From firstname.lastname@example.org Sat Oct 16 19:15:06 2004
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 08:10:42 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: [NYTr] Euro Social Forum Overwhelmed with Crowds
Article: 193239y To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
sent by Simon McGuinness (cubanews)—Oct 14, 2004
A near stampede marred the opening ceremony of the 2004 European Social Forum in London last night, as up to a thousand rain-soaked activists were barred entry to the Southwark Cathedral reception. Up to two thousand delegates queued in the London dusk and repeated cloudbursts for the event which was due to kick off the three-day conference of European global justice activists, only to find around half turned away. A potentially dangerous bottleneck was created as organisers only admitted one guest at a time, after a bag search, from a scrum of several hundred outside.
At first oblivious to the crushed crowd still waiting outside, the speakers, including Ken Livingstone, Gerry Adams and Che Guevara's daughter, Aleida, began half-an-hour late. Repeated attempts to ram the door, chants and slow handclaps echoing from the cathedral graveyard then reduced the opening ceremony to a state of semi-siege as wet and disgruntled delegates, numbering at least as many as were in the building, protested against the poor organisation of the ESF outside.
There was no apparent threat of the direct action tactics of the May
Day protests, but a mood of dejection and chaos forced organisers
inside to apologise that the cathedral was
the largest venue we
One usher confided that it was
bigger than when Nelson Mandela came
On stage, Ken Livingstone welcomed guests from across Europe to what
the largest conference in the history of Britain in over
2,000 years. The three-day gathering will see 500 events held in
He told the radical congregation of around 1,000 that there was
still a queue thousands long in London yesterday evening to
register for accreditation, and that today's attendance for the
first full day of the conference of grassroots socialists,
environmentalists and anti-globalisation campaigners would be
20,000 to 30,000.
To cheers, he joked that the
last few days the media has woken up
to the ESF—because my press officers have been rung incessantly
to ask ‘how much is it costing’?
Let me tell you—it costs less than the G8 [which the UK will
be hosting at Gleneagles next year] or the arms fair in London 18
months ago ... and if the media pay for entry, it will help defray the
Reflecting his view from his exclusive Guardian Unlimited interview
yesterday, that Europe's young were far from politically
apathetic, Mr Livingstone boasted that the 5,000 delegates camping
down in the Dome last night made it
the biggest youth hostel in
With a panel of Frances O' Grady, the TUC deputy general
secretary; Dr Aleida Guevara, the daughter of the late revolutionary
Che; and globalisation academic Susan George; Mr Livingstone suggested
that the war on Saddam Hussein was
precipitated by the Iraqi
dictator's decision to switch the sales of oil from dollars to
Mr Livingstone said :
Within my lifetime there will be a challenge
against the dollar. China will emerge and say ‘why trade in
Within a generation it will be the most dangerous time in world
Turning to the operation of world markets, he added:
All the people
in the world have an interest in overthrowing the existing financial
regime of the IMF and the World Bank,
Before introducing Dr Guevara, the mayor revealed that in the last year of his current term, 2008, the Greater London authority would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution.
Dr Guevara told the audience through a translator:
still a possibility. Solidary is of paramount importance,
She quoted Mother Teresa to an audience of peace activists hailing from Russia, Poland, France, the UK, Spain, Germany, Australia and the US.
Today's opening seminars, workshops, plenary sessions, concerts and films will test rumours that 36 hours of heavy downpours in the capital have left several of the venues and marquees at Alexandra Palace partially flooded.
Chaos reigned as an estimated 10,000 people converged in London for the third European social forum with delays, frustration and problems at three venues.
Despite a welcome from Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, who praised the forum's diversity, many visitors were bemused by a lack of organisation, which reflected badly on a capital bidding for the Olympic Games.
The chaos began early when 6,000 of the mainly young people attending the three-day forum (ESF) had to queue for many hours in the rain to register and collect passes at the Conway Hall in central London. Because only 900 are allowed in at a time, the police were called to clear the premises. Fights ensued, and a man was arrested.
Things got out of control. We were invaded by the Socialist Workers
party, said Mary Fee, spokeswoman for the Solidarity village, an
autonomous space at the hall hoping to set up an alternative
currency for participants.
As organisers announced that the Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu would address a meeting tomorrow, Mr Livingstone denied that the forum was being taken over by British leftist groups.
The ESF is far too big and diverse to be swamped by any one
viewpoint, he said.
The global justice movement will be
reflected in the different debates and speakers.
The gathering gets into gear today and is expected to attract 1,000 groups, 350 of them British. The first two forums, in Florence and Paris, each attracted 50,000 participants. The Guardian is the forum's media partner.
However, criticisms of logis-tics dominated the discussions which started last night at Southwark cathedral with the formal opening by Mr Livingstone, Che Guevara's daughter, Aleida, Gerry Adams, and others.
Frustrations seethed over as more than 1,500 people were kept waiting in the rain and then refused entry to hear the opening speeches.
And earlier hundreds who made their way to Alexandra Palace in north London, the venue for many of the 2,000 events, found only security guards and workmen.
There is not one sign anywhere. The shuttle buses are not
working. It seems there is no organisation, said Juan Blanco, a
No one knows what is going on. Compared to Paris
But as some battled with transport, others were de-lighted by the vast
I have never seen such a programme, said Roberto, who
arrived from Spain yesterday.
This is like the Olympics of politics and culture, a cross between
the Edinburgh Festival and the Paris Commune. There is too much for
three days, but this is a good sign for social justice in Europe. The
movement is vibrant.
Back at Southwark, Mr Livingstone said:
We expect 20–30,000
delegates. In the last few days the media has woken up to the ESF. I
know that because my press officers have been inundated with calls
asking ‘How much will it cost?’
I tell you this, it will cost less than the G8 or last year's
arms fair in London, he said to loud cheers.
And he offered a warning, claiming that Saddam Hussein's decision
to sell Iraqi oil in euros rather than dollars
US decision to topple him.
Within my life time there will be a challenge against the
dollar. China will emerge and say ‘Why should we trade in
dollars?’ It will be the most dangerous time in world
He told the crowds—as he introduced Ms Guevera—that in 2008 London would celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution.
Ms Guevera received a standing ovation and said:
Socialism is still
a possibility and solidarity is of paramount importance. The road is
long but as Mother Teresa said: ‘Life is life—defend
Earlier Mr Adams said:
We must have fair trade over free trade and
we must have a UN that is reformed, modernised, and strengthened.