Expect protests for G20 Seoul summit

6 Nov

Expect protests and counter-repression tactics during the upcoming G20 Seoul summit happening between 11 and 12 November. According to the NGO coalition, Put People First! Korean People’s G20 Response Action, which consists of an alliance of student, trade unions and other civil society participants, 200 foreign activists have already been banned from entering Seoul during the intergovernmental meeting.

Starting from the 7th November, the coalition has since organised a series of events, ‘People’s Week of Collective Action’, including rallies and strategy meetings to voice their concerns and opposition to the neoliberal agenda of the G20. In its draft declaration, Put People First! has pointed out that the current global financial and economic crisis, which is becoming more severe, requires a fundamental shift in mindset. The document calls for reforms such as stopping bailouts and reducing social welfare; re-regulating the financial sector; introducing bank tax and financial transactions tax; addressing environmental issues such as climate change; respecting the civil and political rights of citizens amongst others.

In its press release for the upcoming press conference, the NGO has also condemned the South Korean government for

‘using the G20 Summit as an excuse to repress democracy, human rights and fundamental labour rights’.

In particular, it criticised the enactment of the ‘Special Law on Safe Escort of G20 Summit’, which restricts demonstrations and allow the crack down on migrant workers, street vendors and homeless people.

In its G20 Summit Manual for Foreign Activists, the coalition pointed out that the Special Law severely curtails public demonstrations. For instance, the police can limit the number of protestors in demonstration areas According to the Korean Federation of Trade Unions (KCTU), this law also allows,

‘the government to mobilize the army “if necessary” to maintain public order’.

The law also creates ‘Safe Escort Zones’ ‘around the G20 meeting site, the hotels where representatives will stay, the routes they will travel to the Summit, and other G20 related areas. Public officials are authorized to stop people from entering these zones and to carry out indiscriminate stop and search procedures within them. What is more, they are not required to publically announce which areas during what times are designated ‘Safe Escort Zones’. This law is clearly meant to squash all forms of criticism and protest against the G20’.

Needless to say, when such intergovernmental conferences occur, governments are quick to ensure that demonstrators do not derail their agenda. Police brutality is also likely as protest organisers, who has insisted on non-violence, will nevertheless, attempt to challenge the demarcation zone. As this news article noted,  demonstrators will gather at

‘Seoul Station and then try to march several miles to the National Museum, where the leaders are to attend a reception and dinner. The confrontation may turn violent as several thousand policemen, backed by trucks with water canons, block them at barricades’.

Approximately 50,000 police will also be deployed for security purposes, twice the figure of those in the June G20 Summit in Toronto.

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