Chemical Industry makes the world go round

brochure with statement and background info
Belgian IMC

activists blackened and deported
Occupation of the Toxic lobby in Brussels

A day before the opening of the Brussels EU summit, eco-activists occupied the office of CEFIC, the powerful European chemical industry lobby organization. The other-globalisation-activists aimed to expose the dirty practices of the chemical giants, and their large influence on European decision making. The office was evicted by police by means of 'pain-stimuli' after four hours.

Around 7.30 AM on Wednesday December 12th, around 50 mainly Dutch and Flemish eco-activists stormed into the Brussels office of CEFIC. Within ten minutes, the staircase-shaft was barricaded and the few employees already present were bonjoured out of the building. In the end, we managed to enter the fourth closed off floor of the sizable building, as well as the large balcony, where banners were dropped stating exclamations such as "CEFIC = bioterrorism". In the meanwhile, another group of 50 people arrived outside with art and samba, right after they distracted police attention converging at a metro station. Twenty pages of background info on the chemical lobby appeared on the internet and was handed out as a brochure.

photo Thomas Schlijper

CEFIC's member companies (BP, Aventis, Unilever etc.) are responsible for 30% of the worlds chemical production and the accompanying pollution. The lobby organization has hundreds of thousands of workers and hundreds of billions of turnover to have it's way with European politicians. It's a club that has thus far remained pretty much in the background. The aim of the organization is: "(...) to be a reliable spokesperson for the industry and to offer our members the service they need to maximize their profits and reduce their expenses." (CEFIC website). CEFIC is successful. Recently, proposals for European legislation on chemicals were greatly weakened. Less successful are the concrete results of CEFIC's programme of 'voluntary initiatives' to help the environment, that it says to be so proud of. CEFIC can not mention any concrete result - these programmes exist merely to greenwash the sector's image.

Internal memoranda we accidentally tripped over revealed CEFIC is lobbying to get the European Commission to undermine publication of results of animal testing and genetic experiments. It argues the competitive position of the European corporations obviously have to be protected at all costs.The wording in all these texts is informal, all suggested concept-regulations of the Commission are neatly repeated with suggestions on what needs to be altered.

The first police managed to get in through the first floor window. Later a large mass of riot police entered through the the staircase door that was broken open by security personnel. After the occupants running around were dragged away with some violence, eight activists remained chained down with a new model of lock-ons (metal tubes to lock your arm in). After eleven they finally managed to open a first lock-on pretty cautiously. The procedure for the next one was a tad more sadist. A locked-on activist was pulled up by the pressure points in her neck, and police said this torture would only stop after her lock-on partner de-attached himself. The last people were brought into the gendarme station still locked-on after a four hour occupation. In the meanwhile the first people arrested had to wait in a bus tied with tie-ribs (plastic handcuffs) for two and a half ours. Later, the streets around the station were closed with barbed wire to stop a solidarity noise demonstration from reaching the imprisoned.

During the cosy afternoon in a damp and dirty group cell it slowly became clear that the foreigners would be evicted. The Belgian activists were released at the end of the day without charges. A prosecutor assured several times the non-Dutch foreigners staying in the Netherlands would be deported to Holland as well. In the deportation bus it became clear that this would only by true for the people who had their Dutch address registered in their passports. We stated with some conviction to the riot cops that the bus would most certainly not leave when out three Italian, Swedish/Spanish and Spanish comrades would not be allowed to come along. First the police stated the coach would be too full and they would go in another van to Holland, so we said to exchange them with three Dutch people. In the end some cop would go inside the station to discuss our demands, so he said. When the bus tried to leave, activists pushed towards the front of the coach and people started climbing out of the roof windows to stop the bus from driving. Neckbending and beating by the police could not get us back into the seats, so finally things calmed
down a bit again and police suggested to go back into the station where our comrades were remaining. There we staged a sit-in in the hallway. Finally, the police stated we were waiting for a decision from the ministry of the interior on our demands, which we could wait for in the cell.

So the strange situation rose that we remained in the cell again for two hours semi-voluntarily without any legal status. At the cell door the police again became violent; it seams that the police wanted to provoke us, since we had wisely stuck to pushing and shoving, which would not be enough to re-arrest us.

The combination of our non-cooperation and the business of our solicitors led to the Belgian ministry of the interior to request the Netherlands to allow our three comrades onto Dutch territory. Because it was very unlikely The Netherlands would give permission for this we decided that resisting our own deportation further would not bring us any further. At ten o'clock we passed the border, coughed in a prisoner bus with an escort of eight riot police vehicles.

The black block show
Around that time the "Theaterstraat" foundation coach, our transport to Brussels, also regained it's freedom. Earlier that day the bus was confiscated and all our luggage was searched intensively, with goggles, 'Ecodefense!' books etc. being confiscated. Brussels' mayor told the news proudly that knives, radio scanner spying devices, gas masks and balaclavas were confiscated. Obviously, we were violent and evil. The police surprisingly later sent out a statement that yes, they were only ordinary pocket knives, that it wasn't very clear that we had violent intentions and that they had used 'necessary' violence against us, but then all the crap accusations had resounded everywhere already.

That the Belgian state news bulletin is setting things up, was obvious from the fact that there literally was untruth in every sentence. The deportation had been delayed because we tried to escape from the bus through the roof, those kind of things. A police chief made a slip of the tongue and started talking about "violent football supporters, uh... demonstrators". Only the 'De Morgen' newspaper managed to make a decent article that had some actual reflection on the ideas behind the occupation.

In contrast with the actions in Prague and Genoa where a number of the occupants were a part of, this action was not focused on the conference center. What's new about globalising capitalism is that the clear distinction between the state and the market is disappearing. The relationship between the EU and CEFIC is an expression of this development. In practice, it
cannot be maintained that a large institute such as the EU can, using legal measures, offer a solution to the dying of the earth and the accompanying social crisis. The EU model of 'planning competition' (just think of the huge European coordination schemes for infrastructure expansion), between regions, and with the US, is the new gestalt for our opponent. Defending the
earth is not anymore possible without an accompanying plea for far reaching down sizing all elements of society, and autonomy of local communities. Direct action, such as the shutting down of a symbol of our new adversary is a direct expression of our desires and our anger.