Sunday, December 18, 2005

reclaim our lives- no WTO

a report of anti wto protest in Reading by D o'c

A report of the demo in Reading in solidarity with those fighting the WTO 6th ministerial in Hong Kong and around the world.

LOCAL GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS, from Reading, Berks, came together on the 17th, in opposition to the corrupt and undemocratic World Trade Organisation (WTO) and in solidarity with all those struggling against it's policies world-wide. The various groups, fighting poverty, climate change, capitalism and more, spent several weeks discussing their plans in co-ordination with each other, and from very early on decided to hold this demonstration on commercial land owned by the Oracle shopping centre, a place where there is no legal right to protest, this was to highlight the privatisation, commercialisation and loss of open, public spaces accross the UK.

We gathered together, minutes before the demonstration, checking through who's carrying what, how many banners to take, and trying to anticipate what the security might do. When we were finally all in one place, we made our way to the Oracle Riverside, understanding the importance of getting there at once, swiftly and most importantly setting up in seconds. With hot food and drink to give out, there was a lot to carry and set up but - having the element of surprise - we were a good few seconds ahead of the security and were quickly outside Starbucks, dishing out soup made from locally grown produce, coffee which is fairly and directly imported from rebel Zapatista communities in Mexico and leaflets from teh various groups.

So what did the police actually do? Well not a lot really. They went as far as imposing "Section 14" on our demonstration, meaning simply that they put restrictions on what we could do. They restricted our numbers, saying we could not increase to more than what we had (which the officer estimated to be near 30), and gave us 15 minutes until we would be forced to disperse. A couple did leave at that point, but most stayed untill the coffee had runout and we decided to leave ourselves. On top of these restrictions, the security prevented Rising Tide demonstrators from hanging a banner off a bridge by standing on it. They even turned down our free soup and coffee! how rude!

This action was originally proposed by local anti-authoritarians RAGE at a recent local activist 'get-together' this meeting involved many groups from Reading including Friends of the Earth and Reading Peace Group to Reading Rising Tide and the Anarchist Federation. The idea behind the demo was to enable local, like minded groups to be in the same place, at the same time and in opposition to the WTO but also to reflect some of the many issues affected by WTO policies, and opinions on solutions to them. For this reason, there were leaflets and banners from these different groups, more food was genorously added to RAGE's soup.However, our real victory was not that we managed to piss the Oracle security off, but that local groups easily and happily stood alongside each other during the action. One activist stated "There is an increasing ability and willingness for different local activist groups to work across political boundaries to achieve common goals whilst maintaining their own identity".

All in all, we achieved our goal; To strike awareness of the WTO and its destructive effects in the heart of Reading's consumerist culture, the Oracle shopping centre even one Starbucks employee, who came out for a chat, expressed his support by stating "...yeah, we need to get rid of the bosses..." The very fact that we were restricted, and promptly dispersed after about an hour of demonstrating, is testament to one thing, that there is very little in the way of freedom to protest in the UK. The large companies who dominate the Oracle Riverside display their placards and adverts, so why can't we? I guess freedom of speech is like money, some people have more than others. We send our best wishes to all those hurt or arrested on the streets of Hong Kong this week, and to everyone around the world resisting capitalism.

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