Thousands of anti-globalization and environmental activists joined Gilet Jaunes and Basque separatists on Saturday on a march near Biarritz to demand action from G7 leaders.
The protest march, from the French border town of Hendaye to Irun in Spain, was the climax of an ‘Alternative G7’ summit promoting anti-capitalist values.
The ‘Alternative G7’ and G7-Ez — ‘No to G7’ in Basque — brought together more than a hundred civil society groups, including left-wing political parties, trade unions, feminist groups and groups supporting refugees, and began on Wednesday at the Ficoba trade fair in Irun.
Itziar Fernandez, spokesman for Ongi Etorri Errefuxiatuak (Welcome Refugees in Basque) said: “This counter-summit has been organised because we have no other choice. They are going to address the neoliberal policies we already know, while here, we are open to everyone.
“We are going to try to create alternatives to those policies that cut off continents like Africa or Latin America, taking away their natural wealth. Theirs is set up for the elites.”
'More poverty, more destruction of the planet'
More than 40 lectures and 50 workshops were held on topics including migration, business monopolies and feminism. “If we don't achieve a feminist society, we are not going to achieve an egalitarian society,” a spokesman for the organisers said.
Jim, a language teacher in his thirties, from Andalusia, said: "These talks are useful for empowerment. There are people who say they are useless, but I see them as a tool. They serve to create networks between people all over the world, not just between Basque organisations."
Also participating was a group that fights evictions in Spain. Rosa Lopez, 70, activist and spokeswoman for the group in the Basque Country, said she expected nothing from the G7 summit.
"More poverty, more destruction of the planet and more evictions,” she said. “Nothing more. It is the governments of those who meet, those who have allowed the financial swindle of mortgage loans.”
Miren, from Irun, likened the vast logistical and security operation tied to the G7 in Biarritz to “a military occupation.”
She said: "The G7 represents the exploitation of resources. They squeeze the planet to the max, without taking into account humanitarian crises, climate change or anything else. They only dedicate themselves to making the rich richer,”
Fernandez, from the refugee group, said the Alternative G-7 was attended by a diverse group of campaigners from all ages and backgrounds.
"It is emotional to see so many young people mixed with older people, sharing lives and sharing experiences in order to make a structural change in our society,” he said.
He said Saturday’s protest march aimed to be “a joyful, colorful demonstration in which people participate in a calm way.”
Organisers estimated that 15,000 people took part in the march, despite a very hot sun, and it passed off peacefully and with a festive atmosphere.