The Landless Peoples' Movement converges on the Earth summit to demand land, food and jobs.
Out in the streets of Johannesburg, however, the thousands of
protestors who gathered to call for Land, Food, Jobs, and a clean
environment were an angry and jubilant force of hope. The day was
non-violent, though the fear of violence and the fear of police
reaction certainly kept many away. Last week, police broke up a
demonstration by landless people with stun grenades and tear
Today, police surrounded Sandton conference centre and shopping
mall with watercannon, razorwire, tanks, armored vehicles, machine
guns, and helicopters. Inside Sandton, Saturday shopping and luxury
dining by the public and delegates to the World Summit continued
unabated. Delegates from inside the conference who went to join the
march passed through armed checkpoints into another world. "I've
seen now the white marble opulence of Standton and the shack and
dirt poverty of Alexandra" said one protestor. "The disparity that
this summit needs to address is illustrated perfectly within a five
mile radius of the meeting."
"There were a lot of angry people," said Janos Maté of
Greenpeace. "And there was an amazing spirit. It was great to be
there. The colour, the camaraderie, the drumbeats, people on the
sidewalks were cheering and dancing to the rhythm -- there was a
feeling of everybody being together for the right reasons: land,
food, jobs, the environment and human rights. Amazing Spirit."
One banner dubbed the Earth Summit the "World $ummit on
$ustainable Destruction," and a deep cynicism prevailed among the
marchers about the likelihood that meaningful results would be
The march was part of a global day of action, A31, against the
corporatization of the United Nations. "CEOs of major corporations
such as Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and their industry organisations
are wandering the halls of the convention centre and joining in the
official negotiations, while civil society is locked out and
marching the streets" said Doreen Stabinsky, science advisor to
"The United Nations needs to represent the needs of more of the
world's people, and fewer of the world's economic forces."
Deliberations are expected to go late into the night tonight, as
delegates consider a range of compromises on such issues as
renewable energy targets, measures to protect the Earth's
biodiversity, and efforts to make global trade agreements more
Annette Cotter of New Zealand said "If the people who were
marching today were inside the meeting room representing our
planet, there'd be laughter, fun, dancing, and real action."