Abuse of power
I WENT to Gothenburg to protest against undemocratic organisations such as the World Bank, WTO and IMF. They run this planet in the interests of the mega-rich few at the expense of the suffering billions. Our peaceful demonstrations were attacked by armed police with dogs and horses.
Having been beaten by riot police, bitten by dogs, trampled by horses, shot at with live ammunition and seen two comrades hit by bullets (in addition to having the flu), I was feeling too unwell to attend the demonstration on the Saturday morning. So I was driven to the location where the march was supposed to end to sit down before the final rally.
At 11.30am, after walking ten metres from the car, two riot vans appeared, and 16 policemen appeared and knocked me to the ground. I handed them my passport and was then punched in the face by one officer who said, "This is your last fucking trip to Sweden." I was then tied up with my own shoelaces and hit on the head with a rock after being told that I would be spending the next three years of my life in a Swedish prison.
The rock was then balanced on my head and I was told, "If that falls, we will kick your fucking head in." As I was kneeling on the floor, I asked the officer who punched me for his number. He replied, "I'm not giving you my fucking number." I had just drunk two cups of coffee, and needed desperately to go to the toilet. I asked the police if I could. They all laughed and told me several times that I would "have to piss in my fucking pants".
When I asked if they were familiar with human rights law they smashed my head against the wall and said that if I said another word they would "kick the shit" out of me.
After that if ever I tried to look around they would grab me around the neck and hit my head against the wall. After 40 minutes of kneeling in the cold I was carried to a police van and taken to a police station. I was released at 4pm as I had committed no criminal offence, other than wearing a socialist badge!
I hope that you will let the truth of these abuses of power and violations of human rights be known.
- JOHN SHEPHERD, Essex
We offer solidarity
THE HARRY Stanley campaign is shocked at the shooting of civilians while demonstrating in Gothenburg at the European summit.
The whole world was watching. The Swedish authorities issued a statement stating that the officers were under serious threat. This is clearly not true.
We were all able to witness the officers out in the open, not taking cover and indiscriminately shooting into a crowd of demonstrators. We are also disgusted at the statement by Tony Blair. He failed to mention the fact that the police had shot into a crowd of demonstrators, resulting in the injuries to three people.
There seems to be a clear political decision by Blair's government to put more and more power into the hands of the police, while at the same time removing more and more of people's civil liberties.
- TERRY STEWART, secretary, Justice for Harry Stanley Campaign
Sinn Fein faces two ways on abortion rights
THE 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, but the Family Planning Association has gone to court to try to get limited abortion rights to apply here. It wants Sinn Fein health minister Bairbre de Brun to clarify the law by issuing guidelines on when abortion is legal. This would end the present situation where only some hospitals carry out abortions, and then only when there is an immediate risk to the life of the woman.
Some 2,000 women from the North and 7,000 from the South have to travel to England each year to end their pregnancies as a result (cost �500-600). Refused We are told abortion is legal if a woman will be left a "physical or mental wreck" without it. Yet women fitting this description are refused abortions and have to go to England.
Many of those most likely to be left wrecks cannot get the money together and have to continue unwanted pregnancies. As the North's first woman health minister and a member of a party that calls itself radical, de Brun should be happy to make abortion available on the NHS. Instead, she argues, she can only "state the law".
But the law is so unclear the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights said in 1993 that it wouldn't stand up in any court of human rights. In English newspapers Gerry Adams says Sinn Fein supports a woman's right to choose. In government it tries to duck the issue.
- GORETTI HORGAN, Alliance for Choice, Northern Ireland
Wishing I wasn't here
GOING ON holiday this year? Well, you can't escape the ruthless exploitation of capital over labour even there. Holiday Breaks, which runs Eurocamp, is a company that employs people five weeks before the season begins and after. It likes to give the impression that it's friendly capitalism, but I know better.
The work is setting up tents and filling them with cookers, fridges, beds-all you need for an enjoyable camping holiday abroad. The pay is �98 a week, of which �28 goes towards your food.
They charge �800 for a camping holiday and make �15 million profit each year. The work is a nine or ten hour shift, whether it's raining or not, and you are treated with manipulation and contempt. Now I wonder why I'm part of the anti-capitalist movement!
- FRANK KAVANAGH
Unite against militarism
ON THE anniversary of the J18 Carnival Against Capitalism 35 activists demonstrated at the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in Abbeywood, Bristol. It is the centre for the Defence Procurement Agency, whose central mission is "equipping the armed forces".
Bristol Socialist Alliance and Globalise Resistance joined various campaigns, including Direct Action Against Militarism and Depleted Uranium (DAAMDU), war veterans, CND, Quakers, Global Issues Local Lives, and the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium.
It was a joint action against the effects of depleted uranium (DU) and in solidarity with the protesters in Gothenburg. Ray, a 72 year old peace campaigner, joined three others in swimming into a lake on the site to unfurl a banner declaring "MOD Purchasers For Nuclear Crime".
As this was going on we were leafleting the 5,500-strong workforce, informing them of the harmful effects of DU on people and the environment. From this protest future actions are likely to happen again, possibly extending the campaign to blockading of the Hinkley nuclear waste train-inspired by the protests in Germany.
- MIKE TAYLOR and JAMES GRIFFIN, Bristol
I STRONGLY disagree with your opposition to the EU (Socialist Worker, 16 June). This is not because I think that socialists should campaign for the euro. Thatcher's poodles, EU commissioners Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock, were responsible for most of the directives about privatisation for everything from pensions to public utilities to railways. But have, for instance, French pensions been cut or privatised?
No. And privatising French railways against the opposition of the unions? You must be joking. The weasel words of some trade union leaders in support of the euro as a means towards a better welfare state and trade union rights should be condemned. These rights were, and are, won in struggles. Struggles which they refuse to lead.
Unions across Europe have successfully defended their pensions by action including general strikes. But in Britain? It is not being in or out of the euro which is the deciding factor. It is the level of struggle of the working class and its leadership which is the prime consideration. A huge in/out debate over the euro will merely divert energies from this.
- HUGH LOWE, West London
Bush protest in Poland
GEORGE BUSH met an angry demonstration in Warsaw towards the end of his recent European visit. Hundreds of people protested against the polluting warmonger. This was the first time a US president visiting Poland has met protest. Daddy Bush was very popular when he came in 1989. People at that time believed market reforms would make their lives better.
He came a couple of years later as well, followed by Bill Clinton when he was still president-also without protest. However, a few weeks ago Clinton's $100,000 speech was picketed in Warsaw. An anti-Bush committee was set up, linking Greens, left wingers and a trade union. Slogans included "The world is for people, not Bush", "Bush into outer space-missiles to the dustbin", "Toxic Texan f**k off", and "We've had Moscow, we don't want Washington."
Speakers read out messages of support from other countries, spoke of the need to mobilise for Genoa, and condemned the Polish government's servility towards the US administration.
- PRACOWNIICZA DEMOKRACJA (Workers' Democracy), Poland
Sea is not for waste
I AM extremely concerned about Alcan's proposals to dump waste chemicals in the sea around Burntisland in Fife, Scotland. While browsing the net I came across the following site: http://go.to/alcan
Perhaps your paper might like to investigate. I'm sure that the residents of Burntisland would greatly appreciate your intervention.
- JOHN MACKENZIE, Lincs