Volume 97, Issue 3
Thursday, June 5, 2003

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Protesters need love, not war

Smart'n Up
Paolo Zinatelli
Deputy Editor

The start of the Group of Eight summit in Evian, France kicked off this week as all world summits typically do – a mob of protesters looting businesses and trying to disrupt the arrival of world leaders.

It has become an all too common scene. Whenever a summit is held of any kind – G8, Summit of the Americas, World Trade Organization – you can be sure protesters and demonstrators will be out in full force. This week the G8 was held in France, while the demonstrations took place in Geneva, Switzerland, just a helicopter's ride across the lake.

Depending on who you ask, 50,000 to 120,000 protesters were on hand. Riot police were out with tear gas, water cannons and rubber pellets to keep them at bay. The protesters responded by burning police barricades and looting gas stations and supermarkets. One activist ended up in hospital with broken bones.

The demonstrators were there in support of anti-globalization, environmentalism and forgiveness of Third World debt. Did that message come across? Did looting the gas station somehow prove that globalization is bad? Did lighting a barricade on fire show support for environmentalism?

I don't think so. You would think protesters would learn from past experience. They want their voices to be heard so they can express their concerns. Their actions, however, won't get them the kind of recognition they want. It surely won't get them a sit-down meeting with world leaders, the very people they want to affect the change they're seeking.

It's unfair to say that every demonstrator in the crowd was violent – it's only a boisterous few that ruined it for everyone else who had a valid reason to protest and be there.

I'm all about free speech (hell, I work for a newspaper) and freedom of assembly. But let's get real. In the end, if you really want to make your voice heard and get your message across, what is going to be more effective? Robbing stores and burning barricades? Or peacefully demonstrating and possibly getting invited to meet with policy makers?

Violent protests won't get you any closer to world leaders, and in fact will only extend the divide. In Quebec, a fence kept protesters away from the meeting. This week a lake separated the two. Next time, who knows what it might be.



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