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Tens of Thousands March in Brussels Over Austerity

by David Brunnstrom Reuters

Tens of thousands of people marched through Brussels on Wednesday on a day of protests across Europe against government austerity measures, which unions say will slow economic recovery and punish the poor. (Editors note: many are reporting over 100,000)

“The main feeling of the people is that for the banking system there are millions and billions of euros, but the social payments are being cut. That’s not right,” said Ralf Kutkowski, a German coal miner protesting in the Belgian capital.

Marchers in Brussels, heading for the EU’s headquarters, waved union flags and carried banners saying “No to austerity” and “Priority to jobs and growth.” The 50 unions represented included German coal miners, Romanian gas workers and Polish shipbuilders.

The protest was led by a group dressed in black suits with black face masks, carrying umbrellas and briefcases, acting as the head of a funeral cortege mourning the death of Europe.

The protest organizers, the European Trade Union Confederation, were aiming to get 100,000 people to march. Belgian police and the unions did not immediately estimate crowd numbers but one police official told Reuters at least 50,000 people were taking part.

Spain’s first general strike for eight years, a protest against the Socialist government’s public spending cuts and easier hire-and-fire laws, had a limited impact beyond disrupting transport and some factories.

Spanish unions said 10 million people, or more than half the workforce, were on strike. The government gave no numbers.

European governments say they have been forced into austerity to avert the danger of a sovereign debt crisis like the one suffered by Greece, but many workers feel they are being punished for problems that were not of their making.

“We don’t want to take it on our backs,” said Philipp Jacks, a German trade unionist marching in Brussels.

Graham Smith, a public sector youth worker from Edinburgh in Scotland, said: “The message is we need our public services because the people who need them most are the people being hit most by the crisis.”

REFORMS SET TO CONTINUE

Protests have taken place in many countries in the last few months. Protests on Wednesday were planned in Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon, Rome, Paris, Riga, Warsaw, Nicosia, Bucharest, Prague, Vilnius, Belgrade and Athens.

Greece’s main unions, representing about 2.5 million workers, did not strike on Wednesday but plan to march to parliament in the evening to protest against measures prescribed by the EU and the IMF in return for bailing the country out.

A few smaller unions called job walkouts. Greek hospitals doctors stopped work for 24 hours and public transport was disrupted.

In Slovenia, about half of public sector workers remained on strike for the third day against a planned wage freeze, causing jams at border crossings with non-EU Croatia.

Economists say strikes and protests are unlikely to force any government to abandon structural reforms or savings measures but could make it harder for some leaders to win re-election and limit the scope of some reforms in the long run.

Economic growth has revived in the European Union, home to 500 million people and the executive European Commission expects the bloc’s economy to grow 1.8 percent this year after a 4.2 percent contraction in 2009.

But EU unemployment is running at 9.6 percent of the workforce, and at around twice that rate in Spain, Latvia and Estonia. Unions say austerity will curb job creation.

Financial markets are also worried about whether countries such as Ireland and Portugal can manage their debt burdens and the Commission wants tough sanctions imposed on countries that break debt and budget deficit rules.

“We understand there is a crisis, but it is being used as a very good excuse for all kinds of pressure on the people who are employees, workers and not in big business,” said Alexander Nikolov, who drove from Bulgaria to protest in Brussels.

Dennis Radtue, a coal mining union representative from Germany, said the gap between rich and poor was growing.

“Rich people have a lot of opportunity to save their money and pay no taxes, while a normal worker has to pay taxes whether he wants to or not,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Emily Coleman, writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Ruth Pitchford )

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Naomi Klein to police at G20: “Don’t play PR, do your job!”

From RabbleTV

I love this comment on the YouTube page for the video:

I could play this video 100 times and it would never get old. Naomi speaks the truth and it saddens me what Ottawa and David Miller allowed to happen to Toronto.

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G20 police repression press conference video

June 28, 2010 10:00am Alternative Media Centre

The Alternative Media Centre, Toronto Community Mobilization Network and Movement Defence Committee held a joint press conference to present first hand accounts of the events that have been taking place in recent hours involving mass arrests, police violence and intimidation across the city.  Here are those accounts (click to go to video).

Intro to Press Conference

Jesse Rosenfeld: The Guardian, Independent Journalist (and in the video above)
Amy Miller: Alternative Media Centre, Independent Journalist
Adam MacIsaac: Alternative Media Centre, Independent Journalist
Sharmeen Khan: Toronto Community Mobilization Network

Claire O’Connor OPIRG-Toronto (I don’t have the video, anyone?)

The speakers highlight the ongoing and politically motivated targeting of journalists and community organizers, as well as the profiling of people on the basis of clothing type, for carrying phone numbers of the legal aid hotline or for residing in certain neighbourhoods. They also reported on the cruel and brutal conditions under which people are being detained, arrested and imprisoned.

Press Release from the press conference

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Police left convergence centre; reports today at detention centre

Update 7:30pm Police left the convergence centre!

Mass arrests possibly going down at convergence centre. It’s blocked off. No one can come in or out. Please go support. 1266 queen street west

live feed at convergence centre: http://qik.com/jesse

A few of the best articles and interviews I could find:

Firsthand report of arrests, tear gas, beatings of peaceful demonstrators at detention centre  Interview with independent journalist Stefan Christoff

Jail solidarity action attacked by Toronto police
Members of prisoner support rally outside G20 prison beaten, arrested by police

Excessive force used on protesters, int’l media AWOL

The Erosion of “Rights”: a quick descent: a few highlights for serious consideration

and keep checking 2010.mediacoop.ca for more

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