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November 30 press reports from London: the Times

Why would the Times be the only broadsheet to lead on its own report of the events at Euston? Nothing to do with Rupert's interest in playing down opposition in Seattle, of course. One of the lesser-known features of the WTO process is the possibility it opens up for a challenge to the legality of the BBC. To Rupert, you see, Public Service Broadcasting is unfair competition.

An interesting hint of sarcasm, though, in the reporting of the cost of the police operation in London. Imagine: three reporters sent off all het up to cover a major riot - the police promised and it doesn't happen. Unlike the Express, the Times has, somewhere in the production process, someone smart enough to know when they've been had. And, gosh, there's a design similarity with nasty, nasty club culture.

And as for protest in Seattle... it's all nasty self-interest by protectionist trades unions, apparently. Give it up, Rupert. Wapping was a long time ago, and unions are coming back. Reporters there not happy with the cops, either.

December 1 1999

Violence flares at Euston demo

RIOT police fought running battles with anti-capitalist demonstrators at Euston station last night after a thousand people staged a protest against rail privatisation.

At least one police officer was thought to have been seriously hurt. Witnesses said he lost his footing when demonstrators charged a line of police and, as he lay on the ground, was set upon by a gang of about 20 people. He was eventually rescued by colleagues and hauled away, apparently unconscious. [And then he totally vanished. Not even available for TV photo-opportunities in his hospital bed.]

The officer was said to have suffered head and neck injuries, but his condition was unknown. Six protesters were also injured and 15 arrested. But unlike the previous anti-capitalist protest in June, the violence was contained and extensive precautionary measures by City of London firms and institutions were not needed.

Last night's clashes coincided with demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation, which brought chaos to Seattle as it hosted the 135-nation trade summit. Thousands of protesters chained themselves together in the road and prevented Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, from opening the conference.

The disturbance in London caused the police to close Euston and several Underground stations, and to block off Euston Road, one of the main routes into London's West End. The demonstrators hijacked a police observation van and set it on fire, and used luggage trolleys as battering rams against the police lines.

Smaller groups of anarchists had earlier protested peacefully at Trafalgar Square and outside Downing Street.

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December 1 1999

Protecting London cost £1m more than riot damage in June

POLICE achieved their aim of protecting most Londoners from violence yesterday. They had prepared carefully for the demonstrations after heavy criticism over their response to June's City of London riot.

By isolating the disturbances in a small area around Euston, they removed the opportunity for large groups of anarchists to go on a destructive rampage around targets in London. The City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police joined forces to stage a £1.5 million operation involving 3,000 officers. Their information, gleaned from the Internet and Scotland Yard's National Intelligence Service, meant they even knew that the anarchists would stage a picnic at Lincoln's Inn Fields yesterday.

Banks of screens at Scotland Yard monitored the demonstrators as they began their march in the morning from Euston to Trafalgar Square, and then Whitehall before returning to the station for the evening rush-hour protest.

The total cost of securing London's institutions against the threat of violence was estimated at £3 million - £1 million more than the damage caused by rioting in June.Companies who had been in the frontline of June's anti-capitalism protest spent thousands of pounds on extra security measures, while shops closed early and businesses were boarded up.

A spokesman for Citibank, whose Lewisham building was picketed by protesters, said: "We have had an extra police presence at our major buildings. But the protest seemed to fizzle out." The Bank of England said it had been "extra vigilant" and locked its main doors. The LIFFE exchange, the scene of a pitched battle in June, placed staff and security on a full alert.

Police had predicted that yesterday's demonstration, timed to coincide with protests in Seattle at the World Trade Organisation meeting, would not match the extremes of the June 18 "carnival against capitalism". But on police advice, traders near Euston station, along with the Body Shop and stationers' Paperchase, closed-up shop in the early afternoon. A trader at the Journeyman's Friend said: "The police just said to keep the shop shut. They were expecting problems."

The rail protest was called by Reclaim the Streets, an environmental group believed to be responsible for co-ordinating the June riot. Key figures in the group were in Seattle yesterday where they were advising American protesters.

Police are investigating a link between the demonstrations in London and the underground "rave" dance culture. They are looking at how the same tactics used to organise large scale illegal gigs, where drug taking was rife, are now being employed to rally hundreds of people to protests in the heart of the capital. Thousands of stickers advertising the protest in the name of Reclaim bear a striking resemblance to flyers for forthcoming events on the club scene and use a similar shorthand in their instructions.

The stickers, which have been found in several London Tube stations, bear the words "Reclaim N30 5pm Euston" (shorthand for Reclaim the streets, November 30).

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December 1 1999

UNITED STATES

Seattle police using pepper gas to push back World Trade Organisation protesters in downtown Seattle yesterday. The opening ceremony was cancelled, and the meeting moved to a more secure venue

Protesters wreck start to talks

DEMONSTRATORS forced the World Trade Organisation to postpone and then cancel its opening ceremony yesterday.

Police firing pepper spray and rubber bullets waded into ranks of steelworkers and costumed environmentalists as the demonstration's carnival atmosphere turned to menace, threatening severe embarrassment for President Clinton.

The streets echoed to the crack of police gas canisters fired 20ft above the heads of the crowd. Flames leapt up from skips dragged to main crossroads. And the crowds cheered as the wind changed, blowing the gas back towards the police.

The demonstrations also forced the WTO to shift the meeting from a downtown theatre to the city's more secure convention centre, where the talks on a new global trade liberalisation round are scheduled to take place until Friday. The decision was announced to a half-empty conference theatre; police had warned delegates to stay in their hotels for their own safety. A Colombian delegation headed by Martha Lucia Ramirez, the Foreign Trade Minister, was attacked by demonstrators who banged on the roof of their car before being dispersed by police.

Pascal Lamy, the European Union Trade Commissioner, said: "What's happening outside [on the streets] has an influence." The demonstrators' concerns had to be answered, he said, adding that the protests supported the EU's demand for a range of social issues to be considered.

Attempts by the 135 member countries to thrash out an agenda for three years of trade liberalisation talks have been stalled so far, partly by the EU's refusal to drop export subsidies for farmers.

The protests, orchestrated on the Internet for weeks, had begun sweetly at dawn, with environmentalists dressed as whales and butterflies swinging hula hoops and performing a rain-dance to the beat of American Indian drums. Others, dressed as caricature "big businessmen" or encased in papier mâché red fists, carried placards reading "Free Tibet before Free Trade".

With the headquarters of the talks besieged, an alliance of union workers and environmentalists poured down from the hills surrounding the town centre. Ten blocks of the city centre were paralysed as the 20,000-strong official march of union workers unexpectedly met head-on with the unofficial protests by environmentalists. By late afternoon, with most of the crowds still largely peaceful, many buildings were daubed with graffiti declaring "WTO hell no".

The unmissable presence of the unions is a sign of the enormous difficulties that the Clinton Administration will have in delivering its promise to liberalise trade.

Mr Clinton, who invited the WTO to Seattle and who has made the lowering of trade barriers one of the consistent pursuits of his presidency, has less room for manoeuvre than his enthusiasm for free trade has implied. The demonstrations are directed, above all, at the Clinton Administration iteslf.

American unions are expected to oppose bitterly an informal suggestion on the eve of the talks by the European Union for the richest trading countries to abolish duties on most imports from the poorest countries. The American unions are already furious at the Administration's move, two weeks ago, to strike a deal with China for its early entry into the WTO.

The US has acknowledged that political pressures at home may bar it from accepting the EU's proposal, even though Mr Clinton himself has said that he likes the suggestion.

Clare Short, Britain's International Development Secretary, has said that zero-tariffs probably could be contemplated only as part of the planned three years of trade talks, for which Seattle is to set the agenda.

The President, who is due to visit the meeting today, will cut a solitary figure as other world leaders, including President Castro of Cuba, shunned the White House's belated invitation to attend.

Most conspicuously absent is Al Gore, the Vice-President. His decision - made only in recent weeks - to stay away despite a lifetime's association with "green" causes drives home the political truth that there are few votes in free trade.

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Updated
06/12/1999

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