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Ken Livingstone cancels speech at ESF

Voluntary Slave | 16.10.2004 18:33 | European Social Forum | London

21:30: The demonstration has entered the Tottenham campus, the location of Beyond ESF. Apart from the one arrest at Alexandra Palace earlier, everyone is safe and sound.

21:05: The crowd is walking in the middle of White Hart Lane, and has got as far as the sports area. Police helecopters are flying overhead. Everything is OK.

20:40:The crowd has marched passed Wood Green tube station, taking a detour to come out past he station and off the main road. Crowd numbers are now aprox 200. There are four police vans, which is much less than before. Once people left the main road the police escort decreased. There is a good mood in the crowd with chants of "our streets".

20:35: Demonstrators are approaching Wood Green tube station, marching along the road with a banner saying "ESF --another world for sale. We say another world is possible."

20:20: 150-200 people are now walking back to the Beyond ESF space. A police van (driving too fast) drove into protestors. No-one was hurt. Demonstrators kicked the van; other police vans are in close proximity.

20:10: Other eye-witnesses say that the police were "quite" violent, using batons while making the arrest. 100s of people are marching towards Wood Green, there is no trouble with them at the moment.

20:00: The part of the demonstration oustide Ali Pali contains 100 people. There was a confirmed report of one arrest in the past few minutes. An eye-witness describes police "wading in" and the person arrested being "bundled into a van." Demonstrators are now moving towards Wood Green station.

19:50: Some of the protestors are moving outside of Alexandra Palace (Ali Pali). Police presence outside is small numerically. Demonstrators outnumber police and are encircling them. Police are coming out of Ali Pali as reinforcements. Police are trying to move noisy demonstrators off road onto pavement and not really succeeding. There are reports of extra police vans arriving from both inside and outside Alexandra Palace.

19:20: between 200 and 400 people have succeeded in entering the official European Social Forum without paying or registering. They are in the main plenary space, scaling scaffolding and hanging banners saying: "Another world is for sale" and "Ken's party -- the war party", referring to Mayor Ken Livingstone, funder of the ESF and member of the ruling New Labour Party.

While Ken Livingstone has cancelled his planned plenary speech, protestors are now giving speeches explaining why they are dissatisfied with the current ESF, including reading a statement from the translation group, Babels, explaining that while they would be happy to work in a Social Forum that followed the WSF principles, they had problems with the way the ESF in London had been organised. Babels had 500 international volunteer translators who were keen to work according to WSF principles, but many have not come to the ESF in London (see earlier criticism of the London organising from Babels).

Babels said, "Many opportunities of experimentation and innovation have been missed out on during the organization of this forum, resulting in the exclusion of many. This is in total contradiction to the Porto Allegre charter. Instead, the London ESF has employed classical neoliberal organization, management & service delivery, with the result that the forum has been totally dependent on the state. This has had disastrous consequence for the development of our movement." They finally mentioned that, "as ESF delegates prepare to discuss the fight against racism and facism in Europe today, some of our fellow translators cannot be here today because they are not allowed into the UK. It is sad that the organisers of the ESF have not helped in this process."

2004-10-17 spanner fixed a few typos in last paragraph

Voluntary Slave


Hide the following 11 comments

Babels coordinators statement

16.10.2004 20:54

Babels coordinators statement, 7pm, October 16 2004

Babels, the international network of volunteers that is providing the interpretation and translation for all plenaries and seminars of the European Social Forum. We are a network of more than 7000 volunteer interpreters from more than 30 countries communicating in more than 50 languages.

For this third European Social Forum in London, Babels has assembled more than 500 volunteers to interpret in all plenaries and seminars. Speakers have been able to express themselves in more than 15 different languages and delegates from more than 60 countries have been able to follow and participate in those debates.

We exist to facilitate multi-lingual comunication in forums and processes that abide by the principles of the World Social Forum Porto Alegre Charter. The most important of these principles are: (1) that the Social Forum does not constitute “a locus of power to be disputed by the participants in its meetings”; and (2) the Social Forum is a plural, diversified, non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party context that, in a decentralised fashion, interrelated organisations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world”.

Our aim is to bring those principles to life by enabling the largest number of
people to participate as fully as possible in social forums by breaking down
language barriers and offering the means to understand one another in a
multi-lingual and multi-cultural environment. Perhaps our most important principle is that of self-organisation: we aim to develop the political and technical means for the forums to organise autonomously from the capitalist sphere and demonstrate that another world is not only possible, it is already being constructed.

However, many opportunities of experimentation and innovation have been missed
during the organisation of this forum resulting in the exclusion of many people,
organisations, networks, groups, and even countries. This is in total contradiction to the Porto Alegre Charter. Instead, classical neo-liberal practices of organisation, management and service delivery have been employed, with the result that the Forum has been entirely dependent on the state.

This has had disastrous consequences for the self-development of our movements. The inclusion of networks of activists and volunteers not only enables the largest possible collective of people in the construction of alternatives, but also the inclusion of the largest number of social and political actors – creating a dynamic of ever-increasing mobilisation of the social movements. This Forum has been an distressing experience of de-mobilisation, not only in terms of the number of delegates (less than half than previous years), but also the chronic shortage of volunteers to help make a successful Forum possible.

Finally, as you prepare to discuss how we must fight against racism and fascism in Europe today, we want to inform you that some of our fellow volunteer interpreters cannot be here today because they were not allowed to enter the United Kingdom. This is a direct result of the racist immigration and asylum policies of the British Labour government and another example that Fortress Europe is a reality not a slogan. In particular, several interpreters coming from Turkey, Russia, Romania, the Maghreb countries (Tunisia, Algeria, Morrocco, Lybia), and the Middle East were refused their visa. It is sad to report that the way in which the ESF was organised this year did not help this situation.

Coordinators of Babels International Network of Volunteer Interpreters and Translators (and not Social Forum translation service as you may have read in the official programme).


I saw "another world", and it was shit.

16.10.2004 21:36

So, a day of extremes - first off to Beyond ESF, the anti-authoritarian space at Middlesex Uni - Vans of coppers with cameras outside (nice one Kenny - repress the opposition) but once inside a warm, creative environment which was paid for with donations, you could go in for nothing if you had nothing - nobody asked for a penny - pots were out and it looked like people were giving.

The Anarchist teapot provoided lunch, again by donation, and maybe a bit late but yummy, filling and by donation. A good mix of workshops and a lively meeting about how to deal with a leading member of the war party giving a pleanary talk at the "OFFICIAL ESF" (sic)
Maybe schedules didn't run strictly by the clock, and projectors had to be shared, but it happened, it was fun and it was open to anyone.

Then off to the Hijacked number at Ally Pally, burger vans, bar staff working long hours in hectic conditions at 5 bucks per hour, glossy brochures by the million - many strewn on the floor for minimum wage workers to clean up later - whole bleeding forest of trot rhetoric I tells ya - a positive was that there were shedloads of free wristbands about.

Seriously, having hijacked the whole concept of Social Forums and turning it into a Trat Conference, it was an expensive pile of pooh - although the takeover of the stage livened it up somewhat.

Loads joined the solidarity march after ..... and what them cops thought they were stopping it for, I have no idea. The march went on and did what it set out to do, got loads of support from locals and left a few cops with hurt authority complexes, having helped show how tied in with the state Ken's expensive fiasco really is......


How dare people disrupt a meeting on Fighting Fascism

16.10.2004 22:43

As a union delegate to the ESF, I was outraged to see a very important meeting on Fighting Fascism in Europe disrupted by a minority of people who, not only hijacked the meeting but then proceeded to physically attack a black spokesperson for UNITE. If this wasnt enough they then pushed a Jewish woman from Dagenham off the stage as she pleaded that the meeting go ahead as she was living in an area where the BNP had just gained a council seat. Whatever the debate about the ESF could this not have been done without destroying an important meeting on fighting fascism? And could this also not have been done without employing the tactics of the BNP and far right?


So, you would rather .......

16.10.2004 23:59

........ that activists put up with a ridiculous amount of surveillance and police intimidation, than that your meeting is delayed for a short period.

What kind of union is it that you represent? I don't want to join!!

What kind of social forum is it that you either have to pay £30 to get in, take direct action or not be included? What kind of social forum is it when the guy involved in setting it up is in a position of authority over the police that are harrassing the activists who cannot afford to get in, or feel totally excluded from the process?

Is the answer that we should just shut up when someone decides to terminate an act of protest?

The social forum as a concept has been hijacked and coroporatised to an extent when it can no longer claim to be in favour of a better world, when its priority is a timetable scheduled by a mayor who is part of the party that bombed Iraqis to death on a pretence that we aere at danger of being atacked, and that the attack could be carried out in 45 minutes!

And in this better world, you want the oppressed to shut up and the politcial leaders to pretend to care?

Sometimes, injustice is more important than your own needs..........


unfair comments by sam

17.10.2004 00:31

From my understanding, there was no intention to highjack the Fighting Fascism meeting. The protestors just broke into the meeting, when it happened to be on. This was blatently obvious, and it is unfair of sam to imply it was their intention. They choose that time, because they believed it was when ken was due to speak!

There was a scuffle onstage, due to the heated moment and the fact the spokesman for unite (if this is the same person i observed) just refused to let things go - especially the microphone. I saw him chatting later to some of the activists, and he didn't seem to be too fussed (about the scuffle) at that point. In the massed crowd of people on the stage, i can understand that the woman probably got pushed off, but whether or not that was intention is another question, and i think we should give the benefit of the doubt, in this heated situation.

From another person's post, i gather the Fighting Fascism meeting took place, after the half hour intervention.

There were very valid reasons for the intervention, and we should now look into these, and not be diverted by the moment itself.


Dear Sam,

17.10.2004 01:22

re the meeting on fighting fascism...

erm, it was not destroyed because it went ahead after the intervention of 30 mins was over. Several people communicated that this was a temporary intervention, and it also said in the people making addresses to the crowd.

of course the meeting was important. it was about the increasingly far right climate in europe and the persecution of minorities, a matter we all deal with on an almost daily basis, which is why it was important to allow it to continue.

**Something you should note did not happen last night in the same space when the meeting with a speaker from the IFTU was disrupted for an hour and abandoned.

erm, as to "employing the tactics of the BNP and far right"... well don't mention the colour or racial origin of people involved like that because in that way you are using them as tokens... there was no special attention because they were jewish or black... blimey! as has been reported on indymedia the table was turned over as the crowd surged forward, yet most of the physical pushing came from those already there.

i agree it would have been better if that had not happened, fair point. but who was it that tried to silence the babels person from delivering their statement?

that kind of analysis just does not do justice to the reality of what happened and why people felt that an intervention was necessary.

in short, people objected to Ken Livingstone speaking on the platform and had a range of valid interventions to make over the process of the ESF and the violation of the charters that supposedly govern it. they came and made their point, and left the floor after half an hour.

no one recieved any savage beatings, the event went ahead following the intervention and a point was made.

if anyone was acting like the BNP it was the cops piling into people outside after people marched away.



17.10.2004 07:50

I'm pleased you posted your comment as it shows the true side of the unions supporting the ESF. Rather than think for one minute about why this protest was taking place you choose to concentrate on or two issues that caused inconvenience to yourself. I also dont like the tone of your racist comments.

Unions are supposed to exist to support workers not delegates and officials in paying their mortgages and pension contributions.


middle class white kids playing at politics AKA the aranchists

17.10.2004 12:00

The sheer stupidity of the anarchist movement is legendary but this will really take some beating.

The morons in hoods decided to disrupt a meeting called to discuss the grave threat posed by fascism. They hit a black speaker and stole his phone. They pushed a Jewish woman. Why? Because they claim Ken isn’t perfect. Well I agree but at least he’s actively campaigning against the BNP.

It is beyond belief that they choose to disrupt this meeting. There are so many causes worth taking up.... peace, democracy, freedom for the oppressed.... but why a pathetic complaint about the ESF organisation?

I wish they would go back to mummy and daddy in Cambridge and let thee grow up get on with creating another world.

Red Tom

middle class white kids playing at politics AKA the anarchists

17.10.2004 12:19

The sheer stupidity of the anarchist movement is legendary but this will really take some beating.

The morons in hoods decided to disrupt a meeting called to discuss the grave threat posed by fascism. They hit a black speaker and stole his phone. They pushed a Jewish woman. Why? Because they claim Ken isn’t perfect. Well I agree but at least he’s actively campaigning against the BNP.

It is beyond belief that they choose to disrupt this meeting. There are so many causes worth taking up… peace, democracy, freedom for the oppressed… but why a pathetic complaint about the ESF organisation?

I wish they would go back to mummy and daddy in Cambridge and let the grown up's get on with creating another world.

red tom


17.10.2004 15:34

Ooooh, Tommy boy, you must have a bee in your bonnet. You've posted the same message about 4 times (and started 2 newswire items on the same subject). Maybe you're angry because the farcical nature of your 'official' ESF has been shown up for what it is - and most of the people there supported the intervention even though they paid out £30 to check it out?

The feedback I was hearing when staying at the Dome was that the event was "1 dimensional" - just a bunch of leader-wannabes preaching to the converted, not debating, not thinking about real alternatives.

You might just have managed to destroy the ESF's reputation in one clean sweep. Well done!

(On a positive note, the debate at the Schnews event was brilliant. Wish I'd hung around a bit longer)

- Homepage:

I think sam has a point

19.10.2004 20:41

I am also outraged about what happened at the meeting and i think that nobbody should be disagreeing.

i also think that the hijack of the meeting was very un-acceptabble and i do not think that 'sam' had a racist tone at all. i completly agree and would like to meet this 'sam' and discuss further about political things. dont know me

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