★ ISM - UK
Some personal impressions during the "Bologna Burns" protests and "counter-summit" in Vienna
I was one of about 200 activists who travelled from Germany to Vienna [Austria] to join the protests against the 10 year celebrations of the "Bologna-Process".
Education ministers of all 46 countries involved in this process met in Budapest [March 10th] and Vienna [March 11th] to celebrate. The local movement decided to mobilize internationally to the venue, especially to Vienna. (A symbolic protest was also arranged in Budapest [Hungary].) The idea was to show, that people across Europe reject this process and to use a "counter-summit" to learn from each other and network.
During the first night [March10/11th] more than 100 students began to occupy some lecture halls of the "Neue Institutsgebäude" [NIG]. After realizing that the occpiers might risk the cancellation of the "alternative summit" by the university administration, they decided to demand the guarantee to freely use spaces for the planned "counter-summit". Another argument was the apparent need for space to sleep. After some negotiations the building was left again the next morning.
Local organizers called for the main demonstration on March11th, knowing that the education ministers would arrive in the evening for celebrations. I believe all in all about 10,000 people followed the call and flooded the streets. Things were rather calm at first, since police forces were hardly present and those who were remained surprisingly passive.
Besides some spontaneous grafities and a couple of fellow protesters on a church roof top everything everything went as planned [be this good or bad is to you to judge]. The demonstration consisted of various blocks, incl. one by uniriot, who came with about 200 activists all the way from Italy.
Take a look at this video to get an impression of the demonstration or check out the video below, which is still my favorite, made by uniriot:
Beside the speeches by student activists from Serbia and Italy the rest was rather disappointing, especially those propagating "a better education system for the future of Austria" [puke!]. Many people still don't see the global nature of the struggle! We want education systems not serving constructs like "nations" or capital - but people; no matter who or where they are!
Anyway, after 90 minutes of speeches, a little siege of the Austrian parliament building [no idea what that was for] and 3 hours of walking the demonstration split up into 6 blocks, each one marked with a flag in a particular colour [similar to the G8 blockades in Heiligendamm in 2007]. The idea was to bring traffic around the venue of the 10 year "Bologna celebrations" to a halt and prevent delegates from reaching the "Hofburg" this way. For some hours groups tried to find their way to the venue, but it was mostly cut off by police forces in riot gear. So we decided to just block one road leading the the "Hofburg". It was damn cold! But we [a group of maybe 100 people] remained on the spot for about 90mins.
Efforts partly paid off, some delegates were stuck in traffic [one even headed back to the hotel], which resulted in the "opening ceremony" being delayed by 90 minutes. But at what price?
At one point I witnessed how riot police attacked protesters, pushing them against walls and partly using pepper spray. Identities of about 100 people were varified [most had to pay a penalty of €42,- for disturbing the flow of traffic], a few were arrested. Furthermore activists were injured when people drove into crowds. One situation was particularly dramatic, when a driver of some luxury speed car drove backwards in full speed right into a small crowd gathering behind the car. It was a shock for all who witnessed it. Fortunately nobody was seriously injured [as far as I know], but at least one person landed on boot and was dragged a few meters. As a result the driver lost one side mirror and has a few bucklings now.
The following night a spontaneous demonstration in solidarity with those effected by police repression during the protests the previous day, as well as to protest a police shooting that killed a 14 year old [Florian P.] on Aug.5th 2009 in Vienna took place. About 300 left the campus and soon returned encircled by riot police. This led to quite a tense situation, as riot police on campus usually does - and should. But since students came from all corners of the campus shouting at them ["Haut ab!" = "F**k off!"], they slowly left the scene again.
Many people also came to take part in the "counter-summit" and visit some of the workshops. You can download the programm here, if you are interested.
There was an "international forum" every day, which I personally found very useful. It was used to network, but no real steps were taken to really unite in the future. Unfortunately that opportunity was missed. The four biggest networks participating in the "international forum" were [as far as I can tell] uniriot (Italy), Bologna Burns Vienna (Austria), Bologna Burns Madrid (Spain) - no idea how well groups across Spain are connected though - and the "International Student Movement". If we could get these networks connected and unite for a specific agenda, then that would be a great basis to build on. One afternoon was also used to continue the preparations for the "European Education Congress". The four days in Vienna were generally used to inform about the upcoming congress in Bochum - which was accepted by many to be next important opportunity to network and co-ordinate future protests internationally - and the "Global Wave of Action for Education".
According to the organizers about 2,000 participants joined the workshops.
The final panel discussion [eve of March13th] took place in an over-crowded lecture hall with maybe 800 people. Content-wise it was not really productive.
The atmosphere was generally very pleasent and local organizers tried hard to have everything well prepared and remained friendly all the time. The "occupation" [which is being supported by the rector since the end of Oct. 2009 - yes, no kidding!] at the Academy of Fine Arts was impressive, greeting everyone with a huge banner:
Thanks to all who prepared the demonstration, the "counter-summit", as well as accomodation opportunities and spent time and energy in the soup-kitchen :)
PS: pictures, pictures [II], pictures [III], pictures [IV], video [reporter filming police action being detained], video [police presence right next to the main uni building], video [some impression of demo], video [part of the demo]
And the Agenda continues...