The media and the anti capitalist globalisation movement : Learning from Nice summit protest

You may remember back in early December (2000) the news being dominated for several nights by coverage of the European Summit in Nice. An endless stream of politicians and political experts offered us their opinions on what new voting arrangements might be introduced. You might even be aware that there was some opposition on the streets of Nice to the summit, on December 7th most TV news items started with brief footage of a bank being set on fire

The Nice summit became a focus for opposition because the 'Charter of Fundamental Rights' it introduced was, despite its name, yet another attack on the rights of workers across Europe. It also would allow the EU Commission to directly negotiate with the WTO and so impose the deregulation of services including health, education and water. If you were relying on the media you were probably unaware these issues were even on the agenda!

On the eve of the Summit around 80,000 people marched through Nice. Most were behind the banners of the European Confederation of Unions with around 10,000, including many anarchists, behind the banner of the Collective for a Counter-Summit.

The French state had already taken significant steps to undermine the demonstration. A train carrying up to 2,000 demonstrators was stopped crossing the Italian border at the town of Vintimille by hundreds of CRS riot police. When they left the train they were attacked by Italian police firing tear gas. The Irish Times carried a front page picture of this confrontation without bothering to explain what had caused it.

Meanwhile in Nice French riot police attacked the thousands of demonstrators who at the end of the demonstration had headed to the train station to show solidarity with the Italians. As the French IMC* later reported "The Schengen Agreement 'guaranteeing' freedom of movement in Europe had been violated, preventing the Italians from going to Nice. Since the Italians were not consumer goods, they did not have the right to cross the border."

This denial of freedom of movement was not just happening on the borders, it was also happening in France itself. Collectives had formed to demand free trains for the demonstrations to allow unemployed people to attend. But at the stations the trains were to leave from, Paris, Dijon, Lyon and Bordeaux, the police were waiting and confrontations occurred. At the worst in Bordeaux there were several injuries and arrests.

On the opening day of the summit the more determined protesters tried to blockade the conference centre, a tactic also used in Seattle, Prague and Melbourne. At dawn up to 6,000 demonstrators marched on the 'Acropolis' in different groups and by different routes. As they reached the police barricades they were attacked with tear gas and baton charges. One group that broke through to within 100 metres of the centre was also attacked with stun grenades and rubber bullet pistols.

Reuters reported that "Several East European leaders, due for talks with the EU, stepped out of their cars at the fortress-like Acropolis convention centre coughing and wiping tears from their eyes." Other mainstream media reported that at times tear gas was sucked into the ventilation system of the conference itself, making Chirac cough during his opening speech.

It was during all this that a bank was set on fire and several cars were overturned. These images were used by many TV news programs without any real explanation of the context in which they arose. And of course there was no coverage of the peaceful solidarity protest in Dublin that night.

At the same time police in Nice launched attacks on reports from independent media. IMC reported that "A Zalea TV journalist was arrested .... He was brutally knocked to the ground and handcuffed throughout the afternoon... Three Kri-prod reporters were arrested as they were shooting video of the demonstrations. A Patriot journalist shooting an altercation got violently kicked in the groin by a police officer"

In hindsight Nice deserves to be remembered for the extreme bias shown by the media. Despite hundreds of hours of coverage the media ignored key issues. The counter summit attended by thousands of people was completely ignored. It finally closed when the police fired tear gas into the venue! Coverage of the demonstrations was laughable - confined to a few images of unexplained 'violence'. Once more the demonstrators were presented as a handful of violent hooligans without any alternative to capitalist globalisation.

This shouldn't be a surprise, after all the media is owned and controlled by the very governments and corporations pushing capitalist globalisation. It's very hard for the individual activist to overcome this unless they have internet access (see below). If you do then a number of sources were carrying reports from the demonstrators. But most people don't have internet access and so publications like this are the only way of reaching them.

* French Indy Media Centre - part of a global network of web pages that allows anyone to add their own text reports, photos or video for others to look at.
See is an excellent source for international anarchist news in many languages.

The WSM and 17 other anarchist groups produced a statement for Nice that was distributed there in four languages. See

First published in Workers Solidarity 62, January 2000

WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )


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