An article from Do or Die Issue 8. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 30-34 .
On June 18th, events and direct action took place on every continent. Here's a round-up of the actions we've heard about through the Earth First! Action Update, July 1999. No doubt there were many others. Longer reports can be found on the international website: http://www.j18.org/
Adelaide - The Wildcat Collective: "stuck coins around in strategic places", including the stock exchange, and Everyone for a Nuclear-Free Future plus supporters did a banner walk near the main branch of Westpac - an Australian bank who have invested in the Jabiluka uranium mine.
Perth - There was a Jubilee 2000 'Wake Up Crawl' of consulates, a demo against Western Mining's desecration in the Philippines and an action against a local engineering company, Clough, that's helping a company called Pangea plan a major international nuclear waste dump in outback Western Australia.
Melbourne - Highlight of the day in Melbourne was when Kim Beazely, the leader of the opposition, was pied for speaking at a meeting sponsored by Shell about APEC and Global Trade. The majority of people (armed with three roadkilled wombats) met up at the stock exchange at noon, and went off to the local branch of Westpac. Some people entered a department store and ran amok, and there were reports that a Nike store was paintbombed and that ticket validation machines on the tram system were damaged.
Sydney - At least three major events took place, alongside other autonomous actions. The anti-business lunch was followed by a 'scumbag's tour' of the business district. Critical Mass took place later in the evening.
A multi-religious assembly against debt and global capitalism was staged in front of the International Monetry Fund (IMF) and Central Bank building in Buenos Aires, followed by a march through the streets of the financial district. J18 was the first in a series of similar events to be held every third Friday.
Friday is the weekly holiday in Bangladesh, so all the offices of financial institutions in the city of Dhaka were closed on that day. The Domestic Workers Association had decided to organise a demonstration in front of the World Bank's office for Bangladesh. But due to the holiday, it was moved to Purina Paltan in the centre of Dhaka. Several hundreds of domestic workers demonstrated for two hours with slogans against the IMF, World Bank, capitalism, and local and international exploitation.
Two groups organised a picket near the McDonald's in the centre of Minsk. They handed out pamphlets and handed toilet paper to people entering McDonalds. Any public meetings or demonstrations are illegal in Belarus, but nobody was arrested. Also, the "No Corporations"-open air festival was staged without permission by the state.
In Desterro, the 12 metres high clock placed in the centre of the city, built by the media giant Globo Network was stained with red paint symbolising the blood of indigenous people shed by the European conquerors. The clock, a copy of which is erected in the capital of every Brazilian state, is intended to celebrate the 500 years of 'discovery' (read invasion) of the land. At the bottom of the clock "celebrating what?" was spray-painted.
Calgary - 30 local activists converged on the headquarters of Shell Canada, in solidarity with the peoples of the Niger Delta. Slogans were chalked around the foyer of the building, banners displayed and leaflets distributed. After half an hour the protest moved onto the head office of Chevron Canada, conveniently situated only half a block away.
Ottowa - 60-100 people met in Confederation Park and began a march with songs courtesy of the Raging Grannies, a group of seniors who use song and humour to highlight social and economic injustice. As they passed the Bank of Nova Scotia,'auditors' were sent into the building to conduct a moral audit of the institution. The parade then paid visits to the US and Mexican embassies, the National Press building, Monsanto, Anderson consultants, closed off a Shell station and finally confronted the headquarters of arms manufacturer Raytheon.
Toronto - RTS Toronto concluded peacefully, with over 2,000 cyclists, dancers, pedestrians and protesters participating, presided over by a giant goddess. Police presence was extremely heavy with riot police, horses, bullet-proof vest wearing Emergency Task Force cops and bike fuzz, but despite the burning effigies in the streets (a television/VCR, Mercedes symbol, and a giant asshole - !?!), there were no arrests.
Vancouver - About 100 people "quarantined" the stock exchange and the headquarters of the timber giant Macmillan Bloedell and Global Corporation.
Numerous actions took place in conjunction with J18, organised by a coalition of local and national groups. The first street party outside Prague took place in Brno on May 22nd with more than 800 people attending. The second Prague street party on June 5th attracted a crowd of more than 7,000 into the city centre. It was timed to coincide with the planned arrival of the Intercontinental Caravan, which was refused entry to the country. After plenty of entertainment, a spirited march headed towards the historic centre of the city. The conveniently placed US embassy was attacked with bottles and stones despite the presence of 1,000 police with water cannons, horses and helicopters. A police station, several fast food stores and one TV station were attacked. 114 arrests were made. On June 18, a much smaller crowd of 350 gathered in central Prague to stir more trouble at bank branches and corporate headquarters. However, being outnumbered by the police 3:1 and confronted with bad weather, everybody called it a day fairly early. Nevertheless, the massive police presence managed to harness the traffic in the city all day. There were also actions around the whole of Czech, and activists in different cities ran infoshops to inform about J18 and actions around the world.
A group of 50 took a ramble around 20 local bank branches in Bordeaux. At each, they carried out a symbolic occupation, demanding that the branch managers send faxes denouncing neo-liberal economic policies to the French Finance Minister and other financial institutions.
Events in Cologne, where the G8 ministers were meeting, proved somewhat less spectacular than expected. The 'laugh parade' planned for the day was effectively stopped by thousands of police. Indians and others from the Intercontinental Caravan for solidarity and resistance, arriving at Cologne after a month of action all around Europe were stopped by the police before entering the subway to the city centre, where many were beaten up and 30 arrested. 500 European participants on the way to the parade were similarly surrounded.
The following day's big march (not the separate Jubilee 2000 event) through the city attracted about 10,000 people including a large Kurdish contingent. Other successful actions included the invasion of a police vehicle compound where several vehicles were damaged, damage to the doors of banks and investment houses, and a demonstration by Iranian women outside the cathedral while the world leaders were having a service said in their honour.
2-300 people blocked the traffic in the most central part of Athens with banners and a soundsystem. People burned pallets and cardboard boxes and set up barricades. The riot police came in trying to push everyone off the street, which people resisted with big heavy metal bars and by throwing rocks and bricks. A euro-election kiosk was smashed up, and when police saw that the crowd was not going to disperse peacefully, they used teargas. People scattered and there was some fighting with police in the surrounding area. The only arrestee was soon released.
Bologna - The most important action organised by Anarcociclisti in Italy for J18 was a walk-about through the city of Bologna. A multitude of autonomous zones were created in the centre of the town for the night, blocking the traffic and involving passers by in their performances.
Similar actions happened in Milano, Roma, Siena, Firenze and Ancona, but unfortunately we have no further details.
The 'Goodbye to the Mall'-Street party was held on the streets of Tel-Aviv's financial district.
The Moviment Graffitti staged a rock concert under the banner "Malta not for sale."
People went to the World Bank where they met all different kinds of police. A play was performed and banners reading 'World Bank=Criminal Mafia' and 'For real change, rise up and resist: The struggle continues!' were unfurled. People then visited the stock exchange, where they again found lots of cops. Thousands of leaflets were distributed in- and outside banks before a march and more street theatre.
Unfortunately there was no physical action or protest regarding J18 in Nepal. However, we composed a memorandum and gave it to the Nepal representatives of the Asian Development Bank, IMF, and the World Bank.
Around 50 activists gathered in front of the Amsterdam stock exchange. A 6 by 8 metre banner was hung between two lampposts to transform the pseudo-classical front of the building, leaving a gate for the moneymakers. At one stage the protestors moved towards the front door of the stock exchange (which miraculously closed very rapidly!) and officially closed the building with a colourful ribbon and cheap cider. Once closed, 10 Statements For The Reform Of The Financial-Economic System were presented and virtually hammered onto the front door, in the style of Luther in 1516.
Thousands of people from all walks of life gathered at the Port Harcourt International Airport to wait for the return to Nigeria of Dr. Owens Wiwa, younger brother Ken Saro-Wiwa. Owens was forced into exile in North America four years ago.
The crowd then moved in a convoy to Agip Junction in Port Harcourt where a street named after ex-dictator Abacha was unofficially re-named after Ken Saro-Wiwa, with the old signpost pulled out. The crowd also stormed Agip offices where two mock coffins where deposited in its front in protest against the human rights atrocities of the Italian company. Agip has been responsible for the murder of eight people in the Ijaw region in April. The demonstrators also blockaded the gates leading to the offices of Shell in Port Harcourt for about two hours. Solidarity messages were presented by representatives of virtually all the ethnic nationalities in Niger Delta paving the way for further joint action. The dancing and singing in the streets brought Nigeria's petroleum capital to a standstill.
A June 18th March against nukes and Pakistan's nuclear tests in Gujerat ended with several organisers arrested, tortured and remanded in prison possibly facing the death penalty.
The procession broke through the police cordon to tour parts of the city. Union leaders who had gone into hiding four days before were present, masked up, despite the authorities being ready for them on every street corner. After the march, a protest was held outside the district court, and while speeches were being made, several hundred police charged in with tear gas to arrest about 60 people. 50 of these were later released but the remaining seven, all officials in various unions were charged with the Pakistani equivalent of high treason.
Latest reports are that all but one have been released. For more information, contact APFUTU, Union House, Rang Pura, Sargodha Road, Gujerat, 50700 Pakistan, Email: email@example.com
A small street protest was held in Lisbon to inform the public about the link between globalisation and capitalism with environmental destruction and social inequality. Separately another group did a few actions during the day, including simulating the demolition of a bank, by pushing a guy with a helmet against its doors.
Exploitation of children was the theme for Senegal's demonstration on June 18th. Debt and structural adjustment policies have meant that the government have cut back on education, forcing hundreds of thousands of 13, 14, and 15 year olds out of school into having to support themselves. Six hundred people assembled on the 18th and the 19th, to hear speeches and see sketches performed by youth of the district.
The first solidarity action with PGA and actions around the world in Slovakia was held on 12 June, although we don't have any more details.
On June 18, around 200 people gathered for a rally in the center of Seoul. After an enactment of an imaginary conversation between financial speculator George Soros and Zapatista-Commandante Marcos, solidarity speeches were heard including a representative of farmers' groups, a trade union leader who was currently on hunger strike over government suppression of unionism, and one of Korea's famous film actors speaking about the threat to the Korean film industry from US investment liberalisation.
Barcelona - The day of action started at 8am when 25 people closed off two of the city's main streets, transforming one of them to look like a beach. Elsewhere, 100 people took a piece of land where a squat had been demolished after eviction. By the end of the day, they had created a proper garden there. The neighbours were impressed.
Bike demos started off during the late afternoon - one group of 13 cyclists coming to join the main demonstration from 20km outside Barcelona managed to close the entire motorway. At 7pm, all the groups converged for a Reclaim the Streets Party. The soundsystem van broke down and had to be pushed around the city by the 700 partygoers, who also covered the walls with anti-capitalist graffiti.
Madrid - A street party ended 7 days of action for social rights. People partied under clothes lines strung across the street, in defiance of an archaic law banning the practice. Earlier in the week, the Spanish stock exchange was invaded by 100 individuals who occupied the traders' posts, disrupting trading for over an hour. An employment agency was also occupied during the week.
Ovideo, Aviles, Gijon (Astu-rias) - In all three cities, info stalls publicised the consequences of globalisation. Afterwards, banks, property developers' offices and McDonalds branches were picketed. People gathered in the evening outside the Asturias parliament for music and the painting of a mural.
Valencia - To the rhythm of drums, a carnival of 400 people wound its way through the streets, stopping at Lladro's - one of Valencia's most hated land speculators, and on into the financial centre.
Geneva - At midday some 50 people washed down some of the main banks in the centre of the city with ladders, brooms, water and soap. Then in the evening, some 100 people made a mobile Carnival in the city, blocking the streets, painting them, dancing, serving blackcurrant syrup to the cardrivers who got caught up in the traffic. This has inspired people to plan similar monthly actions.
Zurich - About 300 people occupied a construction site in a part of Zurich which is being redeveloped similar to London's docklands. It was the best party for years. Two bands played, alongside a soundsystem and a screening of the Reclaim the Streets film. The police weren't too impressed of course, but they eventually left, and the party continued all night."
The central square of Montevideo city was turned into a 'trade fair' for the day, with entertainment and stalls informing about work, education, local culture, consumerism, media manipulation, free radio and other issues. The day ended with a 'recycled parade' through the city, during which the Banco de Montevideo and the stock exchange were also occupied. Environmental and trade union campaigners worked together on this event, including workers of the "El Cine" supermarket who have been occupying the supermarket for the last two months.
Asheville, North Carolina - Around 100 protesters gathered for a street party, blockading the road using a broken down car. "Although small, we were in solidarity with thousands across the world!"
Austin, Texas - A Critical Mass bike ride of about 50 people turned into a street blockade, as a barricade and chairs from a nearby cafe were moved into the street for a party. The cops were met with abuse when they turned up, who in turn snatch-squaded three people.
Boston - More than 100 activists joined in a street theatre performance in front of Bank Boston in the centre of the city's financial district. The bank is closely connected to International Paper, a company exploitating the Chiapas region of Mexico and displacing its people. At the end of the day, the crowd promised to return, far stronger than before, to end the rule of capital over our lives.
Eugene - June 18th activities kicked off, with 20 arrested and eight police injured during a five hour Reclaim the Streets that saw bank windows smashed and demonstrators tear gassed, on what had been expected to be just a street party. It wasn't clear what sparked it. Corporate news accounts indicate that the initial spark may have come when police moved in after a protester climbed a US Bank sign and put his fist through it. By the end of the day several downtown banks, a leather retailer and a "Taco Bell" restaurant had lost windows. Unfortunately, there were also reports that some people were behaving aggressively to drivers who got caught up in traffic jams. One person is currently in prison for the riot and facing five years.
Los Angeles - Its first Reclaim the Street party took place on June 18th. A truck full of an 'instant skatepark,' with rails, launch ramps, and funboxes waited nearby but didn't manage to get past the police into the party but the soundsystem van did as did a trashed car which had been donated for people to graffiti. The party became mobile after a while to prevent the soundsystem being confiscated. There were a total of 17 arrests. The police compounded the traffic chaos by keeping several blocks shut for hours after the RTS crew had all gone home, and even sent the bomb squad in to deal with the trashed car!
New York - A street carnival was organised to protest against the annual meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) economic superpowers. For nearly 2 hours, 500 costume clad protesters took over the streets, tying up traffic in New York City's Financial District and rallying in front of the New York stock exchange on Wall Street. Five people were arrested as they attempted to chain themselves together around a large sculpture of a globe and another 32 for blocking traffic while taking over the streets.
Olympia - A Street party was held a few days before the big day, on June 12th. Police grabbed the signs, cones and barricades used to block the streets, and then tried to grab a couch.
Washington, DC. - 600 demonstrators formed a human chain around the US Treasury Department, co-ordinated by Jubilee 2000.
In solidarity with Mexico's Zapatista communities, the Electronic Disturbance Theater launched an international blockade of the Mexican embassy in London. 18,000 people from 49 countries joined the call to point their internet browsers at the embassy using a program which sends multiple reload commands to the website, clogging it up for the day.
The day was not marked by big demonstrations, but five people were on the streets of Harare spreading information to raise awareness about globalisation issues.
In the days and weeks following June 18th the corporate media in the UK focused heavily on the use of the internet and e-mail in co-ordinating the global day of action. Although most of what they wrote was (unsurprisingly) fiction, the J18 web site (http://www.j18.org/) - with a rumoured quarter of a million hits by the time the event took place - clearly played a role in the dissemination of information.
The web site is still being continually updated. For people who took part in the event, and those inspired by what they have heard, the web site provides a huge amount of information. The web site provides points of contact for many of the 100 groups who took part in the day, as well as reports from actions in 27 different countries, images from the Carnival against Capital, an hour-by-hour report of the events in London and a truly inspiring personal account of the riots which swept across the City. The original proposals and newsletters for the day of action can also be found. Alongside this are sample press releases and the opportunity to view the J18 'trailer' that was produced in the UK.
Aside from J18 specific information, there are links providing information and primary points of contact for anarchist distribution services, a global calendar of protests, a propaganda image collection and activist groups working on text, video and audio media projects. A section of the web site is also dedicated to providing useful services to radical groups around the world. This includes links to organisations providing free internet access, e-mail, web space, mailing lists and fax services.
Whilst there are a number of criticisms which can be levied at the use of the web, in terms of exclusivity, the trend towards professionalism and our increased dependency upon technology, the information provided within these pages is almost guaranteed to provide any visitor with inspirational stories and images, alongside an enormous range of global contacts and a package of resources which hold the potential to increase both the impact and effectiveness of our actions.
To send contributions to the web (reports of actions on J18, corrections of contact details or additions to the resources list) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If the J18 web site fails, or is shut down, mirror sites can be found at: http://i.am/transnational and http://messages.to/the_people