the priority of American foreign policy and urged leaders to "use the Summit of the Americas to launch the century of the Americas".

However, Latin American leaders said the proposed free trade area could only benefit the continent if combined with measures to fight social ills such as poverty, crime and lack of education. "You cannot have genuine democracy in a society where there is so much inequality of poverty, as happens in many areas of Latin America, including Mexico," said Mexican President Vicente Fox. "We cannot allow ourselves to drift without a clear indication of where we are going, at the mercy of winds, or at the mercy of the whims of market forces."

More than 20,000 peaceful opponents of free trade marched through the city or joined festive anti-globalisation rallies featuring street theatre, giant puppets, and the singing of old union songs. "The issues are clear: saving the environment versus savaging the environment, people versus corporations, human rights versus human misery," said Ms Medea Benjamin, of the group Global Exchange.

But hundreds of self-described anarchists and revolutionaries also stormed police positions, releasing a hail of rocks, sand-filled soda bottles, and flaming debris. Both groups of demonstrators failed in their mission to derail the summit. Political leaders and trade negotiators seemed almost oblivious of the volleys of tear gas and howling police dogs only a few blocks from the main convention centre.

Mr Bush gave a nod to the protesters by saying he had come to Quebec to listen "to voices inside this hall and those outside this hall who want to join us in constructive dialogue". But the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Jean Chrétien, had a tougher message, calling the violence "contrary to the democratic principles we hold dear".

Peaceful marchers accused the news media of focusing on the easily photographed havoc while refusing to heed the anti-globalisation crusade, which has breathed life into the leftist movement, giving groups as disparate as ecologists, trade unionists and old-line Marxists a common cause for the first time since the Vietnam war.

Police seemed intent only on preventing protesters from entering the summit area. Mr Daniel Turpin, a human rights evaluator assigned to monitor the demonstrations, described police behaviour as "fairly restrained". "They are measured in their response to pretty extreme provocation," he said. Some of the protesters had a hammer-and-sickle or a red star painted on their foreheads and wore padded clothing meant to lessen the impact of police clubs. As the tear gas canisters sizzled and smoked, the crowd jeered: "See what democracy looks like!"

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