by SEAN HEALY 8:52am Sun Sep 10 '00 | 10.09.2000 21:39
MELBOURNE — The scene is now set for one of the most dramatic political confrontations between capital and the people in a decade. Protest organisers have spent the day erecting the tents and stages from which they’ll coordinate the blockade of World Economic Forum summit while police have built barricades of their own, fortifying the Crown Towers conference site.
The city feels like it’s holding its breath. Strolling the streets, you can see hundreds from all over the country who have come to vent their anger at the World Economic Forum’s program of corporate globalisation. And you can also see buses of police officers being transported around town.
The police have fully fortified the Crown Towers conference venue, building a continuous, two kilometre long, three metre high concrete and wire fence and packing the inside of the barricade with worried-looking officers.
In doing so, they may have done the protesters a favour, by decreasing the areas which have to be blockaded to the half-dozen vehicle entrances.
The police operation has been two years in the planning, according to the Sunday Age, and Victorian officers have been advised by US law enforcement agencies on the fine points of crowd repression.
Police authorities have cancelled all leave for the three days, increasing the force’s strength by 20%, and are believed to be planning to deploy more than 1700 officers at the site.
According to the Western Suburbs Legal Service’s Damien Lawson, all of the magistrates’ courts in Melbourne have been readied to accept arrestees. Police have also confirmed that they are planning to reopen Geelong prison to house detained protesters.
Victoria Police commissioner Neil Comrie has promised that police will only use capsicum spray and other anti-crowd weapons in the direst of circumstances, but few of those who will be protesting believe him, given his frequent and vociferous assurances that he will do all necessary to ensure that protesters do not obstruct the summit.
Members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union have now erected the S11 Alliance’s stage and first aid tent, directly in front of the main entrance to Crown Towers.
The S11 Alliance has planned three platforms of speakers each day. The first, tomorrow at 9am, will feature key supporters of the protests, including Indian ecofeminist Vandana Shiva and Australians Greens Senator Bob Brown. The stage will also be the focal point for blockade organisation.
With tensions high, the protest organisers have called on the police to exercise restraint and to respect people’s democratic right to protest.
Representatives of the S11 Alliance told a media conference yesterday that if there was violence, it would come from the police, not the protesters. The alliance has repeatedly stated that it plans for a mass, peaceful, community blockade of the site.
If the alliance can carry out its desired tactic, it will take a huge step towards its goal: to delegitimise the World Economic Forum and its transnational corporation members.
To the protesters, and those who side them, the fact that the WEF needs almost the entire Victorian police force and a siege of the city to allow it to meet already speaks volumes about the real basis of corporate rule.
by SEAN HEALY 8:52am Sun Sep 10 '00