Statewatch article: RefNo# 28065
Switzerland: Policing of the anti-WEF demonstration in Davos
Statewatch Bulletin; vol 18 no 1 January-March 2008
The policing strategies deployed at the anti-G8 summit protests in Germany in 2007, led a legal observer from the Committee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy [1] to conclude:

The G8 summit was implemented from above. This explains its blanket security and the fact that costs were met without any estimates. This is why the financial costs were high. If political costs were estimated at all, they only concerned the "global role" of German politics. What had to be categorically avoided were political costs...The word summit means: to be able to act without any consideration for citizens.

This logic came to dominate summit policing from the moment that people started expressing their dislike of the decisions made by heads of state through mass demonstrations that are felt not only outside but also inside of the meeting rooms. This logic also dominated the Swiss government's policing strategy in January this year, at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in the ski resort of Davos, which accommodates several thousand politicians and industrialists from around the world.

Protests against the event took place on 19 January in the Swiss cities of Bern (500 people) and St. Gallen (150 people), with protesters arguing that the WEF is an undemocratic event where economic decisions are made by industry and governments that have disastrous consequences on billions of people world-wide. For instance, this year's opening speech was provided by the American secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice. This year's topics were climate change, terrorism and the global credit crunch [2].

Alongside the 5,000 Swiss army soldiers supporting police forces on the ground (AP 18.1.08), "regular" policing consisted in particular of preventative arrests and the use of water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets [3]. Two hundred and forty two people were arrested in Bern alone; they were detained for hours in abysmal circumstances, allegedly in order to "ascertain their identity".

The tone of the demonstration was set by the late approval for it by the municipality, and their even later withdrawal of the same on grounds of media-generated scaremongering fed by the security service (Dienst für Analyse und Prävention) that predicted that "militant" demonstrators from all over the country would come to riot. With the announcement the regional police (Kantonspolizei) claimed to be unable to guarantee public safety, a pressure to which the municipality gave in.

In a manner similar to the G8 summit, the police predictions were simply false. In total three incidents of damage were detected in Bern, one of which caused by a violent arrest by the police. Undercover officers swarmed amongst demonstrators and the public, pointing at alleged offenders who were accosted by arrest teams [4].

Powers for preventative policing under Article 32 of Bern police law form the legal basis for the majority of these arrests. Preventative policing is supposed to be invoked to apprehend a person who is about to commit a "serious crime" but is typically applied against demonstrators before they have even reached a demonstration. Invariably, demonstration bans by the civic authorities or courts are used as an excuse by the police to arbitrarily arrest citizens who have nonetheless decided to exercise their constitutional right to protest [4].

In Switzerland, the arrests specifically targeted journalists as well. Dinu Gautier, a journalist from the Swiss weekly Wochenzeitung (WOZ), together with a colleague and another journalist from the Swiss daily paper Courier, were arrested the moment they left the WOZ editorial office in central Bern. They were greeted on the streets by Kurt Trollier, chief of the security service of the Bern regional police force, who informed them they were arrested to ascertain their identity under Article 32. Ten riot police shackled the journalists. The head of the police unit, when show

© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions oof that licence and to local copyright law. Statewatch is not responsible for the content of external websites and inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement.