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Trade Union Federation Leader injured in Davos
29 January 2001
Maxine Gay, President of the New Zealand Trade Union Federation has her arm in plaster after breaking her wrist during the anti-World Economic Forum activities in Davos Switzerland. She and other anti-WEF activists were forced by police to take a treacherous route back to their guest house in the icy sub-zero conditions rather than the well lit and ice free main road. Maxine slipped and broke her wrist in the fall.
Maxine Gay was one of the few anti-WEF people to get into Davos over the last few days. She was there to attend the "Public Eyes on Davos" Conference that took place only a few hundred metres from the WEF Conference Centre in Davos. Many participants and speakers for the conference were turned back by armed troops and police at Swiss frontier borders and also at the nearby town of Landquart.
The following is her final report from Davos.
"Many of those turned back were young and with long hair. The police targeted them as being potential "violent demonstrators". Perhaps my "motherly looks" enabled me to enter the town.
"The police and troops were especially nervous of the planned demonstration that was scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday 27 January. On the morning of the 27th Davos was completely cut off from the outside world. Trains carrying those wishing to demonstrate were turned back at Lanquart and armed police and soldiers patrolling the streets of Davos detained anyone they thought may be a protester.
"Despite all the difficulties, around 500 people still managed to assemble at the Davos railway station.
"However as we moved off onto the main street the police came from behind as well is in front. The police used huge assault vehicles with guns mounted on the top and had smaller vehicles with steel gates attached to the front. The demonstrators were then completely fenced in and sprayed with water.
"The police / soldiers outnumbered the demonstrators by about 5 to 1. They were carrying tear gas canisters, riot shields and guns. Some of the scenes were reminiscent of Tiananmen.
"The more than 1,000 people stranded at Lanquart and unable to reach Davos were dispersed with tear gas dropped on them from helicopters.
"An interesting debate developed at the Public Eyes Conference regarding the decision of the WTO to hold its next Ministerial meeting in Qatar. Qatar is an absolute monarchy and is known for restricting freedom of assembly association. The initial response of participants was to oppose the holding of the WTO in a place as undemocratic as Qatar. However, we had to ask ourselves after the Davos experience is Switzerland any better yet it hosts the WTO, the ILO and the UN Human Rights institutions.
"The democratic veneer of countries such as Switzerland, which capitulated to Nazism in WW II can be seen to be very thin."