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Leo Adler: At the G8 Summit, Demonstrators and disruptors are successfully exerting their influence


Leo Adler: At the G8 Summit, Demonstrators and disruptors are successfully exerting their influence

It is hot here in Heiligendamm (H'damm). And it's not just the weather. Tempers are also rising as the world's media is being barred from getting to H'damm by the cutting of access routes by the demonstrators or, to be more exact and to differentiate, the "disruptors."

The demonstrators and disruptors combined are successfully exerting their influence, not on the leaders and their immediate entourage, who are whisked to and from Hailigendamm in helicopters, but upon the journalists and others who simply can't get to H'damm. As a result, the first media conference, set for later today may be covered by only a partial press corps.

If what the disruptors wanted was to test the flexing of their muscles against those of the heavily-armed and body-armored security forces, they have succeeded on Day 1.

At a meeting I attended in Moscow last November, I was told that the aims of the German "activists" (my term for the combined forces of demonstrators, disruptors, NGOs and their sympathizers) was to effectively shut down this G8 summit.

While the activists knew that they couldn't stop the leaders from actually meeting, they have been able to exploit the very factors that caused H'damm to be chosen as the conference site and turn them to their advantage.

Earlier, I had arrived in Rostok and was shocked by the damage that had been inflicted upon so many businesses in the heart of the old town during this past weekend's anti-globalization riots. Clearly violence was going to be one of the tools used to limit the spreading of the leaders' messages.

The first inkling, though, that I and countless others had as to the power of these anti-G8 groups to do more than destroy property, was when we were frustrated in our attempts to get into Kuhlungsborn, to get our accreditation papers.

H'damm had been picked as the site for the G8 because it was Chancellor Angela Merkel's opportunity to place this former East German area on the political map and because of its relative isolation on the shores of the Baltic Sea, with very limited road and rail connections and its small, easily-controlled, population and size. There is no airport, only a makeshift helicopter pad for the leaders and their immediate staffers.

The disruptors, obviously familiar with the local terrain, and relying on bicycles and hiking boots rather than vehicles and cumbersome military gear, have been able to infiltrate the woods surrounding H'damm and Kuhlungsborn to block the roads and rails with logs and whatever other material they have either gathered up or hidden away in the weeks leading to the summit.

So how do we observers, media and others get around? Well, I finally managed to get to Kuhlungsborn by going west and doubling back east. All other roads from Rostok were blocked, as were all the rail lines going into H'damm. From Kuhlungsborn we finally were flotillaed to H'damm in small navy shore patrol boats, 30 at a time. I guess we were lucky that the disruptors didn't have submarines.

The ultimate irony? Here it is, June 6 and on the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we are getting around on small navy boats because we are under siege.

Leo Adler: Day 1 at the G8 Summit

I am in Germany, at the G8 as a journalist/observer for Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and our worldwide organization. Having been involved in the planning meetings leading up to last years G8 sessions in Russia, I had been invited to attend this years summit in Germany.

My understanding was that efforts would be made to discuss terrorism Terrorists are not only an international problem worthy of discussion by the major democracies, but the last two G8s have been marred by terrorist acts in London and then in Israel. I wanted to see what will occur this year.

However, what I discovered is a story within the story that is the G8.

That story concerns the lack of information here in Germany and the failure to communicate, as we near the end of Day 1 of the G8 Summit, the annual meeting of the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Russia, Great Britain and the United States. In a word, the situation is flabbergasting, or, to use the current favoured German term, this is: absurdistan.

We (me and the hundreds of other media people, observers and NGO reps) are in one of the worlds most modern, sophisticated and well-developed countries, and yet, even though we are also in the midst of the Communication Age, you would never know it here in Heiligendamm (Hdamm). Apart from being virtually unable to get to or from Hdamm, now we find ourselves stranded in a sea of ignorance from well-meaning, but unknowing security officials.

As an example, when it comes to our being able to move around, time and factual veracity mean nothing. We were told that there would be no way of getting to Hdamm from Kuhlungsborn today, we were on a list of special journalists and delegations. Then it became a wider circle of people and finally everyone who wanted to, as long as they waited for the boat shuttles, could go. As I write this, hours after I finally moored at Hdamm, others are still arriving while yet others are still waiting in Kuhlunsborn.

Our movements in Hdamm itself are (understandably) restricted. Yet there is virtually no effort to bridge the language barrier. Most of the security people speak only German, as do almost all of the information staff who, to make matters worse, are lacking in information, too. For example, we were first told that the railway line was blocked by logs. That was later changed to people refusing to move from where they positioned themselves on the tracks.

As for the train, we were assured that we would absolutely not be able to use it today. Yet a few minutes ago, at the end of the day, while standing on the dock waiting for the boat, we were marched to the train station, because the tracks were now free of obstruction. Apparently the protesters were finally arrested, as I surmised from a German policeman who passed that information along by crossing his wrists and thus signifying the universal symbol of arrest. I asked an American security officer if that was correct and his response was that he had heard too many rumours to be able to confirm anything.

Having now spent a significant amount of time with journalists and some observers, foreign security officials and advisors, it is comic relief to listen to them. Their ideas as to what to do with the protestors ranged from the unprintable to the practical (cattle prod them and none of us will print it).

Leo Adler: Day 2 at the G8 Summit: The Russians did it better

Greenpeace is a day late.

They are now trying to disrupt the seaside approaches to Hdamm and Kuhlungsborn, but whereas yesterday they and their cohorts could have completely shut down the naval shuttle and all other access to Hdamm, their 24-hour delay has enabled the authorities to at least re-open the rail link, though road access is still hit and miss.

As I start this paragraph, about three hours after arriving here, the situation has changed again. I am at the train station waiting to go to Hdamm, except that now we are told that we have to go by boat. So maybe Greenpeace will succeed, though from what weve seen their latest attempt to do so was foiled.

The fluidity of the security situation is the prime and only topic among the non-diplomats here. It is also clear that the security officials are taking an opposite tack from yesterday. Whereas 24 hours ago they were extremely lenient with the protestors, today the gloves are off.

A CBC reporter/cameraman told me how he was clubbed and water-cannoned by the police as they went crazy with the protestors, telling them to move or they will be hurt and arrested. As the CBC journalist told me: they did hurt them, but didnt arrest them.

Those who were in St. Petersburg or were otherwise involved in last years Russian G8 meetings are nostalgic for Russian-style organization and efficiency. There, translations and timetables and information was provided, followed and accurate. As for demonstrations, there werent any to speak of in St. Petersburg, because those activities were restricted to Moscow, where their effect was nil.

As for the democrats who criticized Russia for this tactical division of the G8, those who were in St. Petersburg are saying that at least the summit was productive in that legitimate NGOs were able to have access to the leaders and make their views known something that clearly will not occur here.

The advice being given to civil society preparing for next years G8 in Japan? Talk to the Russians, not the Germans, especially if you dont want to be soaked as we are, as we arrive at Hdamm on the boat.

Leo Adler is director of National Affairs for Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.

Expert opinion

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