G-8 Summit protesters hit war, greed

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – On June 8-10 many businesses here closed their doors as the city was virtually taken over by 20,000 military personnel and police who guarded the summit meeting of the Group of Eight.

The G-8 is an loose association the eight most powerful imperialist powers – the U.S., Germany, France, U.K., Italy, Canada, Japan, and Russia – that shape global policy through institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. It meets annually to discuss various policy issues.

Sea Island, where this year’s meeting was held, was heavily guarded by the military and effectively unreachable for peace and anti-globalization demonstrators, not to mention other people in the area.

Many Coastal Georgia businesses shut down and denied their workers pay during the week of the G-8 meeting. Brunswick has the third highest unemployment rate in Georgia, and Coastal Georgia is also home to 12 Superfund toxic waste sites. The area has the highest cancer rate in the country.

The heads of eight wealthiest nations convened to advance an agenda of war and erosion of human rights. At this summit, the Bush administration launched its “Greater Middle East Initiative,” which calls on Middle Eastern countries to adopt major economic and social reforms that would advance the G-8 countries’ profits and power over these nations.

The talks about the Middle East plan was paralleled by antiwar protesters gathered in Brunswick denouncing the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. Colorful banners, costumes and chanting painted the street with festive resistance. When police blocked the demonstrators from laying flowers at a nearby war memorial, the marchers left flowers at an improvised cardboard memorial for Brunswick soldiers who have died in wars.

The police and military attempted to intimidate the marchers by surrounding them with police cars, closing off streets and flying overhead in helicopters. There were thousands of police here escorting a protest of about 500 people as local residents nervously peered out windows.

The Rev. Tim McDonald, a leader of the march, said, “We are here and we will not turn back.” A group called Hip-Hop Against Racist War led the protesters in chants, including “Move Bush, Get out the way, get out the way Bush get out the way.”

After marching about two miles the demonstrators stopped at another memorial, this one unguarded by police. The memorial honors African Americans of Brunswick who died in wars. There was a moment of silence when many people laid flowers on the memorial.

The march ended at Coastal Georgia Community College, which suspended regular classes during the G-8. Inside the college was The Other Economic Summit (TOES), a teach-in aimed at raising awareness about the impact of G-8 policies on communities around the world. Here anyone could go to workshops to learn about such things as Gullah and Geechee culture (regional African American culture directly related to the traditional cultures of the people of Windward or the Rice Coast of West Africa), “Globalization and the Empire,” and the impact of globalization on workers. TOES provided a space for activists and community members to talk about the tangible effects of G-8 policies on working people.

Another activity of the week involved activists working on uninhabited houses for future social service programs. The workers on this project enjoyed spending their energy working alongside local residents and building a stronger sense of community and commonality.

The author can be reached at organizer@hotmail.com.