Surprise: Protests at Econ Confab

MELBOURNE, Australia — A human chain of protestors Monday had the World Economic Forum meeting locked up tighter than a casino cash box.

MELBOURNE, Australia — A human chain of protestors Monday had the World Economic Forum meeting locked up tighter than a casino cash box.

Creating a fence of human bodies, an estimated 10,000 protesters blocked off entrances to the city’s Crown Casino, where the Asian version of the annual Davos economics confab of the world’s rich and powerful was being held.

The action marked the continuation of anti-globalization protests begun at the Seattle World Trade Organization meeting last December and followed up at the April meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington.

Aware of this week’s planned protests, Victorian state police over the weekend erected concrete barriers mounted by metal fencing around the riverside complex to keep gate crashers out. Protesters responded in turn, ringing the fence with human shields.

But with many of the delegates to the conference already staying inside, only minimal disruption to the conference itself occurred.

Outside was different.

“Every day you regurgitate the propaganda put out by the big corporations,” said one protestor, one of many who hugged journalists to prevent them from passing through the barricade. “Today, for this one day, you have to listen to us.”

Police, only sporadically challenging the blockade, mostly allowed protesters to seal off the building.

Surreptitious efforts to bring in stranded participants by boat also failed, as did efforts to take them by car and bus — somewhat ludicrously — through the casino’s main entrance.

In the day’s major episode of violence, a car carrying Western Australian Premier Richard Court was stopped by protesters, leading to a baton charge by police that resulted in police and protester injuries. Other scuffles were sporadic. Several police officers and up to 40 protesters were injured during the day in various fisticuffs, although no arrests were made.

As a cool rain fell on the gray river Yarra fronting the casino, protestors aired a litany of complaints to a captive audience amid gusts of early spring winds and the roar of police helicopters overhead.

Most protesters focussed on three main issues: corporate greed; third world, low-wage labor exploitation; and global environmental degradation.

These tend to get lumped under a heading of opposition to progressive, worldwide, market-oriented economic liberalism known by its more familiar shorthand: globalization.

But if globalization is evil, it was hard to see a cohesive alignment of thoughts and deeds among Monday’s protestors.

For instance, after a flashy show in front of the casino, a dominatrix representing rapacious global capital dismounted her steed, covered her shoulders against the chill wind, and retired for a well-deserved, foreign-made smoke in the welcome windbreak of a nearby building.

Elsewhere, protestors chatted endlessly through mobile phones overwhelmingly produced by global telecom equipment titans such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola.

Many of the foreigners taking part presumably devised much of their travel via the globe-girdling wonder of IP protocols, probably flying to Australia — a foreign country — on budget airline tickets created by decades of global airline industry deregulation.

As such, it appears the “anti-globalization” message could still use some refining.

Day two of the three-day conference will feature American software billionaire Bill Gates, who is scheduled to address the meeting.

Each year, global financial and political leaders gather in the Swiss ski town of Davos for several days of schmoozing and brainstorming under the rubric of the World Economic Forum. For years, a smaller, Asian regional version of the event also has been held, but traditionally in Hong Kong or Singapore.

This year the conference is being held in Melbourne so the bigwigs can enjoy the Sydney Olympics afterwards.

Author: Stewart Taggart

News Service: Wired News


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