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21.7.01

For a while I thought the anti-globalisation movement was maturing.

I was really pleased with the FTAA protests in Quebec a few months ago. The violence was minimal, as was vandalism. The protesters showed up en masse, made their point, and left the city pretty much intact. And it worked. They didn't stop the FTAA -- but it would have been naive of anyone to thing they would. What they did gain was respect. People saw a thoughtful, respectful anti-globalisation movement with legitimate concerns about the consequences of unfettered global capitalism. The leaders meeting for the FTAA summit recognized those concerns and made what was at the very least lip service to addressing them. This is a good deal better than the violence and violation of basic rights that characterised the WTO meeting in Seattle or the S11 protests in Melbourne.

I'm certainly not saying that all or even most anti-globalisation protesters are violent and lawless. It is unfortunate that in this movement, like any other, the extreme minority is the one that shapes public opinion. But that public perception is what the movement needs to attract support. In Quebec, passions were held in check enough that people could see the good side of the movement.

I had high hopes that the protesters at the G8 summit in Genoa would learn from the successes of Quebec. But apparently not. In the first day of protests, Carlo Giuliani attacked a police vehicle with rocks and a fire extinguisher. An officer, doubtless fearing for his life, shot Giuliani and backed the vehicle over his body.

Neither side is innocent in this situation -- the protester clearly violated the law and any reasonable moral standard by attacking the police like he did, and the officer clearly overreacted (and is expected to face manslaughter charges). But Giuliani has become a martyr for anti-globalisation violence. Protest leaders are now calling for a halt to the summit because of the death.

The violent faction is shooting the anti-globalisation movement in the foot. They're turning what could have become a dialogue between two legitimate ideas about how the world should be into a war. Rather than aim for a mutually acceptable agreement between the two sides, the violent wing is insisting it must be all or nothing, one winner and one loser. But I don't see how the disorganised and low-budget anti-globalisation movement can win this war.

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