With the G20 controversy, one could almost forget the NATO summit this week, hosted by Strasbourg. The preparations of counter-protests have been received with an authoritarian response, recalling the revelations that a UK government databank has been created on protesters. It seems the practice is international. A few miles away is the European Court of Human Rights.
Removal of anti-NATO flags “is not acceptable”
Strasbourg – the Socialist mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, has declared in a press release that “it is not acceptable” that “certain residents of Strasbourg have been ordered to remove from their windows the rainbow flag, a symbol of piece.” According to the joint anti-NATO committee, which has sold 360 of the flags bearing the words “peace” and “No to NATO”, at least three “clearly identified” people have been visited by police officers requesting that they put away this dangerous piece of cloth.
Police chiefs for the département deny giving orders on the matter. It is a mystery who is responsible. In any case, the vocal indignation provoked by the initiative seems to have put it to an end. According to Roland Ries, “holding the NATO summit in Strasbourg must be compatible with the fundamental democratic right of freedom of expression, respecting the law and individuals, and within the framework of security measures as decreed by the police at departmental level.” “No cause, no event can justify the restriction of the freedom of expression of our fellow citizens,” declared the joint Socialist-Republican-Greens group of the Strasbourg city council.
At the same time, via a letter distributed to the residents of Strasbourg, the group has approved “the exceptional security measures put in place on this occasion, notably concerning the protection of certain sites and restrictions on movement of traffic in areas termed red or orange.” According to the group, “these arrangements are necessary to ensure all protests and journeys can run smoothly, to caution against any possible acts of violence and to ensure the optimum level of security in the town.”
and from the organisers of the protest:
Freedom of assembly and police harassment
The Strasbourg joint anti-NATO committee is outraged at the willingness of the police to criminalise residents of the cooperative Village taking place in Ganzau [on the outskirts of Strasbourg]. Several identity checks took place on the site of the village, by the same police officers, during a period when the initial contact with local residents gave rise to rich exchanges.
Thursday 26th: Police officers perform checks on the first residents of the village, explaining that it was the new policy of the departmental police to perform identity checks on all village organisers until it became operational.
Friday 27th: The same police officers return for further identity checks.
After several requests to the departmental police for an explanation, on Friday we were informed that it was simply a case of over-zealous police officers.
On the night of the 27th, new identity checks were performed in the surrounding area, by officers openly seeking to file the details of the participants in the alternative village.
This raises several worrying questions:
– Are the authorities capable of controlling their workforce?
– As systematic and collective identity checks can only be effected on the order of the public prosecutor, one must wonder whether such an order was given, or whether it was a case of illegal actions by police officers.
– Is it a deliberate strategy of harassment aiming to aggravate the climate of tension?
The joint anti-NATO committee requests that these practices, worthy of totalitarian systems, cease, so that the village might take place in a town that may thus display its respect for human rights and the right to opposition, in a democracy that claims to be participative.