Europe: Brussels anti-EU protests

One 17 year old ISR and CWI member from Sweden said: "It was enormous to see so many people – it was a great journey".

These reports have been compiled from contributions from many CWI members and International Resistance and International Socialist Resistance members from around Europe.

Brussels Anti-EU demonstrations

  • Over 500 took part in the launch conference of International Socialist Resistance. 
  • 25,000 demonstrated at the anti-EU demo Friday 14 December. 
  • 100,000  trade unionists demonstrate on 13 December

The following reports show that this was the biggest CWI intervention since the start of the anti-capitalist movement and the first international mobilisation for IR/ISR.

500+ at Brussels ISR conference

Over 500 young people from 15 countries took took part in the launch conference of International Socialist Resistance. 

This conference was the initiative of Elevkampanjen/ISR in Sweden and Internationaal Verzeet in Belgium. The aim of the conference was to bring together those young people who saw the need to put forward socialist ideas and campaigns within the anti-capitalist movement.

The morning session included young International Resistance and International Socialist Resistance members speakers from Belgium, France, Sweden, Germany and Britain outlining different political aspects of the effects of globalisation and the capitalist EU. There were also reports from the campaigning activity of International Resistance and International Socialist Resistance from around Europe. Stormy applause greeted a telephone link up with an anti-capitalist activist from Pakistani Occupied Kashmir, particularly when the conference heard that students there have launched a Free Education Campaign as a result of the work done by ISR/IR in Europe.

The conference then broke up into four commissions on the environment, anti-capitalist campaigning, youth rights and education. This gave newer members of ISR/IR and other participants to the conference more opportunity to intervene in the discussions and debates at the conference.

The final session of the conference discussed a name, structure and a founding statement for the new international organisation. The founding statement was agreed in principle on the understanding that the different IR/ISR organisations would continue discussions on it and would have the opportunity to make further amendments and changes to it. The name agreed upon was International Socialist Resistance. A structure was agreed upon made up of two representatives for each affiliated organisation to attend an international coordinating committee with meetings to be held 1-2 times a year depending on finance. All these proposals were agreed by the vast majority of the conference with only a few abstentions or votes against.

Steph from International Resitance (Belgium) proposed that ISR should launch an international campaign for Free education and against the privatisation and commercialisation of education with an international day of action early in the new year.

Speakers in this last session included a South African member of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), Ty Moore from the US, Ilya from Russia and speakers from several European countries, including Joe Higgins, a Socialist Party member of parliament in Ireland. 

The conference atmosphere was enthusiastic and determined, and we decided to organise new international meetings at future international demonstrations.

During the lunch break over 50 people attended a meeting organised by the CWI entitled "Talkin’ about a revolution…Don’t just talk – Join the CWI".

25,000 demonstrate on Brussels anti-EU demo

25,000 demonstrated at the anti-EU demo today organised by the NGO’s, ATTAC and D14 (in which the CWI is represented).  

International Resistance, International Socialist Resistance and the CWI, formed a strong contingent with between 800 – 1000  members and supporters.  Despite the cold there was a very combative mood. 

The demonstration was on the whole peaceful – but unfortunately as the demo marched, protestors from the Black Block of anarchists smashed windows of banks and parked cars on the streets. Wile police agent provocateurs were involved it was clear that some sections of the Black Bloc contingent supported these actions and made no attempt to steward their section of the march.  The CWI opposes attacks by the police on anti-capitalist demonstrators. However, we also oppose the type of attacks carried out by the black bloc during this demo, whatever the fustration and anger of those involved.  cwi

At the end of the demonstration the police surrounded sections of the Black block and other demonstrators who remained. Over 30 ISR/IR and CWI members were trapped as well including Socialist Party MP Joe Higgins. Over two hours of negotiations and pressure were required to obtain the release of these demonstrators. The police used water cannon on those demonstrators who did not disperse.Two CWI (Committee for a Workers International) meetings after the demo were organised: one on alternatives to the market economy with over 200 there and one on capitalism and war with 150 there. However, hundreds of demonstrators who wanted to go to these meetings were blocked in street after street by riot police. We had to negotiate several times to allow passage for those who wanted to go to the meetings. After these meetings 7 people applied to join the CWI

Build the CWI and ISR!

Following the conference 14 people who attended the demo from Britain joined the CWI and over 30 ISR.German CWI members sold over £500 worth of literature on the three days of activity, while over £400 of CWI material was sold over the same period.

Arrested in Brussels

Interview with Tim Kopfspecht (name changed). Tim is member of the executive committee of the Verdi-youth (public and service sector trade union) in the federal state of Northrhine-Westphalia in Germany.   He wanted to participate in the ISR conference in Brussels.

After the end of the demonstration we were together with other demonstrators encircled and trapped by the police without any obvious reason. I voluntarily moved to be controlled and body-checked by the police to get out of the circle. There the police found a small stone as big as a lighter in my pocket. That was reason enough for the police to arrest me although I did not do anything illegal.

How were the conditions in prison?

I was in police custody for 25 hours. Altogether we were around 50 arrested demonstrators. In the whole time we only received a few waffels, two small packs of orange juice and an apple. Most of us were not allowed to use a telephone and we only could use the toilet after hours. The cells were very cold and they did not turn on the heating. The police told us all the time we would be released soon. This insecurity really made us down. The police treated us arbitrarily, this is just how the police functions. Later we had to sign different documents in Flamish language which we could not understand. They threatened us not to be released if we don’t sign them.

Can such arrests stop you from participating in future demonstrations?

Certainly not. Now I will even more try to take part

Thursday 13 December 2001

100,000 trade unionists demonstrate at Brussels EU-summit

100,000 people demonstrate on the trade union organised demonstration. There were big contingents from France. After the demo there was a CWI meeting with 200 present. Speaking at the meeting were Silvio Marra (Forges de Clabecq), Roger Bannister (NEC-member UNISON, the biggest public services union in Britain), Ursel Beck (from a leftwing union network in Germany) and Clare Daly (shopsteward Air Lingus in Dublin). A collection to support the court case against the Clabecq workers raised over 10.000 Belgian francs.

The daily paper ’De Morgen’ has an article on the arrest of CWI-member Per Johansson who was sent back to Sweden for flyposting. (See below) As a result of the publicity surrounding this case, Swedish CWI and ISR members report: " We where in the biggest daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter twice that week, on national radio both in a news analysis programme, Studio 1, and the a news programme, Ekot as well as on national TV news once, Rapport.

In Eastern Flanders and a Limburg city the busses went on strike to protest against a possible privatisation. In other areas busses are carrying posters with a warning for the EU-summit saying "this bus will never drive for a private company".

Translation of an article in the biggest Swedish morning paper Dagens Nyheter (Daily News).

Swede sent back because of a poster.

On Sunday night Per Johansson, from Ornskoldsvik, was putting up posters critical of the EU in Brussels. Now the Belgian police have decided to send him back to Sweden – without giving any indication of how long this decision (of him being denied the right to entry Belgium again) is going to last.

Per Johansson has been asked to leave Belgium before Wednesday (12 December). The decision by the Belgian police also means that he is not allowed to enter any of the other 15 countries within the Schengen agreement apart from Sweden, unless he has “appropriate documents”. The police in Brussels do not mention when he will be allowed back into Belgium.

It was on Sunday night that the unemployed welder Per Johansson from Ornskoldsvik, together with three Belgian comrades, went out fly-posting the streets of Brussels. The four were captured and searched by the police and then taken for questioning at a police station.

At the time of their release, early Monday morning, Per Johansson was informed that he was no longer welcome, that he had to leave Belgium.

Police gave two reasons for the decision: 1) he did not carry his passport. 2) “He has caused serious problem to public order”.

Per Johansson is aware of the fact that permission has to be given for fly posters in Brussels as well as in Stockholm.

“You can put up posters in two ways. Either without any sense (vandalism) or in a way that is appropriate, and we did the latter”, commented Per.

The posters gave information about meetings and were critical of the EU, “that’s was all”, according to Per, and there were no reasons for the police to be upset.

Per Johansson is member of Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS) and was in Brussels to prepare for an anti-capitalist Conference the coming Saturday. The three who fly-posted with him are members of RS sister organisation in Belgium.

“We all did the same, but the police obviously singled me out and that is why I was ordered to leave Belgium”, explains Per.

Dagens Nyheter has been speaking to government officials who question the decision that Per is not allowed to enter other countries within the Schengen zone.

A spokesperson for the Swedish police, Leif Alabo, an expert on Schengen claims that the decision by the Belgian police could be seen as logical in the sense that other countries are affected. But the Swedish police would not take a similar decision (including the whole Schengen area). The same spokesperson is surprised by the fact that Per was not given a time limit.

“How long it the decision will last is important for anyone expelled. I think the police, because of the Summit, in Brussels have decided to take a tough stand. But despite this; the police should have given him a time limit as we did in Gothenburg”, says Leif Alabo.

Anders Solling

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December 2001