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No G-8, no problem?

Decision to move summit could be a sign of the ‘protest’ times

Editor-in-chief

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 12:03

It’s been two weeks since the White House decided to move this spring’s G-8 Summit from its scheduled Chicago location to a more secluded setting at the president’s Camp David retreat, and apathy appears to be the general consensus among the president and protesters.

For Obama, the decision was made on a whim. According to the president the decision had nothing to do with security concerns and was based on the intimate nature of the G-8.

“Somebody pointed out that I hadn’t had any of my counterparts, who I’ve worked with now for three years, up to Camp David,” Obama said during a March 6 press conference. “G8 tends to be a more informal setting in which we talk about a wide range of issues in a pretty intimate way. And the thinking was that people would enjoy being in a more casual backdrop.”

For protesters, the decision was a hardly fought victory. Joe Iosbaker of the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8), a Chicago-based organization in opposition to the NATOG-8 summits, said the decision to move the summit is a victory for protesters.

“Absolutely it’s a victory,” Iosbaker said. “We never claimed that we were going dismantle those organizations. Our goal was in the battle for public opinion. The people in this country don’t support the wars that their government is fighting.”

losbaker feels that the growing importance of the Occupy movement, combined with the recent defeat of protest restrictions put forward by Mayor Emmanuel made the president rethink his decision to hold the summit in Chicago.

“That’s when the White House realized their idea to show the world for how much support the president’s policies had in his home city was backfiring,” Iosbaker said.  

However, this position could give an impression of indifference. The G-8 summit is an annual meeting between the world’s eight largest economies. Protests of the yearly summit draw attention to the gathering, saying that G-8 member countries are linked to a military and economic agenda that supports the wealth at the expense of the majority of their population and the third world.

Protesters have approached past summits as major opportunities to protest.

CANG8’s leaders have presented an air of victory, but fail to recognize one important aspect of the decision—the summit will carry on.

Even Isobaker acknowledges that the language coming from the White House shows that the possibility of protest and their desire to avoid the hassle contributed to the decision to move the summit. Obama said that they are looking to have the summit in an “intimate setting.” Isobaker points out that a meeting surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters is hardly intimate. However, the relocation of the summit bypasses these protests and awards G-8 member countries with the intimate setting they’re seeking.   

If we’re to believe the Obama administration, the claim of victory by protesters is false. The fact remains that the summit will go on with a fraction, if any, of the originally planned protests.

Sure, protesters continue to point out that the NATO summit, which Iosbaker describes as the military arm of G-8, will still attract large numbers of protesters.  

On the other hand, if Obama made the decision on a whim, it is still hard to see this as a victory for protesters. It was of no consequence. The president along with world leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom will meet in relative silence in the seclusion of Camp David.

If the fear of protests prompted the change of venue, the Obama administration again comes out on top.

Iosbaker claims that the mounting pressure from Chicago’s protest groups and Emanuel’s inability to pass ordinances targeting protesters weakened the president’s resolve. But even if this is the case, the stage for those protests that will carry one regardless of the move has been lowered.

The decision to move the summit could be a sign that national protests movements are being recognized, and possibly even feared, but the relocation of G-8 will dim the spotlight that would have shined on that movement significantly.


Strikechords@gmail.com

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