Switzerland - Injured anti-G8 activist released from hospital after one month

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G8 injured activist released from hospital after one month - new video evidence demonstrates police negligence

Lausanne, Switzerland, 3.7.03

"Anti-G8 activist Martin Shaw was released from Lausanne hospital this morning. He has spent a month recovering from near-fatal injuries sustained from an incident on the 1st of June in which the Swiss police cut the rope that he and his climbing partner were hanging from while attempting to stop delegates from attending the G8 summit in Evian.

In a press conference held this morning, new video evidence was revealed which clearly demonstrated the criminal negligence of the senior police officer at the scene of the incident.

An independent, international inquiry is to be launched into the Aubonne bridge incident, along with other accusations of police brutality against protestors during the G8 summit.

Despite the seriousness of his injuries, Martin expressed no regrets in having attempted to disrupt the summit. “The G8 is an institution which claims to address problems such as world poverty, but actually increases the unequal distribution of global wealth through its pursuit of neo-liberal policies,” he said. “Politicians take no notice of the massive popular opposition to such inhumane economic policies, so it is up to ordinary members of the public to take direct action against the root causes of structural global injustice like the G8 summit.”

Jean-Pierre Garbade, the lawyer defending the group who blocked the Aubonne bridge produced new video evidence that showed the responsibility of the officer in charge in allowing the lives of the protestors to be endangered. “We can see on the most recent video evidence that the Sergeant Major (the officer in charge) and Monsieur Deiss have an encounter just a few seconds before Deiss cut the rope, when Deiss had already shown his intentions by taking out his knife,” explained Jean Pierre. “We know from the recording of the police radio conversations that the Sergeant Major knew that people were hanging from the rope, but he still failed to stop Deiss from cutting ït.”

Gesine Wenzel had been hanging on the same rope as Martin but was rescued by the quick reactions of her support team when the police officer cut the line. She was keen to point out that this was only one instance of repression in a growing tide of state-sponsored violence against anti-capitalist activists. “This was not an isolated incident,” she said. “From Gothenburg, to Genoa, to Evian, supposedly democratic governments are giving the green light for their police forces to use lethal levels of violence against people daring to exercise their rights to denounce the economic injustice of institutions like the G8.” "

For interviews with Martin Shaw, or Gesine Wenzel, call 0041 (0) 78 68 36 405
For interviews with the lawyer, call 0041 (0) 22 329 57 52
Emails to aubonne@no-log.org


Earlier coverage (from seed):

The British activist Martin Shaw, (37) whose climbing rope was cut by police as he hung from a 30m bridge in protest against the G8 meeting yesterday in Evian is said to be in a stable condition. An operation was carried out yesterday on his fractured pelvis, two fractured vertebrae, and two broken ankles. Martin Shaw an experienced climber was non-violently blockading a road in protest against the undemocratic G8 meeting-taking place in nearby Evian.Martin and his fellow climber abseiled of the bridge to unveil two banners and blockade the road using a clearly and well-marked rope. Other members of the affinity group remained on the bridge to blockade it.

The protests against the G8 highlighted concerns and anger around the world over current global capitalist policies that lead to inhumane treatment and exploitation of the world peoples and environment. A group of 15 people arrived early morning to blockade the road and hang banners, around 9 am the police arrived. Despite warnings from others in the action support team that lives were endanger, the police proceeded to cut the rope. Thanks to the support team, Martins climbing partner was saved from serious injury as they grabbed the rope holding her, It took over an hour for the emergency services to reach Martin Shaw, as he lay unable to move on the ground below.

Statement of Martin Shaw concerning the wider political context of the Aubonne Bridge Incident, Lausanne, 3rd July 2003

"Today I am leaving hospital after two operations and a month recovering from injuries that I sustained as a result of police actions in response to direct action that we took on the Aubonne bridge on the 1st of June. In this statement I wish to elaborate our reasons for making this action, and show how the extreme response to this peaceful protest fits into a wider political context. Across Europe we are witnessing the legitimation of similar violent repression as a means of responding to broad, social dissent against the global injustices being perpetuated by the neo-liberal agenda of institutions like the G8. For the past 50 years, global institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and more recently, the G8 and the World Trade organisation have regularly convened in order to continue their mission of re-structuring and re-ordering the global economy.

Economic and social analysis has repeatedly shown that the policies being pursued by the G8 protect the advantages of global economic elites at the expense of the world's poor while wreaking widespread environmental damage.

In the last decade, across the world from Chiapas, to Seattle, to Prague, to Quito and now Evian, people have been calling the legitimacy of these institutions into question. The forms of protest and resistance have been rich and varied, encompassing broad cross-sections of society. The success and visibility of this resistance has partially depended upon a willingness to go beyond traditionally passive demonstrations to take more forceful and direct action against the global institutions. The recent imperialist invasion of Iraq provoked the largest demonstrations that the world has ever witnessed. Even when these globally coordinated demonstrations involve millions of people they are effectively ignored by the State. The petition of 17 million signatures collected by Jubilee 2000 urging the G8 leaders to alleviate the debt crisis of the "developing" world was similarly side-lined and ignored despite an obvious popular mandate from the people they are claiming to represent.

The failure of representative democracies to represent the wishes of their electorates means that traditional forms of political expression such as voting, demonstrations and petitions have become largely redundant. There is a need for groups and individuals to take more direct action on the root causes of the structural economic injustice being inflicted on the millions of poverty-stricken people around the world.

Throughout the last century, positive social change has depended upon the willingness of groups and individuals to go beyond legal limits in challenging existing regimes, from the suffragettes who risked their lives in the fight for the vote for women, to the anti-colonial struggles of Gandhi and Mandela. At the time these individuals and social movements have been portrayed as dangerous extremists and a menace to society. Under current EU legislation they would almost certainly have been classified as "terrorists." In retrospect history has shown them to be catalysts of progressive, emancipatory agendas. What liberties we enjoy today have been earned by actions of dissidents throughout history who have been inspired by the courage of their convictions and risked imprisonment and violent repression to challenge and disrupt the oppressive governments of their time.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the forces that wish to preserve economic and social injustice today seek to criminalise and marginalize the popular resistance that demands a more democratic and equitable world. One criteria for the effectiveness of what has been called "the anti-globalisation movement" is the level of repression that it is currently facing. This repression takes two forms. On the one hand, we have "emergency" legislation that aims to criminalise legitimate and democratic dissent. Since September the 11th at both the national and EU level, there has been an avalanche of increased powers of surveillance, restrictive border controls, punitive measures, databases and ad hoc unaccountable groups targeting protests and protestors as well as other marginal groups in society such as refugees, asylum seekers and resident migrant populations. The transformation of "activist" into "terrorist" in the eyes of the law is a calculated exploitation of the post 0911 political climate in order to justify some of the biggest erosions of civil liberties we have witnessed in Western "democracies" this century. This official policy is then reflected in the increased willingness to use violent force in the streets in a form of "arbitrary justice" against those who challenge the undemocratic and unaccountable nature of meetings like the G8.

The "war on terror" has turned into an ongoing "war on freedom and democracy" which is now setting new norms - where accountability, scrutiny and human rights protections are luxuries to be discarded in defence of "democracy." (see Note 1)

From the shootings in Gothenburg, the murder of Carlos Giuliani in Genoa, the near fatal incident of the Aubonne bridge incident and the attack on Guy Smallman with a concussion grenade in Geneva, and even more recently the horrific reports of police brutality in Thessaloniki, governments are clearly sending the message that they are prepared to kill and maim in order to silence legitimate dissent against oppressive global regimes. These are the handful of events that received some media attention, amidst hundreds of unreported incidents involving beatings on the street, malicious arrest and falsified evidence. The events that took place on the Aubonne bridge were not simply an isolated incident involving individual police officers, they are part of a wider political trend to attempt to intimidate those members of society who would use civil disobedience and direct action as a means of political articulation.

Underneath the empty rhetoric of development and poverty relief, the leaders of the G8 countries are deliberately increasing the disparity between the rich and poor of the world.

The neo-liberal agenda pursued by the G8 actually exacerbates rather than alleviates the problems such as poverty and environmental destruction that they claim to address.

For every one dollar in aid to developing countries, more than seven dollars comes back to rich countries in the form of debt servicing. The perpetuation of these global injustices is readily apparent to those who choose not to bury their heads in the sand. To ignore such injustice is to be effectively complicit in it. We intend to use the criminal court case being mounted against us as an opportunity to show that our actions as an affinity group in attempting to stop the delegates from reaching the summit were entirely legitimate in trying to limit the destructive impact of this meeting on the global South and the environment. The legal challenge we are pursuing against the Swiss authorities is also important to show that governments cannot use such violent repression with impunity.

The extent and force of the repression of institutions such as the EU and the G8 means that now more than ever we must show that these tactics of intimidation will not stop people from exposing the global violence and injustice that is being inflicted in the name of neo-liberalism. We can and will resist this repression, in the courts and in the media as well as in the streets."

1. Many examples of these are described in The "war on freedom and democracy": An analysis of the effects on civil liberties and democratic culture in the EU Statewatch analysis no13 and www.statewatch.org/observatory2.htm.
2. World Bank. Global Development Finance 2001, based on 1999 figures for grants and total debt service.

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