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January 23, 2007

Scenes from January 23rd, day three

Protests against the WSF

One of two major actions by WSF attendees against the WSF happened each morning at the main gate, where Kenyans (and others) protested that Kenyans had to pay to enter. The entry fee of 500 shillings ($6) for the week was cost prohibitive for many of the poorer folks and slum dwellers who wanted to attend. It was only on the last day that they were allowed to enter.

In the meantime, they had organized the Poor People’s Social Forum and held workshops in a park downtown. At the end of the WSF they reported back with their list of concerns and suggestions.

In the final assemblies, where people reflected on the WSF, we heard a lot about keeping it an open space for anyone to attend. There was a lot of debate on this, but the loudest folks were demanding that the WSF be completely open to all. I have heard that in Brazil forums, there are no gates and it works just fine. In India, they let people in for free if they were with an organized group of some sort. I think this makes some sense because on the last day of the forum I noticed a lot more people who were there to beg money from all of the international visitors, but who didn’t engage or even seem to understand what we were doing there (which, with planning, could have been addressed as well—education on the what the WSF is, etc.).

The second protest was against the restaurant that was inside the main stadium. Turns out it was owned by the Ministry of the Interior -- pretty much the worst office in the gov't, responsible for a lot of torture and oppression. And, the restaurant prices were very expensive -- you could tell because only Europeans and Americans were sitting there. So, as tension grew around this restaurant, someone organized a group of children from a local slum to come protest. Finally, the restaurant gave in and ended up giving out all of their remaining food to the hungry kids -- it was quite a mob. This photo is from the next day... the empty restaurant.

Again, there was a lot of talk on the final day about how we need to fight to keep the WSF commercial-free... (Celtel cell phone company plastered itself everywhere, and the fact that people were selling Coca Cola was pretty humerous.)

1 comment:

Charla said...

it is always amazing how the issue of equity and access still pervades even the WSF! and what´s with the coca-cola? Glad that kenyans and others were attempting to keep the conference transparent.
keep up the good observing! you are a rock star! loving you from MEXICO! (i´m visiting my family)