Below is the letter which has appeared in the Guardian Letters Page (19th October) and a few comments:
Tuesday October 19, 2004
We agree with your appreciation of the success of the European Social Forum (Leaders, October 18). However, the storming of the stage of the anti-racist and anti-fascist session on Saturday had nothing to do with how the event was organised. It was the attempt of a tiny minority who oppose the ESF and have had no involvement in it to undemocratically impose their views on the majority and suppress other views by using physical violence.
It was carried out by an exclusively white group of anarchists who had no involvement in the ESF. They entered the building, stormed the platform of black and Jewish speakers, punched the black chair of the session and stole his mobile phone. The next day the same group tried to storm the stage of the demonstration, tearing down the crash barriers and assaulting ESF stewards.
We have never seen such behaviour in the progressive movement in Britain before and it should be totally condemned. The ESF was created to allow democratic discussion of the whole range of views within the social justice movement. No viewpoint was excluded and it is totally unacceptable for a tiny minority to attack that democratic process by using physical violence. That is all the more the case when they violently attack black people to stop us from discussing how to fight racism and fascism.
Secretary, National Assembly Against Racism
Deputy coordinator, Operation Black Vote
NUS black students officer
OK, so let's get one thing clear here shall we...
The intervention was timed to coincide with the appearance of Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London. It was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with any racial motivation as implied by the letter.
If Ken Livingstone had been speaking in a plenary about how to make london more sustainable, the intervention would still have happened.
That this race card is being played by Ken Livingstone's special advisor just stinks.
It also implies that the action was to violently attack black people to stop them from discussing how to fight racism and fascism, and denies that the intervention had anything to do with protesting Ken Livingstone and the GLA, and to denounce the problematic ESF organising process.
This is astounding!
It was obvious to anyone listening in that hall that the intervention was about the ESF and the way it had been organised, including the control of Ken Livingstone's GLA.
Certainly it was clear enough for the Guardian Journalist who reported some of the speeches, along with the fact that the intervention only lasted for 30 mins, after which the fighting racism and fascism event WENT AHEAD... (see extract below - full article: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/esf/story/0,15212,1330018,00.html)
If you want to be any clearer on this, see a copy of the Babels co-ordinators statement which was read out during the intervention (NB Babels are the volunteer interpreters who work for free at the ESF enabling the entire event to take place):
Oh yes, also Lee Jasper accused the people involved in the intervention of having had no involvement in the european social forum at all. Well sorry but how does he know what each of those two hundred or so people had been involved in? Even if there weren't people who had involvement in the process over the last year, or who spoke at the forum, or who had stalls, or who volunteered to help the forum, or who had participated in previous forums, then certainly many of those inside the forum applauded the speeches, and agreed with many of the important points made.
That there have been serious problems over the organisation of the ESF in London is no secret. It has been documented by many people, including other European delegations and British NGOs, as well as on indymedia and other media, including The Guardian.
So what we have here is a devisive letter which seeks to mix up several issues to deflect the fact that people intervened in the Forum to protest about the serious problems in the process. A letter that shamelessly plays the race card and mixes up several issues to try and obscure the truth and the issues.
That there were brief heated scuffles is certainly part of the story, as previously reported by indymedia, but it is certainly not the whole story and was certainly in no way connected to any racial motives as implied. For note the crowd was not entirely white, though was predominatly white (as were the majority of the audience). Indeed both sides make claim to the other using physical violence - see previous indymedia reports.
I'm sure all would regret that there were two minor scuffles (one when the people took to the stage, and the other when one of the original people on the stage later tried to prevent the Babels statement being read), but a scuffle at the microphone is hardly unheard of in political circles... and this was one wasn't even serious enough for the private security to step in on. Continuing with the facts, the original chair dropped their wallet and phone in the first scuffle, but then when others who had been there originally returned to the occupied stage and asked about the items, those on the stage helped search for it.
In closing, this letter is more like the kind of coverage of a protest you would expect from a corporate right wing tabloid newspaper. Focussing on the tiny bit of conflict and ignoring or obscuring the issues, while in playing the race card it really sinks to a low level.
One final point. The previous night, the plenary in the exact same space had been completely disrupted to the point that it was cancelled. This was reported by The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1330098,00.html
It was disrupted by people from the forum and had to be abadnoned. Now you don't see the GLA or other ESF officials making a big fuss over this do you? And yet this incident did deny the platform to speakers and ruin the event, unlike the intervention against Ken Livingstone.
As has been reported, in the saturday intervention the people left after 30 mins and the session continued.
Guardian Report Extract:
Mr Livingstone was the target of a planned ambush of Alexandra Palace by up to 200 anarchists from across Europe on Saturday, who took to the stage for half an hour to denounce the organisation of the ESF.
The mayor had been due to be the keynote speaker at the three-hour session on uniting against the fascist right across Europe, but his aides later insisted he had decided to withdraw from the event "mid-week" - although no notice had been given.
There was also a protest statement by the volunteer translators' group of 500 linguists providing their services for the event, claiming that several of their Turkish and Kurdish speakers had been refused entry into Britain to work for the event.
The independent news activist group Indymedia alleged that their internet servers in London had been taken down on FBI orders, and criticised the Guardian, a media partner of the ESF, for not investigating the claims.
Speakers attacked the event for not living up to its ideals, claiming that the venue's security was "outsourced" by being bussed down from Glasgow - which was confirmed to the Guardian by several ushers. Meanwhile, the catering was standard British bacon rolls and sausages - for a largely organic and vegetarian conference. Last year in Paris the hospitality was provided by the guru of organic "slow food", French farmer José Bové.
tell the truth