Anti-Bush protests in Europe

Trouble in Gothenborg

Revolutionary Worker #1108, June 24, 2001, posted at

When George W. Bush arrived in Sweden to meet with European leaders at a continental summit of the European Union (EU) the streets of Gothenborg erupted into protest and street fighting. Then at the height of the clashes on Friday, June 15, a Swedish cop pulled his gun and shot three demonstrators.

The plans for Bush's European trip had been organized around protecting him from such protest. He was avoiding major cities like Paris, Berlin and Moscow. He was meeting Russian President Putin in Slovenia, one of the most conservative and pro-U.S. countries in Europe. And he was surrounded by an intense "steel bubble" of police--that kept ordinary people literally miles away from him most of the time. Apparently, the U.S. officials thought that Gothenborg, in quiet, stable Sweden would be a safe place to hold a meeting with various Euro-imperialists. They were wrong.

In a few short months, the new U.S. president Bush has quickly made himself one of the most hated people on the planet. The whole arrogant swagger of the U.S. playing "the world's only superpower" just pisses people off. In addition, people in Europe--where the death penalty is illegal--are particularly horrified by this man who has carried out over 100 executions as governor, and now the first federal execution in almost 30 years. His plans for a Star Wars system are widely seen as a threatening, first strike weapon that will force countries like Russia and China into a new arms race. And Bush's crude plans for increasing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are seen as dangerous to all of humanity and the whole planet. In Sweden, he is known as the Toxic Texan.

In addition, the plans to expand the European Union are very widely opposed by progressive people in Europe--who see this as a move by their ruling classes to create a rival superpower, under German imperialist leadership. The growth of the EU is tied to new moves for privatization, cutting of living standards, ruin of millions of farmers, new police measures of all kinds, and plans for a new Euro-based program of militarization.

So when Bush, who millions despise, arrived to schmooze at the EU conferences (which millions sharply oppose)-- the result was an explosion of mass protest in the usually quiet streets of Gothenborg, a medium-sized city on Sweden's west coast.

Gothenborg--Reborn as a City of Protests

"Our goal is to mobilise people in Europe to develop an alternative to the current trend. A change of course is needed in a world with expanding gaps between and within countries and increasing environmental destruction, where economic growth on terms set by powerful corporations has become more important than social and environmental values."

From the Call from the
Gothenborg Action 2001 Coalition

"This morning we had a magnificent demonstration against the European Union. It was a demonstration of several thousand people exercising their rights to confront the leaders of these governments. We were stopped by police in what was essentially a military operation in order to break up the action and take people to jail. They chased people down. The general feeling among the protesters was that these officials want to complain about people breaking windows, while they ruin the future for everyone. We came here to demonstrate--but it was not just a physical protest (though physical protest is important) but it is about a thirst for ideas. We have come here to protest, yes, but also to exchange ideas about how to change the world. To learn what is happening and what is being done by others--and to find new ways to work together for a new world."

A marcher in Gothenborg

Tens of thousands marched in days of mounting protest, that started on Thursday, June 14, and planned to climax with a major international demonstration on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Swedish Prime Minister Persson met with representatives of the various protest organizations, hoping to cool out the actions by presenting a friendly face. He said, "It (the EU) is one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. world domination"--a rival imperialist plan if there ever was one. But he and three other ministers were jeered and drowned out by foot-stamping from the crowd of protesters.

On Thursday as the actions started, the mood was lively and militant. People joyfully lined up to drop their pants and show Bush and his fellow imperialists their opinions--in a mass mooning quickly beamed round the world.

On Thursday, Swedish police launched a pre-emptive attack on a high school where many protesters had been sleeping and gathering for events.

After that police and protesters clashed. Police brought snarling dogs that put several people in the hospital with vicious bite attacks. Some cops came mounted on horses. One photographer was injured as a cop rode into the crowd whipping people with his riding crop. In many places, people fearlessly faced the mounted police and reportedly knocked several police out of their saddles--leaving the riderless horses running free through the streetfighting.

Major symbols of international capitalism were trashed along the main business street in Gothenborg, the second largest city in Sweden. The windows of McDonald's and the prominent SE-Bank were trashed. The media reported with shock that there was even some looting at the prominent B&O department store-- something unheard of in Sweden.

Streets were blocked by containers and dumpsters. Smoke from bonfires hung heavy over the city as police helicopters clattered overhead. The cobblestone streets were torn up, and paving stones flew on all sides. Off and on during the day, thousands of anti-capitalist protesters held central downtown streets--forcing police forces back, intersection by intersection. One media report said, "The protesters waved flags with images of revolutionary heroes Marx, Lenin and Mao and banners with slogans such as 'Smash global capitalism' as their leaders made speeches through banks of loudspeakers."

Police made over 400 arrests on Thursday. And as more and more brutal means were used to regain control of the city, the authorities started using the classic divide-and-conquer tactics of "distancing"--saying they respected the "peaceful demonstrators" and accusing "a small handful of foreign extreme leftists" of bringing trouble to Sweden. It was almost humorous to hear talk of marauding "Danish thugs"--for the first time since the Viking raids a thousand years ago.

A deeply conservative sense of respectability and law-worship had been challenged and disobeyed. Various pro-system politicians of Sweden's extensive legal left lined up to denounce the actions in the streets--sounding indistinguishable from the George W. Bushes of the world.

The demonstrators were clearly not impressed. On Friday morning (as President Bush left to face a new round of demonstrations in Poland) the rebels in Sweden broke through the first ring of security barricades surrounding the imperialist enclave. Throughout the day, police attacks led to street-fighting in many locations around the city.

At one point, hundreds of people were penned on a bridge by police and hauled off to jail. Some escaped by jumping into the river.

A police squad tried to attack the "Reclaim the City" street rave around 8 p.m. Friday evening and suddenly found themselves cornered. Sweden and the world will long remember what happened next. The mask of Swedish social democracy fell away, and the naked face of the Swedish imperialist state was there for all to see: One of their cops pulled his gun, took aim, and pumped bullets into the demonstrators, wounding three. One of them hovered between life and death from a severe chest wound.

The response of Swedish authorities was to defend their police, demand more police powers and weapons and blame the people for everything.


It has become increasingly difficult for the world's ruling class to hold their conferences and plunder sessions in any of the world's cities. Seattle, Washington, Cincinnati, Cancun, Honolulu, Melbourne, Quebec City, Nice, Prague--one by one, their gatherings have become the focus of intense resistance. And now the staid port city of Gothenborg--where once again the authorities were shocked and driven back by the ferocity of protest and anti-globalization anger.

It seems like imperialists can't hold their bloodsucking meetings anywhere without sparking streetfighting--and for oppressed people all over the world, that is a pretty positive sign for the future.

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