Date: Wed, 7 Oct 98 21:08:29 CDT
Margrete Strand-Rangnes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: (mai) Political Repression in Switzerland
On Tuesday September 8th, 1998, at about 8 am, the police raided several homes in Geneva. Six people were taken into police custody for several hours, one person was escorted to the airport by the police, one was held by the police for eight hours, and the rest were released after about 5 hours. They were all questioned by the police regarding Peoples' Global Action (PGA) and its role in riots in May and in preventing these riots. One person in Geneva returned from traveling to find that the locks on his house had been changed and his house had been searched by the police.
The police also raided the office of the
Institut Argent et
Societe (IAS), which served as a press office of Peoples'
Global Action in May 1998. Each house, as well as the office were all
raided more or less simultaneously by about 6-8 police officers at
each address. Seven computers, over 100 diskettes, many address
books, and a very large amount of documentation have been confiscated.
PGA is a conglomeration of over 100 different organizations from different countries. It is coordinated by a committee of convenors from five continents, India's national Alliance of Peoples' Movements is one of the coordinators, the Karnataka Rajya Ryot Sangh (Karnataka State Farmers Organization) are also involved with PGA. It was formed in 1996 and its main objectives are to challenge the World Trade Organization (WTO), corporate power structures, and liberalization.
One of the main focuses is the protest against the Multilateral
Agreement on Investment (MAI). The MAI is being finalized by 29 OECD
countries and will then be imposed upon the rest of the countries of
the world. Basically, under MAI multinational corporations will
super citizens with enormous power and status,
placing them above the nation states, and they will be able to
circumvent laws and regulations that exist within countries. This
would have devastating effects on local markets, the environment,
labour regulations and individual rights.
The PGA calls for a confrontational attitude, non-violent civil disobedience and the construction of local alternatives by local populations by local populations.
In February 1998 500 delegates from more that 150 organizations from 70 countries met in Geneva for a PGA conference. In May 1998 there was a major demonstration in Geneva and the PGA coordinated international protests at the same time in about 35 different countries; some of the protests were held in Montreal, Brasilia, Birmingham, Prague, Hyderbad, Syndey and Berlin.
The police seem to be quite frightened by the PGA and took this aggressive stance after an announcement that there will be protests against the Geneva Business Dialogue on September 23/24 1998.
The Geneva Business Dialogue is organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) as a meeting with UN-Secretary General Kofi Anaan and other officials from the United Nations.
Such heavy-handed police action makes it clear that the PGA, and the strength and power of so many people coming together on to fight has made a lot of people nervous. It is also apparent that the police are making every effort to criminalize the PGA outright, since they are curtailing the basic right of freedom to organize and free speech.
Only a few weeks ago, at the end of August, the police raided the
international seminar on
Globalisation and Resistance held by
friends of PGA on the premises of a squat in the village of Cologny,
just outside of Geneva. All the 50 participants were taken to the
police station, their tents and squat were searched for no apparent
reason, and it appears that they were just detained for debate!