Of course security turned up pretty sharpish, and unfortunately prevented a Rising Tide banner being hung from the bridge, but a 30ft banner reading 'WTO - Derail, Dismantle, Destroy' was successfully displayed, along with a couple of the obligatory red 'n' black flags. The 10-15 security guards clearly weren't sure what to do and quickly called a couple of plod down who also weren't too sure what to do; "We need to speak with a leader, a representative", "There isnt one, talk to all of us or none of us", "Erm, we cant, erm..."
The reaction from the public was pretty good, there were a few odd folks who don't seem to want stuff for free (WTF!?), but the coffee and food went down pretty quick and with much gratitude! Various people stopped to chat and hear why we were there, and expressed much support when we explained. Personally, I had a good chat with a young worker at Starbucks who came out for a chat (and agreed that we "need to get rid of the bosses"), a girl from Hong Kong who was well chuffed and one lady who excitedly exclaimed after a minute or two when she realised "Ooooo, you're anti-capitalists arent you!?!"
Of course, the cops wanted any excuse and took their opportunity after half an hour or so, when some bloke (after a few too many beers I think) managed to trip over some bags. They immediately imposed Section 14 and demanded we leave within 15 minutes. Though a couple did, most of us stayed untill all the coffee was gone and then got a yellow-jacketed escort back to the pub (including the allways hilarious Police panic when they realise we are close to the Shopping Centre entrence and order security to rush over and protect it! - Anyone remember their moment of panic at McDonalds on the 2003 DSEi RTS?! lol).
Anyway, the overall feeling was positive (despite the bloody cold weather!), not just due to the public support etc, but also due to the co-operation between different group in Reading, the fact of some folks coming along who havn't been on local demo's or been involved in 'radical' politics before and also the contingent of students from a nearby college who held the banner all evening (thanks folks)!!! This is a build on communication and co-operation between different activists and local people which has been increasing since the G8 Summit mobilisation earlier this year, so all good stuff!
The 6th WTO ministerial has taken place this week in Hong Kong, aiming to further liberalise global trade in agriculture, goods and services, to the detriment of all of us, but particularly those farmers, peasants, workers, women, children and others struggling to survive in the Global South. Unfortunately, a deal has been signed in Hong Kong, though it is largely seen as a face-saver and the Doha round of trade talks are still pretty much dead in the water. But huge protests have taken place this week on Hong Kongs streets, including major clashes between riot police and demonstrators (mostly Korean farmers), who yesterday braved tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to break police lines and allmost get into the Convention Center. Good luck and best wishes to them!
For more info and links to anti-WTO and relevent local websites please see:
If you want to contact any of the local groups and individuals involved (such as people from RAGE, Reading Rising Tide, Gay Bishop radical newsletter, Reading Peace Group, Friends of the Earth, RISC, Zapatista Soldiarity Group, Columbia Solidarity and Anarchist Federation ) please email RAGE at ragecollective(AT)hotmail.co.uk and we will put you in touch.
Love, Fury & Solidarity.