Global democracy in action, Cannes 2011


by Hazel Lewry

France, presiding over the G20 in 2011, is to host the G20 summit in Cannes over the November 3rd weekend.  Globalisation, the Euro crisis and sovereign debt, particularly Spain’s, are set to be the primary issues on the agenda.  The UK is presently part of the G20.

The Cannes meeting will be taking place against the backdrop of the global “Occupy” movement.  The French chose Cannes for the summit above all other possible locations because it is the simplest for the authorities to seal off.

France is seriously concerned about a repeat of what happened in 2000 at the opening of the European Union summit in Nice, when some 2000 riot police and around 50,000 anti-capitalism protesters fought in the streets after violence erupted.

It is known that anti-globalization and anti-capitalist protesters are planning four days of protests and demonstrations centered around the world leaders summit in Cannes.  They intend to carry out their marches despite a massive security operation to keep them out of the city.

Those living in the area of Cannes on the Côte d’Azur have been told they will likely face widespread disruption.  Local residents will be limited in their movements during the event unless they possess an ‘official badge’.

These scenes and scenarios are more familiar to those old enough to know Moscow during the Cold War.  They are not actions representative of a free and open democracy.  The right of the individual and the right to peaceful protest are cornerstones of healthy democracy.

French authorities also look to enact plans to close France’s border with Italy for the duration of the summit.  These actions do not speak of a healthy democracy.  They speak instead of protectionism of the elite.

The official reason for the proposed border closure was reported by the Guardian as being to prevent protestors from Italy joining the demonstrations.

Protesters hope to defy attempts by gathering in Nice and the surrounding area days before the proposed summit.

Two French groups, People First Not Finance and Faced with G20, said a people’s forum is set to take place in Nice, some 20 miles from Cannes.  The plan is for this forum to run for two days prior to the G20.

The groups are anticipating upwards of 15,000 protestors and are also planning a march and series of events at the Monaco border, as they vent their dissatisfaction with tax havens for the 1%.  The biggest issue the groups report are getting locations arranged which are acceptable to the authorities.

The protest organisers are hoping for a peaceful series of events including fiestas and concerts. As far as anyone is presently aware there have been no calls for any type of antagonistic protest, but still residents may face a two day lockdown

At a minimum it’s been proposed that the whole of Cannes will be cordoned off with the extraordinary security involving most of the town’s 4,000 manhole covers being soldered shut and airborne spy cameras deployed.

As the G20 strives to work its magic in promoting business and commerce, petrol stations around Cannes and Nice are to be closed, and local hospitals have cancelled everything except emergency surgery in case their services should be required.

The French used similar tactics to stop protests in Le Havre in May, and appear to be going for what worked then.  The French and other G20 governments apparently do not seem to understand that when popular discontent requires measures this draconian, something fundamental simply isn’t working.