Brisbane Times: Protesters ‘will be waiting’ for G20
Protests and gridlock expected at G20
Tourists say the G20 summit will get Brisbane ‘on the map’ but the conference is expected to bring with it traffic mayhem and protests amidst the largest security operation Australia has seen.
The streets of Brisbane are likely to be filled with protesters when the G20 comes to town in 2014, with Melbourne’s mayor warning the city may come to regret hosting the event.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, the annual G20 summit – to be held in Brisbane in November 2014 – has become a stage for protesters, as much as it is a forum for the world’s presidents, prime ministers and central bank governors.
Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle said his city had a shocking experience as host of the World Economic Forum in 2000, which exposed security problems and featured violent protests.
“It was once again targeted by protesters, the Socialist Alliance, all well-tried and tested groups,” Cr Doyle said.
“It actually did not show our city in a wonderful light. The pictures beamed around the world were not of smiling world leaders and economic benefit.
“They were of protests and violence, particularly at that time against police and police horses.”
Cr Doyle said he had spoken with former Toronto mayor David Miller, who told him his city needed to employ an additional 20,000 police and security personnel when the Canadian city hosted the G20 in 2010.
“He said to me: ‘For God’s sake don’t get this conference’,” Cr Doyle said.
“He said, for him, it was a nightmare for Toronto. They made over 1000 arrests, they had this group called Black Bloc, who were professional protesters who flew in from around the world to disrupt this conference.
“They had four or six police cars set on fire.
“David said: ‘This is the conference you do not want’.”
If activists in Brisbane have their way, Cr Doyle may be right, with thousands of protesters expected to do their best to ensure G20 leaders are made aware their’s is not a welcome visit, with Socialist Alliance spokesman Ewan Saunders saying yesterday: “We’ll be waiting for them.”
Mr Saunders said the alliance would begin holding national talks around a protest within the next six months.
“Protests are inevitable particularly in this period of global crisis [and] the more and more people begin to understand and see that meetings like the G20 are meetings for corporations and the governments that do their bidding,” he said.
“For a long time, these global meetings have been the site of protests, because the decisions made there have such a profound impact on people’s lives, but are made behind closed doors and ridiculous security.”
Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn said he too expected to see demonstrators take to the streets of Brisbane.
“Historically we have seen protests at G20 summits that really are a reflection of frustration and public anger that the world’s financial system is inherently unsustainable,” he said.
“The sheer scale of the state’s coal boom will have a globally significant climate impact, and when you factor in the impacts of the boom on the Great Barrier Reef, you have clear cause for global concern over the current Queensland development model.”
A member of the Occupy Brisbane movement also indicated the group would make their presence known during the two-day meeting.
Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk said the city was equipped to deal with protests.
“Historically, we know that it has also attracted some protesters and that will be a particular point of interest and attention by myself to make sure that the arrangements from a security point of view are put in place,” he said.
“No-one can stop the protesters, we are in a democracy and that is the nature of our lifestyle, but clearly there will be security arrangements, which will not only involve Queensland and Australian police forces, but I suspect on an international basis as well.”
Violent protests have marred G20 summits held in London, Toronto and Seoul, with demonstrators claiming the diplomatic gathering is a tool of the rich and conduit of corporate greed.
However, heavy security tactics employed by authorities at the summits have also come under fire.
In April 2009, bystander Ian Tomlinson was killed during protests at the G20 summit in London after being pushed to the ground by a police officer.
More than 1000 were arrested during the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto, Canada, where protests started a week before the summit about issues of poverty, globalisation and gay rights.
The majority of the protests were peaceful, but some – led by a Black Bloc – turned violent, with rioting and vandalism.
Toronto’s police chief Bill Blair said at the time: “We have never seen this level of wanton criminality on our streets.”
Authorities in Seoul, South Korea, erected a 1.6 kilometre wall of tough polyurethane and bulletproof glass around the conference centre where the summit was held. But the wall did not prevent a woman, who attempted to set herself on fire, reaching the main entrance to the meeting.
It is not yet clear whether Brisbane’s South Bank around the Convention Centre will be locked down and barricaded amid the intense security.
Even in its earlier form, the G20 gathering of economic leaders, which was held in Melbourne in 2006 attracted violence. Demonstrators mounted running battles against police in the centre of Melbourne, resulting in 21 protesters being charged with riot, affray and reckless conduct.
However, Mr Saunders said Australians were committed to peaceful, non-violent protests.
“We see the organising around a public response to the G20 summit as certainly a priority,” he said.
Mr Hepburn said: “Australia has a long history of peaceful protests, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see people taking to the streets in protest around the G20 meeting in Brisbane.”