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Take To The Streets
It s time to take protest to the IMF
Eamonn McCann, 31 Aug 2000
There is nothing new here at all . That was the reaction of Ann Pettifor, Director of Jubilee 2000, to the G7 summit at Okinawa. Jubilee 2000 has now called for an unstoppable tidal wave of public anger to swamp the IMF/World Bank meeting at Prague on September 26th.
A year ago, there were high hopes that world leaders would write off a sizable chunk of Third World debt. A remarkable campaign had drawn in figures as diverse as the Dalai Lama, Kofi Annan, Bono, the Pope and Posh Spice. Bill Clinton was spoken to. Tony Blair was on-side.
The campaign celebrated a certain success when the G7 summit in Cologne last year agreed to slash the overall debt by around 10 per cent, benefitting countries which met a number of conditions that the money retained wasn t vulnerable to theft or spent on arms for foreign adventures, that there were mechanisms in place for monitoring economic development etc.
There was some discussion about whether these conditions amounted to arrogant interference in the internal affairs of impoverished countries, and a general sense that more might have been given in terms of the overall level of indebtedness. But it was a start, most campaigners agreed. The point now was to build on it for the future.
But it turns out not to have been a start at all. The reconvened G7 gathering at Okinawa was remarkable for the lavish hospitality showered on the leaders and for the abandonment of the commitments made at Cologne.
Less than 12 per cent of the debt relief promised at Cologne (that s 12 per cent of 10 per cent: work it out for yourself) had been delivered. And it was made plain that that was that as far as misty-eyed charity-mongering was concerned.
In response to the rebuff, some at least of those who were last year opposed to a strategy of confrontation, believing instead in moral persuasion, have come round to a belief that anti-capitalism is the way forward, as opposed to appealing to the finer instincts of the peripatetic summiteers. This year s model debt campaigner is more Bolshie than Bono.
G7 is where the political leaders of the world s great powers set the agenda for the coming year. The IMF/World Bank meeting is where the bankers and financial strategists make plans to put the strategy into practice. Which is why the bitterly disillusioned Ann Pettifor wants a wave of anger to engulf Prague on the 26th. To Turn Prague into Seattle as the t-shirt says. .
It s hoped that around a hundred socialists, environmentalists and Third World campaigners will travel from Ireland to contribue our trickle to the torrent.
If you want to know more, check email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe see you there. I believe the streets are paved with cobblestones.
If George W. Bush wins the US presidency, John Timoney could be in line for a key post in the new administration. That s the welcome word from Philadelphia.
Welcomed by certain people here in Ireland, that is.
Timoney, Philadelphia s chief of police, earned high praise from Dubya a few weeks back for his exceptional handling of protest demonstrations outside the Republican Party s convention. National leaders are showering praises on the craggy-jawed, bike-peddling commander , babbled one media commentator.
According to lawyers for R2K, the umbrella group which organized the protests, 479 demonstrators were arrested. Most were detained for over 60 hours before being charged with misdemeanors which would normally be covered by a warning.
Bail for a number of leading R2K activists was set at a million dollars, ensuring that they were held for more than a fortnight until the Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles was over. What we re seeing is a fairly orchestrated plan by Timoney and the district attorney s office to wipe out protest while putting on a pleasant face for the public, said attorney Lawrence Krasner. Everybody s getting screwed behind closed doors.
The New York magazine Village Voice described the behaviour of Timoney s officers as: Not a restrained effort to keep the peace, but rather a concerted assault on the protest movement s leadership, propaganda, legal observers and peacekeepers .
Lawyers reported that prisoners had been denied access to medical treatment, including, in a number of instances, medicines for asthma and diabetes. It was also claimed that activists were punched, kicked, and thrown against walls.
One attorney alleged that a female officer sexually assaulted a prisoner by twisting his penis. Another reportedly had his testicles stomped on. Numerous witnesses said they saw a woman dragged across a floor naked and bleeding.
One released prisoner claimed to have seen a man being crucified chained to cell bars with arms outstretched. The prisoner has been quoted in national US media saying that for 20 minutes the man groaned and bellowed that cops
were trying to smash his hands.
I also heard women screaming and being dragged along the floor. I saw a woman screaming in pain as a police officer said, You want more? You want more?
It hardly adds up to a major atrocity. But if the scanario had been played out in a RUC barracks in the North following, say, a protest sit-down against an Orange parade, there d be uproar, and quite right.
Timoney dismissed the allegations. He also dismissed the notion that the protestors had come to Philadelphia out of concern about the environment, arms spending, poverty, racism, Third World debt or any of the other issues which featured on their placards and in their speeches: There s a cadre, if you will, of criminal conspirators who are about the business of planning conspiracies to go in and cause mayhem and property damage and violence in major cities in America .
Dubya Bush and other keen advocates of law n order are not in direct conflict with civil libertarians and the Village Voice as to what actually happened in Philadelphia. They just disagree as to whether it s OK for the cops to crack protestors heads and the legal system deny them their rights. No surprise in that. What may surprise some is the number of Irish nationalists, and their supporters in the US, who, despite all this, see Timoney as a friend of the weak and oppressed.
Three years ago, Timoney was part of a delegation of concerned prominent citizens of the US who visited the North to monitor the way the RUC deal with nationalist protests against Orange parades. He met with RUC chief Ronnie Flanagan, as well as with delegations from the Lower Ormeau and the Garvaghy Road. The two Irish newspapers which reported most positively on the visit were the Irish News and An Phoblacht.
Before leaving, Timoney promised to maintain a watch on police treatment of nationalists so as to ensure that the rights which citizens of the US can take for granted under the Constitution are furthered in Ireland, too .
Will any of the people who invited Timoney to the North as a friend of Ireland , or the newspapers which hailed his presence as a step forward for justice under the law, be embarrassed at the behaviour of his force towards protestors in Philadelphia?
Will Timoney be denounced as a thug and a hypocrite in the editorial columns of the Irish News or An Phoblacht?