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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Filed Under: brussels, karel de gucht, protests, social media, tafta, ttip

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2014 @ 9:23pm

    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.

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