Friday, May 29
Today I spent several hours moving around Geneva to see what was happening. Contrary to my expectations, things were quiet.
From here in Champel I walked down to the Bout du Monde around 8am. There were a whole lot of tents at the end near the bridge, but everyone was asleep. There are banks and banks of portable toilets, and with Geneva being so close to France, there was a large number of wall-less urinals. The Swiss authorities have also brought in extra water -- a short pipe with 6 faucets. The campers themselves have set up notice boards and beer tables.
I talked to a couple of the Protection Civile people down there, who were wearing khaki jackets with orange shoulders. There are many of them on patrol duty to help and give directions. But because Champel is far from the center, they say, there are NO POLICE ON DUTY HERE. These protesters are not expected to be violent -- just nice people protesting the G8.
If you consider the inflammatory nature of the posters that have been put up, and the violent messages that have been scrawled everywhere, you have to wonder if they are not all casseurs.
After my foray down to the Bout du Monde I went downtown and walked from Rive, through the Jardin Anglais where the big procession will start on Sunday, over the Pont du Mont Blanc, along the river, back over the bridges twice more, and finally up to the station.
The whole area is full of tourists taking pictures of the boarded up shops and banks. Dozens of shops and banks have completely boarded up their windows and removed their signs. Others, more daring, have boarded up their windows but have left their signs visible. Others, have papered over their windows from the inside. The Body Shop has taped its windows in a crisscross pattern, to prevent the glass from shattering. This expresses a certain degree of optimism; however, the Body Shop has carefully covered every mention of its name with sticky paper.
Only a few shops have done nothing.
This is a strange time to be in Geneva since you can't go shopping. But the tourists with cameras are enjoying the novelty and the photo opportunities. The boarding up, by the way, pretty much general down by the lake, is actually city-wide and includes even Champel. The English furniture store on the corner of Calas is completely covered.
The Pont du Mont Blanc, by the way, always flies the Cantonal flags for special occasions. This week a third of the flags are the PACE/PAIX flags sold by the anti-war protesters in March. I notice that many of the shopkeepers who have not boarded up their windows have this flag on display.
At the end of the day I decided to take the bus down to the plage to see what the security was like along the waterfront. To my surprise there were loads of boats on the lake. I had understood that boating would be totally forbidden, but that apparently concerns the only crossing from Lausanne to Evian.
About security, in addition to the Protection Civile in the Bout du Monde, I have seen police in camouflage riding bicycles -- in pairs always -- with the label Sécurité Municipale. I even saw a pair in Champel on bicycle. But in spite of the pictures of soldiers in full battle gear in the press (the army has been restricted to the airport in any case), and in spite of seeing convoys of police vans moving across town, I have seen very little police presence. They may all be in plain clothes.
We HAVE had many many military helicopters. We always have medical helicopters here, but the military ones are new. And also these military helicopters don't just disappear -- they hover.
Yesterday (Thursday) the demonstrators staged the first big march in Lausanne. It was raining cats and dogs and really put a damper on things. I watched on TV. But today and tomorrow it is supposed to be hot and sunny. I have just now checked the Edicom website and see that they are predicting thunderstorms for Sunday. That is the day the meetings are to begin in Evian, and the day of the big march here in Geneva.