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Greenpeace activist tells Riga daily to expect 'surprises' during NATO Summit

BBC Monitoring Europe

November 21, 2006

Yesterday the police officially confirmed that an anti-NATO landing force will arrive in Riga. At least 50 Greenpeace activists are going to arrive in the Latvian capital aboard special ships. What are they planning to do? "We cannot tell you in advance about it. You should be prepared for surprises," one of the coordinators of the movement for disarmament, Donna Matfield, told Chas yesterday.

Police: "They Will Not Stage Protests"

But first, official information. Yesterday Valdis Voins, head of the Riga Central Police Division's Public Order Department, confirmed for the first time that the Riga summit will not be spared anti-NATO activists. In his words, the Latvian Police are expecting around 50 Greenpeace activists who are planning to sail to Riga aboard a special ship.

Voins noted that to date no organization has applied for authorization to stage mass gatherings during the summit. Nonetheless, the police are continuing to prepare for possible protests.

However, as Voins reported, the Greenpeace activists are not planning to stage any loud protests in Riga. They wish to express their opinion and share some thoughts with the participants in the summit and with journalists.

For his part, Defence Ministry State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics announced that Greenpeace has asked the local authorities for a mooring space and hotel reservations. "They are unlikely to stage violent protests," Rinkevics noted cautiously.

Greenpeace: "This is an Anti-Nuclear Campaign"One can mean anything by saying, "to express our position." It is a common usage among the European NGOs, which implies a very wide spectrum of activities, from street marches to the "peaceful capture" of certain sites.

The Greenpeace office in the Netherlands will not disclose the details of the "Riga landing party" yet. As Chas has learned, the planned action is connected to the campaign against the eployment of nuclear weapons in Europe.

Donna Matfield, coordinator of the movement for disarmament, explained to Chas:"In 2002 Andrejs Pildegovics, former adviser to your president [currently presidential chief of staff], said: "There is neither a need nor an intention to establish NATO bases or deploy nuclear arms in Latvia." Nevertheless there are 480 American nuclear warheads in Europe under NATO patronage. Besides, according to our opinion polls, the absolute majority of Europeans are against having nuclear weapons on their land. We are in favour of withdrawing nuclear weapons from Europe. That, in a nutshell, is our position.

"[Marahovskiy] Could you tell us what your activists are planning to do in Riga?[Matfield] I cannot give you any information about it now. You should be prepared for surprises.[Marahovskiy] The Latvian police force already is. By the way, they usually respond quite harshly to unauthorized protests...Matfield laughed. As we know, Greenpeace activists have experience in dealing with special services, including ones that are not particularly politically correct. So, as Chas understood it, the Latvian police do not scare them.[passage omitted -background on past Greenpeace protest tactics]Others That May ComeSo far no NATO summit has proceeded quietly. If Latvian officials are to be believed, the Riga summit will be the first.

The thing is, Greenpeace has never been the main anti-NATO protester. Usually, French, Italian, and Greek anarchists, as well as other ultra-left groups from Western and Eastern Europe perform the role of provocateurs and aggressors. They do not tend to announce their plans for violent behaviour in advance.For example, in 2002 in Prague, a group of Greek anarchists broke through a police cordon outside the summit venue. There were clashes. And NATO Secretary General George Robertson had tomatoes thrown at him.

In 2004 in Istanbul, several thousand people led by the United Turkish Anarchists' Front [name as published] took part in violent protests and clashes with police. More than 30 police officers and around 100 protesters were injured.P.S. A source in the secret services explained to Chas: "We cannot ban EU citizens from entering the country if their papers are in order. All we can do is to work with them here."

Source: Chas, Riga, in Russian 21 Nov 06

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