100,000 in Brussels for peace and workers’ rights

Dove of peace

From the Google cache.

100.000 in Brussels for peace and workers’ rights

Linking: 39

Date: 3/20/05 at 1:07AM

Mood: Marching Playing: War, by Edwin Starr

100.000 demonstrate against war and anti worker policies in Brussels

Like to many other places elsewhere in Europe and the world, Saturday 19 March brought to Brussels, capital of Belgium, many demonstrators against the Iraq war, which started two years ago, continuing almost two years after George W. Bush declared it finished.

The demonstration was jointly with the European trade unions, emphasizing the link of peace with pro worker social and economic policies.

According to Belgian police, 90.000 people participated. Police estimates are notoriously too low, so very probably over 100.000 demonstrated.

From the organizers’ web site:

19 March 2005 Brussels European Demonstration

Together for another Europe

social – egalitarian – peaceful – in solidarity

Meeting point: Porte d’Anderlecht near « Gare du Midi » (southern railway station)

1.30 pm: special events – music – stands
3.00 pm: social movement’s demonstration departure

The Belgian peace movement said:

Join the peace movement on the demonstration.

19th March is the second anniversary of the start of the war against Iraq.

The peace movement will not remain silent, and refuses to let Iraq slip quietly out of sight, as some politicians would prefer.

We call for the peace movement to be visible in the demonstration.

*Our demands: *Stop the occupation – Stop the economic plundering – Stop the war machine – Disarm all weapons of mass destruction – No military spending in place of social spending

This video is called (Common) Pheasant (Phasianus colchius).

Already at 7.15 in the morning, I departed with one of many special trade union buses. Soon, I saw a male pheasant close to the road.

A little further, a white stork in a meadow.

In Rotterdam, a great cormorant flew over the bus.

Why are you demonstrating?

Why are you demonstrating, I asked my fellow passengers, the Van Poelgeest married couple sitting next to me.

Mr Van Poelgeest said he used to be a shipyard worker. The yard used to build patrol boats for the police, but had closed down.

“Though I am retired now, I have been a trade unionist all my life.

And I intend to stay active, as everything we have fought for is now under threat from Rightist government policies.”

Jolanda Sijbel, can you, the steward of our bus, please tell our Internet readers a bit more about yourself?

I am a trade union full timer, working at public sector union AbvaKabo. I am also a member of the services union FNV Bondgenoten.

Belgian anti Bolkestein demonstrators

The main reason why I demonstrate today is the proposal by ex European Union commissioner Bolkestein.

It would allow businesses to export bad labour situations from Poland or other East European countries to Western Europe and we shouldn’t have that.

That would destroy jobs and be a race to the bottom. It’d be better to help workers in Poland fighting for a better situation there.

Oh, is there an anti Bolkestein Internet site? Good that you tell me, I didn’t know yet.

Mr Van Poelgeest: When the East European countries joined the European union, more lax rules for businesses were imposed on them. Pro worker rules were not.

The main reason why I am here is to fight the cutbacks in social rights, in pensions, etc.

Last year, I was in Amsterdam as well, at the biggest trade union demonstration in Dutch history, of over 300.000 people.

What do you experience in your personal life of bad government and international policies?

We can’t afford the Internet

Well, we are very badly off financially.

We would like to have an Internet connection, but we can’t afford it. Like millions of people in The Netherlands and still more in other countries.

I would like to read on the Internet what those proposals for a new European Union constitution are about. But I haven’t.

So what should I vote at the referendum on June 1 in The Netherlands on these proposals?

Alex (a retired teacher, also on the bus): I know the proposals, and I will certainly vote no.

They propose economic policy like the Bolkestein proposal.

They also propose to have mandatory rising military expenses in the constitution (not any other expenses like for social security).

That should not be in a constitution at all. Say what you want about how US politicians twist the US constitution, but it doesn’t contain nonsense like that.

That way, Europe will become militarist like George W. Bush’s USA. They should have a completely opposite, peaceful, policy.

However, to get that, you have to break the big influence of the armaments industry in Europe first.

The constitutional proposals are also very bad for the environment.

It’s good that public opinions poll show that most voters in France will probably reject the constitution at their referendum, on May 29. That would be a good example for The Netherlands, two days later.

Martijn: I work in technical education for construction workers.

The proposals of Bolkestein and the EU constitution work towards prolonging the working week to 44, 50, or more hours.

In France, the legal working week is 35 hours; it should stay that way.

So, I oppose this EU constitution. Also as I am pro peace. Peace has always been linked to the workers’ movement.

When the bus stopped for some minutes, anti EU constitution flyers were distributed.

By the way, the constitutional proposals are by Right French politician Valery Giscard d’Estaing, previously mainly known for a corruption scandal with diamonds of Central African dictator who crowned himself emperor, Bokassa.


Mrs Van Poelgeest, I heard from your husband how bad policies affect him. How do they affect you?

Mrs van Poelgeest: though I am 66 now, higher than the legal pension age of 65, I hardly get any old age pension.

That is because I was born in, and always worked in a hospital, in Suriname. I was a member of the hospital workers’ union there, part of the CLO trade union federation.

However, the Dutch government does not count all my working years in Suriname, just the fewer years I worked in The Netherlands since arriving there in the 1990s.

So, I get just a very small old age pension, and I have very few working hours at a lawyer’s office now. However, this does not add up to enough.

What a shame, Mrs Van Poelgeest, as millionaires who inherited their money and never worked a day in their life do get 100% old age pensions unlike you.

And much of the time when you worked in Suriname, it was a Dutch overseas territory.

And the Dutch businesses, and Dutch slave owners before them, making lots of profits in Suriname did not run into such trouble with the government as you do now.

Mrs Van Poelgeest: At government offices, they make you fill in endless forms, and then, they say to you: no, you can’t have anything. Meanwhile, prices rise.

Mr Van Poelgeest: in The Netherlands, petrol is more expensive than in Belgium or Germany. Yet one of the biggest oil corporations, Shell, is Dutch based.


Our bus arrived in Brussels. Though it was hours before the official beginning of the demonstration, already thousands were present.

Technically, the march consisted of three parts. First, mainly Belgian youth organizations marched. Then, European trade unions.

Last, peace, environmental, and other organizations in the European Social Forum; and political parties.

As I wanted to be sure there would be a bus home for me, I stayed in the middle section, and didn’t see much of contingents, specially for peace organizations, or for youth organizations.

Among the slogans on signs and banners in the central, trade union, part of the demonstration: Bush, Blair, Balkenende [Dutch Prime Minister], war for oil is stupid.

Taxes for peace, not war. Working class: enough is enough!

There were mainly two sorts of peace flags in the demonstration. The rainbow flag, originally from Italy, with PACE or PEACE on it.

And the blue flag with white dove of peace, often with the name of the French peace movement Mouvement de la Paix on it; but also without letters among German demonstrators.

There were also blue flags of the Belgian Liberal trade union federation, one of few union federations of that tendency in Europe.

And Romanian flags of trade unionists from that country, red flags of the German DGB federation and the Italian CGIL, and flags of anarchists, of the Turkish’ workers’ federation, and Croats. And a big banner against occupation of Iraq.

There were very many international contacts, so that Dutch unionists whistled on (green) whistles of the Belgian Christian union federation and had Polish Solidarnosc jackets on.

While Moroccan Belgian children came to get Dutch FNV union flags.

Loudspeakers played Slave driver, by Bob Marley.

And Bella Ciao (an Italian song on a woman fighter against Mussolini and Hitler; lyrics and music here.

Before the march started, speakers addressed the crowd. An Italian woman union representative called to loud applause for foreign troops out of Iraq; and independent investigation to find out the truth about US troops firing at her compatriot Giuliana Sgrena, killing a Italian security agent.

She also recalled the violent death of Italian anti G7 demonstrator Carlo Giuliani in Genoa.

Another Italian woman, from the executive of the international textile workers’ federation, emphasized the links between peace and workers’ movements.

German communists of the DKP had flags with portraits of Ernst Thälmann (communist killed in one of Hitler’s concentration camps) and of Ernesto Che Guevara.

There were also banners against German “Hartz 4″ social security cuts.

German anti-fascist, as well as other anti-racist, signs, were also in the march.

Behind the Germans, the Romanians marched. Then the Dutch. Officially, marching was supposed to take one hour, from the southern to the northern railway station.

We didn’t know yet it would take over two hours and a half, as there were many more demonstrators than expected.

More slogans: G7 (richest seven countries, meeting in Scotland): warmongers, neo-colonialists.

Wanted: George W. Bush, for aiding and abetting terrorism. Your (George W. Bush’s etc.) wars: our dead. No war for oil.

Against cutbacks, occupation [of Iraq], and capitalism. A real job; not a blowjob!

There were very many slogans against the Bolkestein proposal; including Bolkestein=Frankenstein. Luxembourg unionists had slogans: against the Europe of Chirac and Berlusconi.

Also very many urging to vote against the proposed EU constitution.

Many of those from the French CGT, the union federation with most marchers that day. The media often call the CGT (simplistically) the union of the French Communist Party. Simplistically, as many supporters of other parties or of no party are also members of this biggest French union federation.

Most CGT demonstrators were from northern France, between Paris and the Belgian border.

Some had travelled all the way from the Tarn or the Rhone in southern France. A CGT band played the Internationale.

A twentyish CGT woman led marchers in chants of Non! Non! Non! A la constitution {no to the proposed EU constitution)!

A sign said: the bosses will vote yes to the constitution; they have very good reasons for themselves.

I told an elderly CGT member that some opinion polls in The Netherlands predict a majority No vote to the proposal at the referendum, like some polls in France.

He immediately gave a thumbs up sign. A colleague of his said: France will vote Non!

There were also smaller contingents from France from the FEN (teachers, not affiliated to a union federation), and the smaller federation CFDT.

The CFDT, originally Christian, is more moderate than the CGT.

Though they too oppose the Bolkestein proposals, their leaders say yes to the constitution proposals, which not all members are happy with.

As the marchers progressed slowly, because of the crowds, they saw signs reminding them of US wars since 1945: Guatemala, Haiti, Vietnam, etc. etc. …

Some windows along the march still had posters of Bush not welcome actions in Brussels in February.

One could hear songs like Chiffon rouge, Le temps des cerises, Bandera rossa (red flag; Italian)

I saw, besides “unorganized” young people, members of the Young Socialists, and Communists, from France; and from Belgium, of the Workers’ Party, and Catholic Workers’ Youth.

Belgian French language anarchist paper Le Libertaire was also present. So was the French-speaking Belgian Ecolo party with their green flags.

Trade unionists had covered a high-rise office building which we passed with anti Bolkestein banners.

As we came closer to the northern railway station, we passed members of the Iranian Social Forum. And of the Italian peace organization Women in Black.

Close to the speaker’s rostrum for the final meeting hang a big poster, asking: how can one condemn the 9/11 atrocity in New York City by Bin Laden, while remaining silent on the dead in Iraq?

The number of dead civilians in Iraq on the poster was 9.000, crossed out by someone substituting 20.000, then crossed out again with the 100.000 estimate of the British Medical Journal.

A woman from the CGT executive said from the stage: ten years ago, unions were not strong enough to stop anti worker European Union measures. However, now there is that possibility!

The official meeting was over. A band played Lady Marmelade, by Labelle. The demonstrators tried to find their buses back home.

Which wasn’t that simple, as Brussels police made a last-minute decision that as the city was so overcrowded, buses had to depart further from the meeting than expected.

Well, at last our bus could go away, while two fiftyish ladies with signs “Bush wanted for terrorism” waved us goodbye.

Peace demonstrations in 2006: here.

Strasbourg demonstration, against Bolkestein plan, 14 February 2006: here.

5 thoughts on “100,000 in Brussels for peace and workers’ rights

  1. Arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge for the 3,000 US Dead
    Posted by: “Corey” cpmondello@yahoo.com cpmondello
    Thu Jan 4, 2007 11:33 pm (PST)

    Police state…..who thinks America hasn’t practiced this for years?

    Arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge for the 3,000 US Dead

    January 3, 2007


    “After an hour, a group of ten walkers in pink came into sight. They had come from the Marin County side of the bridge walking peacefully and respectfully to honor those who have died. Finally after two hours CHP announced that the bridge was closed to pedestrians and we had to leave, which we did not do. Ten of us were then arrested for trespass.”

    “It was ironic that I, as a retired US Army Colonel, was arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge in sight of the Presidio of San Francisco, a former US Army base. The Presidio was my first assignment in the Army almost forty years ago. I served at the Presidio during the Vietnam War when anti-war protesters rocked the city of San Francisco and the nation when hundreds of thousands marched from the Bay to the Ocean. Thousands of GIs went AWOL from the Vietnam War and lived in the Haight Asbury area of San Francisco. When they were picked up by military police in the city, they were taken to the notorious Presidio Stockade. In 1968, twenty seven of these imprisoned soldiers protested the shotgun killing of a mentally disturbed prisoner by a guard. They sat in the prison courtyard, sang “We Shall Overcome,” and were charged and tried for “mutiny” which carried a possible death sentence. The image of GIs facing the electric chair for singing “We Shall Overcome” caused a national
    uproar and after the first several mutineers to be tried got 14, 15, and 16 years each, disillusionment about the military and the war grew in the civilian community and especially within the ranks of the military. Many historians consider the Presidio 27 incident as one of the first major GI resistance actions of the Vietnam War.”

    Full story;


  2. Strasbourg: workers, stop EU Bolkestein plans! Comments: 0
    Date: 2/9/06 at 11:27PM
    Mood: Looking Playing: Get up, Stand up, by Bob Marley

    Belgian dock workers against Bolkestein

    Dear Guest,

    After two years of discussion on the Bolkestein directive, the plenary of the European Parliament on 14-16/02/06 will be decisive.

    No Valentine for Bolkestein!

    It is time for all members of parliament to take action and to sustain the demonstrations of Saturday 11 (NGO’s and social movements) and Tuesday 14 (Unions) in Strasbourg for « another directive on services ».

    After almost two years of debates raging across Europe, discussions on the Bolkestein directive are now reaching the crucial stage in the European parliament.

    We know that, in its current state, the draft directive is quite simply unacceptable: it is nothing more and nothing less than a project to deregulate the services market.

    Moreover, because of its across-the-board application, it threatens the achievement of missions of general interest and the regulatory role of the public authorities at the national, regional and local levels.

    Finally, the application of the country of origin principle as a general rule would lead to social, fiscal and environmental dumping throughout the European Union.

    Even if the directive has so far undergone a few changes thanks to parliamentarian work of some progressists, the Bolkestein directive as such still represents a real threat for the European social model.

    We have arrived at a decisive moment.

    All civic actions targeting the MP’s are urgent and of fundamental importance.

    At the eve of vote in the plenary, 3 points are to be raised (details here under):

    two demonstrations are organised in Strasbourg.

    Feel free to join! any support is more than welcome ;
    To participate you will also find below amodel e-mail requesting support for the amendments defending the petition’s demands, which you can send to all MP’s

    Last but not least, after proposal of Belgian Unions who meet the chairman of the European Parliament Borrell, the petition will be officially given to Mister Borrell.

    It is more essential than ever that our members of parliament know that we are following this issue closely!

    Let’s take part in all the initiatives! Hoping to be able to count on your unfailing support, we send you our militant greetings.

    No to Liberal Directive on Services, yes to social directive on public services !


    Saturday 11/02/06 in Stasbourg : demonstration : meeting/starting point at « Place de l’Etoile » at 14.00 – Closure at « Palais de la musique et des congrès » at 18.00 where there will be a few speeches from different european NGO’s and social movements representatives

    Tuesday 14 at 9.30 AM in Strasbourg : as the Belgian Unions will bring up the petition requests inside to the chairman, anybody who has signed the petition and is in Strasbourg is more than welcome to support and join outside ! Further details (exact place) will be put on line next Monday.

    Tuesday 14/02/06 in Strasbourg: demonstration of Unions.

    See all details after ETUC call for mobilization here.

    Model e-mail to send to all European Parliament members

    Dear Madam,

    Dear Sir,

    In my capacity as a citizen, I am deeply concerned about the « Bolkestein » draft directive which seeks to completely open up the “services market in Europe”.

    I find this conception of « market absolutism » extremely disturbing.

    Services provided to human beings are not mere goods that should be bought and sold.

    General-interest services such as education, culture, health and the audiovisual must be preserved from the rules of competition.

    For this reason, I have signed the petition at http://www.stopbolkestein.org, whose demands I hope you will read attentively.

    I am proud to inform you that as of today we have collected nearly 100,000 electronic and paper signatures, and that no fewer than 300 organisations are supporting this effort.

    I know that you will be discussing the draft directive in next week’s plenary and that many amendments are on the table.

    I therefore ask you to take the petition’s demands into account when you, your group or your party will express its views… and its vote on the subject.

    In line with the petition’s demands, I support and ask you to support today the amendments seeking to:

    drastically reduce the directive’s scope of application, more specifically by excluding services of general interest and general economic interest, in particular education, health care and social services, audiovisual services, the services of gas, electricity and water, environmental services as well as temporary employment agencies ;

    recognise that the services directive merely supplements the existing sectoral directives or those yet to come, as well as the provisions of the Rome Convention on the law applicable to contractual obligations and those of the draft “Rome II” regulation relating to the law applicable to non-contractual obligations ; these laws must take precedence over the services directive ;

    recognise that the services directive has no affect on the applicability of the labour law of the host country, including the collective agreements, any more than the application of the directive on the secondment of workers ;

    permit the Member States to preserve the requirements imposed on service providers for imperative reasons of general interest, in conformity with the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice ;

    provide an alternative to the country of origin principle, which in any event should not be applied to an area where an adequate level of harmonisation has not been attained ;

    launch an ambitious process of harmonisation concerning the rules relating to the authorisation regimes and procedures, the requirements placed on service providers, the behaviour of the provider, the quality or the content of the services, advertising, contracts and the responsibility of the provider; such harmonisation must concern only the services covered by this directive, it being understood that the general-interest services mentioned in point 1 above are excluded from its scope.

    For me it is essential to obtain guarantees regarding the future of Europe, its social model, and thus regarding your position with respect to this directive. I expect a firm and convincing reaction from you.

    I hope to be able to count on your personal commitment on this vital issue. I will read your response carefully and will be following your action closely.

    Hoping that your choice will assuage my concerns and will help to impede the unravelling of our European model of society,


  3. The Portuguese workers, under the slogan FOR A SOCIAL EUROPE – EMPLOYMENT WITH RIGHTS, and with a strong sense of brotherhood, convey their solidarity to the European workers, in view of the common fight for better working conditions and a dignifying life, by claiming for social justice, progress and peace in the construction of Europe.

    With the promise of economic growth and development of the country, more and more efforts go on being requested to the Portuguese workers.

    As a result, most Portuguese workers see their real salaries decreasing, imbalances growing, poverty spreading, social and territorial cohesion weakened, equal opportunities disappearing and unemployment and precarious work boosting.

    In other words, the country’s development has been put off.

    More info http://www.cgpt.pt



  4. Pingback: Stop anti-democratic anti-strike legislation | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: British Conservative Boris Johnson, new book | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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