FROM GOTHENBURG - 15
June 2001 David
Lister and Martin Fletcher in Gothenburg, The Times
15 June 2001
David Lister and Martin Fletcher in Gothenburg, The Times
Protesters show Bush what they think of him
THOUSANDS of anti-American protesters arrived in Gothenburg yesterday as Swedish police mounted one of the biggest security operations in their history.
By last night an estimated 9,000 demonstrators had arrived in the second city, 300 miles southwest of Stockholm. Hundreds of people bared their buttocks in a protest aimed at sending a strong message to President Bush, and at least eight people were arrested after clashing with riot police outside a high school. Nobody was injured in the scuffle, which broke out after youths in black masks hurled bottles and cobblestones at police, marring a day of otherwise peaceful demonstrations.
The protesters included environmentalists furious at Mr Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto accords; feminists angered by his opposition to abortion; left-wing groups opposed to globalisation; death penalty opponents; trade unionists and a medley of groups opposed to Mr Bush’s policies in the Middle East, Cuba and Latin America. More than 40 groups came together under the umbrella organisation Bush Not Welcome.
They converged in the city centre to perform what was hailed as the first organised “mass moon” protest. At precisely 4.08pm, amid smirks and bemused giggles from a row of watching policemen, a small brass band burst into sound and gave the signal for about 2,000 naked buttocks to be pointed in the direction of President Bush’s hotel.
Male, female, hairy, spotty, pale, tanned — the range of bottoms displayed in the square opposite the SAS Radisson hotel was meant to give the visiting President a lasting and unmistakable impression of just how poorly he is rated by ordinary Europeans.
Love Severin, a 16-year-old from Stockholm, said he was proud to have taken part in the protest. He wore a bright pink T-shirt emblazoned with the single word “Lena”, the name of a Swedish youth organisation campaigning on behalf of social, environmental and feminist issues.
“I don’t like his policies, but he seems so low-minded and so determined not to have anything to do with ordinary people that this is one of the only ways we can show how we feel,” said Henrike Wegener, 20, a German student who showed no sign of embarrassment as she pulled her khaki trousers down three times in as many minutes. Her friends held a banner showing an American flag disappearing into a bin with the message “No More Gar-Bush”.
It was President Bush’s misfortune that Sweden is the venue for this month’s European Union summit, because of all the EU members none is more opposed to what he stands for. The 9 million people who inhabit this vast land of lakes and forests are paragons of environmental correctness and simply appalled by Mr Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto accords and his new national energy policy, which promotes production over conservation.
The biggest achievement of Mr Bush’s presidency has been winning congressional approval of his $1.3 trillion (£930 billion) tax cut plan, but Swedes happily pay some of the highest taxes in Europe to finance a cradle-to-grave welfare system.
Mr Bush presided over 152 executions in six years as governor of Texas — Sweden abolished the death penalty in 1921. Swedes are strong supporters of abortions rights, but one of Mr Bush’s first acts was to end support for international organisations that promote abortion. They consistently elect left-of-centre governments, and happily welcomed American draft resisters during the Vietnam War. Sweden is not a member of Nato.
For his part Mr Bush is doing little to win over the Swedish, or European, public. Yesterday he met the King and Queen of Sweden, the heads of government of the EU’s 15 member states and some business leaders, but in keeping with the general practice of his week-long tour he encountered not a single member of the public.