The Guardian October 10, 2001


Suppression grows in Europe

The German Government has put forward proposals for the creation of 
"Special Units" to counter protests at EU Council meetings and other 
international gatherings.

The German Minister of the Interior, backed by his Italian counterpart 
called for the creation of an EU anti-riot police in reaction to events in 
Gothenburg and Genoa.

"We cannot allow violence from militant activists to dictate where and how 
democratically elected state leaders hold their meetings. [An anti-riot 
police] would cooperate internationally to de-escalate situations where 
possible and to combat violence with appropriate firmness where necessary", 
said the German Minister.

While the immediate motivation for the police measures arose from the 
massive demonstrations against IMF and G8 meetings, these are now being 
wrapped up in counter terrorist preparations.

Governments in many countries are taking the opportunity to implement 
legislation which massively restricts democratic rights that have been won 
in many decades of struggle. A form of neo-fascism is emerging.

The German proposals for the EU include the standardisation of equipment 
and command structures, advanced training for "large-scale situations", 
introduction of standardised radios, weapons and "special devices". It is 
also proposed that each EU member state be empowered to request the support 
of the special units from other member states.

The record of the use of such para-military police units in Britain and 
elsewhere shows that it leads to more violent confrontations and the 
tendency to indiscriminately "punish" people for being on the streets 
rather than arresting and charging people who have committed an offence.

Since the events of September 11, planning in the EU for Summit meetings 
and other international meetings embraces both the "threat" of terrorism 
and of protests which are being treated as one and the same thing.

Tony Bunyan, editor of Statewatch comments:

"We are living in very dangerous times in many senses. The use of armed and 
specially trained para-military police units to counter protests in the EU 
will tend to escalate violence not diminish it. But, more importantly, it 
is part of a strategy to treat protestors as the same kind of "threat" as 
terrorists. This can only lead to a curtailment of the right of free 
movement and the democratic right to demonstrate."

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