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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Would you rather be a protester or a politician?
The protesters who grabbed the media's attention at the recent EU summit in Gothenberg, will soon be demonstrating again.

In Genoa where the G-8 top industrial countries meet in July they are already bracing themselves for similar riots.

But does the stance of the protesters have more sympathy across Europe than the politicians who many see as out of touch and holed up in a privileged fortress?

Where do your sympathies lie? Is it with the protesters or the politicians?

For this Europewide debate we brought together a protester, Tord Bjork, who founded the Gothenberg 2001 opposition coalition, and in Brussels, a politician, the member of the European Parliament, Dutch Liberal, Lousewies van der Laan.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I truly believe those summit protestors are nothing more than ill educated people

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
I truly believe those summit protestors are nothing more than ill educated people, most likely from rich families, who have nothing else to do. Whatever they do is against common good for people and populations. The fact that the politicians are another spineless and moral-less bunch of people - or become such after a while as a politician - does not make life very easy for an observer of the events. It forces also the observer to polarise and take a defensive stand as things do not appear to work any other way.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

The protestors want to get rid of capitalism... but what are they proposing as a replacement system? Barter? Communism? I really can't see these working in the modern western world. If the protestors want to change things then why not form their own political party and see if people will vote for them. Then we'll find out whether they're fighting for the masses or just a few malcontents.
Rob Thurgood, England, currently in Germany

The protesters have a simplistic view of the world

Ralph, USA
I am personally outraged by people who think that having a large part of the world living in prosperity is a bad thing. Yes it would be nice if we could figure out a way to lift everyone out of poverty, but not having that, would you prefer that the entire world be in misery? All or none? The protesters have a simplistic view of the world in which everything is either good (noble poor) or evil (the greedy rich), but they offer no solutions beyond heaving bricks through windows. I have found as I get older that the world is not the black/white I had thought, but billions of different shades. It turns out the mature view is much more interesting than the youthful view. Sign me as a greedy, elitist global capitalist, and proud of it.
Ralph, USA

If the protestors make people think about capitalism for a moment then they are good. Capitalism is based on outright greed disguised as a science (economics) based on the principle that money is the sole answer to everything. The reason the protestors appear to be "toddlers" is because people are indoctrinated from birth into the existing system. How else do you explain the difference between protestors "violence" and police "keeping order", or for that matter the difference between anti-capitalist protestors ("extremists") and pro-capitalist protestors for example in Serbia ("the people"). Think for a moment whether you feel "happy" at having to do what another person tells you to do for the sole purpose of making more money for that person?
David Slater, England

They just need to listen to people and eliminate the need for protest

The politicians have betrayed us, they have policies too similar to make voting worthwhile for a lot of people and then complain when people do not vote. For all this, politicians still have a part to play, they just need to listen to people and eliminate the need for protest.

I am all for peaceful protest but, if a protest becomes violent, it defeats its object and panders to the small-minded reactionaries who want to ban protest. I think that both are necessary to keep the other in check; the protestors to make sure that people are listened to other than at election times, and the politicians to make sure that violent protests are dealt with accordingly.

I am grateful to those who help bring these issues to the forefront

Tridiv Borah, Germany/India
I am personally outraged about many policies by the powerful groups/organisations such as G7, WTO or IMF. These policies ultimately affect whole societies whose members are systematically excluded from decision-making process. Since I myself cannot take part in these demonstrations, I am grateful to those who help bring these issues to the forefront.
Tridiv Borah, Germany/India

My sympathies do not lie with the protesters. To demonstrate violently against "global capitalism" or free trade is rather like having a temper tantrum about the weather, or complaining that life in general has been unfair. Or that Mommy won't let you have sweets before dinner! It has the same effect. The protesters have a problem with the world's modern realities, without any inkling of a way to solve them. Generally, the protesters are angry with the reality that the world is not equally fair to all, although they fail to understand why trashing things does not in any way make the world a better place. The protests are a toddler's temper-tantrum on a global scale.
Bruce Bradford, USA

Protestors can sometimes be contemptible; sometimes they can be worthy of praise. A politician is just a politician.
Daniel Rego, USA

Recent protests seem to reflect that it is much easier to be a protester than a politician. All you have to do is throw things and create a ruckus. If protesters would start creating solutions and stop creating problems, perhaps they may be more credible. But I have been unimpressed with recent protests.
Jordan Medeiros, USA

How can these global elitist tell us that there is no stopping the EU? Is this a grassroots movement of the people or the political elites? The people and only the people can decide the fate of their state. If there were more referendums like the one in Ireland, I think that we would see a lot more anti-EU outcomes. A supranational state, at the command of Europe's political and financial elites is the last thing Europeans need. Long live the people of Europe and their respective states.

Protests such as the ones in Gothenberg, Seattle etc will only grow in strength as the world realises the evils of corporate elitism, capitalist exploitation and financial greed.
Tom, Australia

The protestors from Seattle to Gothenburg are the front line defenders of our civil rights and our wages and conditions. They also ensure that IMF programs that bleed the Third World are highlighted. Papua New Guinea to Genoa, the struggle continues.
Andrew, NZ

I am sceptical that the present policy of globalisation can be terminated since it has produced the greatest level of prosperity for the elitists who essentially control this planet. The rest of us simply do not count.
Steven B, US

A politician is answerable to everybody - even those who did not vote for him. A protestor is answerable to nobody. To be honest I don't like either of them.
Michael Gahan, Ireland

Listen now both sides of the debate
See also:

15 Jun 01 | Europe
Three shot in EU summit riots
17 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair: Anarchists will not stop us
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