Words and action at the 'Top van Onderop', Amsterdam's alternative summit

20 May 2007

Words and action at the 'Top van Onderop', Amsterdam's alternative summit

"Please, stand up": with a wave of her hand American peace activist Cindy Sheehan underlined her request to people attending the closing debate of the 'Top van Onderop' – literally, 'Summit from Below' to stand up. "Okay, now you can sit down again," she said after a few moments. "See how easy it is to get out of your chair? Stand up! We need to do that more often."

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a US soldier who lost his life in Iraq, was one of the special guests at the Top van Onderop, the people's alternative to the G8. Organised by the Netherlands Social Forum, the 'Summit from Below' took place in Amsterdam and culminated in a demonstration against the G8 on one of the city's principal squares, the Museumplein. Sheehan challenged journalists attending the event to publicise the call for Bush, Blair and Dutch Premier Balkenende to be brought to justice by the international court for their conduct of or support for the illegal war in Iraq.

This was not the only appeal made during the alternative summit. In workshops and seminars, the entire day was filled with discussions covering a wide range of subjects including climate change, poverty, immigration and racism. The overall message? Demand your democratic rights and get active!

That can mean many different things: you can put pressure on governments to come clean about their involvement with the US's illegal activities in Iraq and elsewhere. As in the Netherlands, where the Dutch contribution to the Anglo-American war against Iraq is the subject of a sustained cover-up, in relation to which SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel urged the crowd to join the campaign for openness. Or by insisting on the right to have our views heard, as with the demand for a new referendum in the Netherlands on any new proposal for a European Constitution. Or by physically blocking the G8: in front of the doors of the hall where the 'Top van Onderop' was held workshops discussed techniques of non-violence, including the how and why of blockades.

How important it is to keep up to date with the media's critique was made clear in a well-attended workshop organised by SP youth movement ROOD ('Red'). Using a number of concrete examples, including film clips, it was explained how journalists often present a one-sided picture of reality as if it consisted of completely 'objective facts'.

"The Top van Onderop is a unique platform," said organiser René Danen, expressing his delight at the attendance of 1250 people. "Trade unionists, major NGOs and smaller action groups have come together here. Coalitions are formed at this event which make a better world possible."

The world is not for sale

You are here