By Catherine Brown
MUNICH — More than 2000 people from across Europe attended the International Solidarity Conference held here on July 3 in opposition to the G7 Economic Summit.
Despite attempts by the conservative Bavarian government to prevent the conference, a march and rally organised as part of its activities attracted more than 20,000 protesters. Overwhelmingly these were young people. Police, many in full riot gear, also numbered in their thousands.
The obtrusive and unwarranted police presence, in excess of 12,000 (9000 had been brought in from other cities), made a lie of Germany's pretence of being a liberal society.
The demonstration swelled as it passed through the ancient streets of the city centre, Marienplatz. Chants of "international solidarity" and "vive revolution"rang above the sounds of police sirens. The band's rendition of "The Internationale" was sung in the different languages of the many demonstrators. The air was charged with expectation as demonstrators and riot police faced one another constantly during the procession.
Police presence was particularly concentrated outside some buildings and hotels that were to used by diplomatic functionaries. Chants became even louder when the march moved slowly past America House. Here as many as 60 riot cops with shields, wooden batons and tear gas stood for over 30 minutes to protect the front flower beds from demonstrators.
The conference was organised by a coalition of left groups, student councils, solidarity committees, migrant, green and Christian groups. Speakers, many from the Third World and eastern Europe, focused on 500 years of colonialism and resistance, the environmental crisis and the recent developments in eastern Europe.
The state government of Max Streibl decided at the last minute to put
pressure on the university, the largest in Germany, to ban the conference from its grounds. It dutifully complied. The conference then became dispersed around Munich, as a number of churches and halls were used.
The conference was timed to immediately precede the unremarkable, official G7 conference. Media assessment of the G7 summit ranged from "bordering on irrelevant" to "lack of leadership". Rhetoric about jobs and economic growth will be small comfort to the 22 million plus unemployed in the G7 countries.
Smaller actions by anti-summit protests were organised during the week. At last, the police had their long awaited moment. The police formed a ring around the demonstrators, in which they were held for and violence against the demonstrators were even condemned by one of the local papers.
The headline read: "This is the Summit: brass bands and beatings".