Water Cannons Turned On Peaceful TTIP Protestors In Brussels As Public Barred From Negotiations

from the first-signs-of-panic dept

The TAFTA/TTIP negotiations remain almost totally lacking in real transparency, with little information about what exactly is happening behind closed doors being released to the public — and most of that coming from the EU side. This has naturally forced those excluded from the inner circle to speculate about what might be going on — and, inevitably, to fear the worst. According to the US Ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, and the EU Commissioner responsible for TTIP, Karel De Gucht, that’s unacceptable:

The ambassador and commissioner agreed that NGOs and civil society organisations were spreading disinformation about TTIP through social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. De Gucht said that a number of campaigners were “spreading rumours on false grounds.”

Gardner added: “There’s a void [in information]. The void is being filled more and more by social media.”

That’s interesting not just for the refusal to admit that it’s lack of transparency that is creating this void, but also for the barely-concealed fear of social media, probably because it can’t be controlled in the way that traditional media can. Gardner and De Gucht made their comments in Brussels, where they were both speaking at the European Business Summit, which describes itself as:

Europe’s key meeting place for business leaders and decision makers, where Business and Politics Shape the Future.

Business, politics — but not civil society, which, as usual, was not invited to shape the future. So, instead, it was forced to stay outside the meeting, on the streets. Here’s what happened while business and politics were busy inside:

This Thursday morning over a thousand people were in the streets of Brussels, attempting to peacefully protest against austerity and the proposed great transatlantic market (TTIP) which were being discussed in the absence of citizens at the European Business Summit.

In an unprovoked move 281 people were violently arrested, including Belgian and European parliamentarians and candidates, senior trade union officials, farmers and many elderly citizens.

As one of those involved noted:

“We came into the streets because our political leaders are not listening. It seems they’ve only got ears for big business and their representatives who co-organised the European Business Summit. And to be treated so brutally, as if we were violent criminals — when our actions were entirely peaceful.”

Although that press release may not come from a totally objective source — the D19-20 Alliance is an anti-austerity group — reports and images on other sites confirm that the Belgian police were extremely heavy-handed, deploying water cannons and tying demonstrators’ wrists together behind their backs for what seems to have been a polite and low-key peaceful protest. This extraordinarily disproportionate reaction would indicate an increasing nervousness on the part of the authorities that Europe is about to see a wave of mass demonstrations against TTIP just as happened with ACTA, leading to this brutal and ham-fisted attempt to nip it in the bud.

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Comments on “Water Cannons Turned On Peaceful TTIP Protestors In Brussels As Public Barred From Negotiations”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Unlawful assembly

I wonder if the TPP picked this location, because of this law? Are there similar laws elsewhere in the EU?

No motive attributed to the USTR is too dastardly.

Bought, paid for, and executing those paid for instructions using all possible contretemps.

And when that august personage cries their denial, we can comfortably descend into ROFLMOL.

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:

Re: Re: Unlawful assembly

The politics behind where the various European political centers are is long and complex, but Belgium is a typical choice. Some of it has to do with choosing little countries that aren’t seen as being able to leverage their position as host to gain an unnatural advantage. Some of it is undoubtedly to do with many of these smaller countries making a great deal of their money off of tourism and thus being quite pleasant places to book a luxury hotel. I wouldn’t be surprised if the protest law is as much about maintaining a pleasant fa?ade for vacationers as anything else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Unlawful assembly

and why do you think that is then? you dont think it may be so that laws that take the piss out of the people can be pushed into being without the people knowing and being able to do anything about it? like all bad laws, this is being done in secret, just to be of benefit to the businesses and industries that want it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Unlawful assembly

Oh, so if someone breaks one law, no matter how minor, it’s perfectly fine to break ANY law in dealing with them?

Well than, the next time someone trespasses on my property by walking on my grass instead of the sidewalk, I’ll go shoot them 5 times, and steal all their belongings. It’ll be perfectly legal under your logic, because I was dealing with a law breaker who wasn’t supposed to be there!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'Lawful' protesting...

So it’s illegal to protest without authorization.

Well okay, who do you go to do get that authorization? That would be the people who you are trying to protest against, or the people who’s bosses you’re protesting against, or the people connected to the groups that have the ability to throw massive amounts of money around in ‘donations’ and ‘business opportunities’…

Oh yeah, I can’t see a conflict of interest coming into play there at all. /s

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Unlawful assembly

“Uber vs London Taxis – Protest via Gridlock

London’s black cabs have promised to bring “chaos, congestion and confusion” to London as a protest against the growing presence of smartphone taxi service Uber. They are planning for 10,000 drivers to meet at a London landmark (which hasn’t been named yet) in early June.

Steve McNamara, LTDA’s [Licensed Taxi Drivers Association] general secretary, told the BBC: “I anticipate that the demonstration against TfL’s [Transport for London’s] handling of Uber will attract many many thousands of cabs and cause severe chaos, congestion and confusion across the metropolis.”

This amid lawsuits in some places and drivers being fined in others.”

(to clarify, that article has a link to Uber drivers being fined, so it’s Uber drivers that are being fined for competing against incumbent taxi-cab businesses).

It’s amazing how those that want more monopoly power over everything and get their way through backdoor dealings are quick to proclaim the virtues of everyone else following the laws (the laws that they pretty much wrote) yet they have no problems (at least threatening to) break much worse laws when they don’t get their way and yet they also don’t even seem to get the same treatment from law enforcement personnel as legitimate protesters. Instead the police takes their side by fining those they are protesting against (their competitors for daring to compete in a market place that bought politicians for monopoly power over). I guess those that buy politicians are treated differently when they protest.

Anonymous Coward says:

reports and images on other sites confirm that the Belgian police were extremely heavy-handed, deploying water cannons and tying demonstrators’ wrists together behind their backs for what seems to have been a polite and low-key peaceful protest.

Umm, first- when you’re ordered to disperse you should do it. If you don’t you should expect, tear gas, mounted officers, billy clubs or dogs. I’d say getting wet was pretty humane and hardly “heavy-handed”. Second, the “tying demonstrators’ wrists together behind their backs” is also known and handcuffing. Obviously there were a large number of people to arrest so the cops used zip ties instead. There’s nothing untoward about that.

Perhaps if you attend an actual protest instead of reporting from a safe distance you’d have a better understanding.

Whatever says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The emphasis on peaceful shows that you miss the point. Peaceful protest, wild protest, loud protest, quiet protest… they are all the same in the eyes of the law of the land which says “you may not protest without a permit”. At the point that a protest (peaceful or otherwise) without a permit does not disperse, then more forceful means are a good way to deal with things. It’s certainly many times more desirable than arresting everyone and having them end up with a rap sheet, right?

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Why should anyone need a permit to protest? What criteria determines whether a permit is granted? If a wealthy political power is in town, will all permit requests be denied in order to suppress dissent against it? The only tool at the disposal of the people, faced with a corrupt authority, is civil disobedience. Nothing should be allowed to hinder nor prohibit that. It is the one right that no authority can take away.

Whatever says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You do realize that if you are taking part in an illegal protest, and you fail to leave when ordered by the police, that you sort of are taking a risk?

Plenty of things can break bones. Should we restrict them from use because there is a chance of harm? Should the police be allowed only to use feathers to tickle people away from an illegal protest?

It’s not like the police just randomly show up and start spraying. It’s also significantly better than tear gas or beanbag guns, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You should pay attention. It’s not wrong to protest, but it is to cry about what happens as a result of your protests. When you see water cannons being deployed, it’s a safe bet that they are going to be used on you if you hang around. If you chose to hang around, then I’m not going to feel sorry for you getting sprayed or gassed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

No you don’t get it either. The point is that you shouldn’t whine if you knew the consequences of your actions and did it anyway. Proportionality has nothing to do with it. There are countries that enforce the death penalty for heroin trafficking. But if you traffic in heroin in those countries and get caught I don’t want to hear you crying about it. You knew what could happen and chose to do it anyway. That’s all on you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

If the government passes bad laws and people break them that doesn’t make the punishment anymore acceptable. And if you don’t want to hear people criticizing those governments and their laws and consequences you can find another blog or start your own blog where no one will pay attention to you or you can live under a rock or live as a peasant in one of those authoritarian countries since your refusal to criticize them maybe a good thing there. But don’t come here and expect anyone to care what you think we shouldn’t complain about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Knowing the consequences to one’s actions doesn’t make those consequences any more just. If someone knows that the consequences to standing up and talking back to an abusive person is to get hit and they do it anyways does that make the person standing up to this abusive person at fault? No, the abusive person is at fault. They are the villain and the person being hit is the victim.

If the penalty of a slave escaping is for them to get lashed if caught and they escape and get caught and get lashed who is at fault? The person doing the lashing. They are the villains and ‘it’s all on them’.

If the penalty for protesting a violent dictator is to get shot on sight who is the villain? The dictator. It’s all on them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

and those that receive extreme consequences for doing nothing wrong have every right to complain about it and they absolutely should. Complaining is at least better than just allowing those unjust consequences to continue unabated. Injustice should be criticized and we should criticize and complain about it. It’s the least we can do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Yeah, another good example would have been Rosa Parks. They shoulda hauled her off that bus and beat the crap out of her to teach her some respect for the law. If she cried, someone shoulda told her to just shut up, too! And no one shoulda felt sorry for her, either.

How’s that? Can I join your TTIP supporter’s club now?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

? right up there with racism.

Abolition of the economic system of chattel slavery did not ever end the struggle against injustice, poverty and ignorance.

?For we know now, that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger??

?????????? ??Memphis, Tennessee, March 18, 1968

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

They’re not protesting ‘free trade’, of which the various ‘agreements’ have very little, they’re protesting the government making ‘trade’ agreements that will have far reaching consequences, affecting massive numbers of people, completely in secret, hiding the details from the very people who will be most effected, and who the government is supposed to represent.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s an interesting argument, until you consider whether it was even right of them to disperse a peaceful protest.

Don’t confuse what’s right with what the law says either. It might have been in accordance with the law, but that doesn’t mean it was right. There are plenty of laws in existence that are unconscionable or even down-right evil, yet they still exist. Instead, it’s a matter of whether the protestors had a legitimate grievance that was being ignored by traditional means. This is clearly such a case.

Face it, when the voice of the people most affected by policy are being told to get lost, they need to become more visible and get louder. The police reaction to the protest was an effort at sending that voice back to the fringes where all citizens that can’t buy a politician are expected to be.

Whatever says:

Re: Re: Re:

You can’t really use the moral argument of “what is right” here on Techdirt, because it’s been long established that moral arguments aren’t valid.

The law here isn’t evil. Rather, it’s an attempt by the people (as a whole) to keep a small minority from ruining their lives by being able to protest and harm their enjoyment of life. Authorities did what they have to do to enforce the law and not give unfair advantage to one group or the other.

Let’s also make it clear. It’s not a law that requires permission to have an opinion, rather it’s one that makes sure that the protest is done in an orderly fashion and won’t take away from the safety and well being of others. Had they applied for a permit, I suspect they would have received it, although they may not have been permitted to have their protest where they decided to hold it.

The permit isn’t a permit on the idea, just on the place and time so as to balance out the free speech rights of one side with the free and safe enjoyment of life, liberty, and so on. You don’t live in a vacuum, protests do inflict punishment on people who have no interest by blocking streets or causes troubles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Rather, it’s an attempt by the people (as a whole) to keep a small minority from ruining their lives by being able to protest and harm their enjoyment of life.”

If that’s the case why are these negotiations being done in secret from the majority with only industry interests invited to them? If these negotiations are so agreeable to the majority then why are governments so afraid of allowing the majority to see them?

Heck, how can the majority even reasonably decide if they agree to these agreements when they can’t even see them?

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What is right is not a moral argument, but it’s what will benefit everyone regardless of their political or economic standing. Any policy that impacts the public should be held under the scrutiny of the public. Denying them that is asking for a protest and discouraging the protest is benefiting the minority at the expense of the whole.

Or, would you rather let the wolves have a secret vote on whether to eat you without having any say in it?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Civil protests “ruin people’s lives”? Really??

“Authorities did what they have to do to enforce the law and not give unfair advantage to one group or the other.”

I disagree. Authorities did what they had to do to enforce a bad law and to ensure the unfair advantage enjoyed by one group remains that way.

PopeyeLePoteaux (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“You can’t really use the moral argument of “what is right” here on Techdirt, because it’s been long established that moral arguments aren’t valid.You can’t really use the moral argument of “what is right” here on Techdirt, because it’s been long established that moral arguments aren’t valid.”

Just to clarify, I and many others object the moral argument regarding copyright issues because copyright has never been about morality but practical utility, is just a red herring meant to create moral panic and bringing the whole issue to a purely emotional level where someone can claim the moral high ground and make detractors look as the inmoral ones.

“The law here isn’t evil. Rather, it’s an attempt by the people (as a whole) to keep a small minority from ruining their lives by being able to protest and harm their enjoyment of life. Authorities did what they have to do to enforce the law and not give unfair advantage to one group or the other.”

Lawful =/= ethically acceptable, and since we are not talking about copyright but currupt athorities who use the “free trade agreement” label to rig the game in favor of a minority made up of corporate players interested only in filling their pockets while ignoring the adverse consequences for the rest of the people, so it follows that using physical force to disband a peaceful protest with demonstrably harming techniques is questionable at minimum, since they are just excercizing their right to protest against a corrupt system, unless I live in a dictatorship, I can’t see your point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I think the point in highlighting the violence that protesters are willing to take is to show how much those protesters care about what they are doing and to show that they aren’t doing it for self serving purposes. Unlike those in power who are unwilling to accept violence against them to continue doing what the protesters are protesting against.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Umm, first- when you’re ordered to disperse you should do it. If you don’t you should expect, tear gas, mounted officers, billy clubs or dogs. I’d say getting wet was pretty humane and hardly “heavy-handed””

Agreed! In fact, they shouldn’t have even been gathered without permission in the first place! They’re lucky the police didn’t just fire into the illegal crowd! If you break the law, you deserve whatever you get!

Anonymous Coward says:

This will come back to haunt the politicians supporting TPIP later. When the public is against something, what really gets their backs up is heavy handedness over peaceful means.

You can make all the laws about protests and how they will be conducted you want. You can demand public assembly have prior consent, you can demand protests need insurance, you can demand protests need to pay for additional police protection but none of it means diddly when the public itself does not support nor respect these sorts of controls. Which is exactly what you see shown in this article.

What responses the police make to this sort of protests will speak louder than any sort of bitching, moaning, complaining the officials do. That they have ignored public input or even public disclosure as required by much of the EU’s laws says even more. That those bargaining officials are very much scared of the public being informed. If they are that worried then they should not be attempting to do just what they are doing. It is because of this lack of public input you will see more of this as the time gets closer for TTIP to be voted on.

It’s a repeat of SOPA being played out and it isn’t going to come out pretty.

Anonymous Coward says:

The New World Order? Hell, the old one doesn’t work very well either.
When our currencies are truly worthless the playing field will level out, and the future will be left to those of us willing to get our hands dirty. For the other 1% make sure you choose a window at least six stories up. May you live in interesting times.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can’t get over how stupid these tyrants are. They utterly depend on the public not noticing their actions, and yet they just can’t seem to stop calling attention to themselves.

Here’s my prediction: those elderly citizens get visited in the hospital by their grandchildren, and then the next protest ends up a lot bigger and a whole lot less peaceful.

Bill Lawrence says:

Son of SOPA / TTIP

Belgium has become a sanctuary (read: snake pit) for International Corporate Power Players precisely because of its brutal police barricade against public assembly and peaceful protest by outraged citizens.


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