Methinks the lady don’t protest too much at the Council Summit
By Sean O'Dubhghaill Arriving at Rue De La Roi early this morning (8:30) I expected to be surrounded on all sides by protesting youngsters, a kind of EU delegation all of their own. I expected voices, the expression of concern by the masses, against their leaders. Put concisely, I expected crowds.
Instead I was greeted by two policeman and a cyclist on his way through- The young French cyclist was complaining that the police barricade had blocked his way to work and was suggesting that the policeman “lend” him money for a taxi to cover the 500 extra metres detour he would now have to take. The policeman didn’t even politely decline, simply thanking him strangely enough-
There were some posters, with pictures of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy’s huge forehead. On closer inspection though these posters are an affirmation of the goals of the summit, speaking as they do directly to the stated interests of the summit. The website reads: “Without stronger action the environmental group is concerned that energy savings will remain a voluntary policy that European countries have largely ignored.” This is doubly true considering the shelving of the Energy policy discussions in place of concerns over unrest in Egypt, Maghreb and Yemen. Professor Jerzy Buzek has set the tone for the days events with his address detailing: “I would like to raise two issues today, economic governance and energy. But let me start by saying a few words about the situation in North Africa” (According to a press briefing recently circulated)
I spoke to Brook Riley at Friends of the Earth Europe about this last minute reshuffle. He restated that it hasn’t changed their message for today. He went on to say that the primary agenda of the campaign is simple: “Reducing energy consumption is the cheapest, safest and cleanest way to reduce costs to the individual and create jobs. It also reduces energy dependency”. It was difficult to hear him, because I was speaking to him he was involved in protesting on the Rue De Loi and mentioned his optimism as well as the aims of the protest. He spoke to me about the launch of their New Campaign “Energy Savings: A Bright Idea...) which included cartoonish foreheads of political leaders with a variety of positive messages. However among the protesters the group had significantly upped their political message by carrying a placard with a naked portrait of Herman Van Rompuy on it. This exact tactic of portraying powerful leaders nude has been observed too in Ireland and has been used to great effect.
To close I would like to return to the Frenchman I spoke about at the outset. The cool, rehearsed response of the police, demands another kind of action. Conventional protesting is now being coupled with innovations in representations and coverage. Social Media has been re"-purposed" to great effect: This site has again has been met with a clampdown on widespread internet use. Being oppressed demands a response, whether it be in artful attacks on world leaders, stripping them of their clothes and power, using social media to relay the cause to the world. I might return here to the anecdote about our French friend who when encountering the police was simply fobbed off with a polite smile- I get the feeling he’ll be twittering about that policeman ruining his morning to friends or family, Facebook or Twitter before the end of the day.