The European Commission may have hoped that sending ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting Trade agreement) to the European Court of Justice would calm the protests. But this week-end saw thousands once again filling the streets across many European countries. One of the biggest was in Copenhagen, where a crowd of some 15,000 people marched up to the doors of the Danish Parliament. Throughout France, Germany, and eastern Europe there were protests which look set to become part of the European Spring political calendar.
The Copenhagen protest culminated in a mass rally outside the Danish Parliament. A noisy but peaceful crowd shouted 'ned med ACTA' which I believe means 'down with ACTA'. Speakers included Ole Hoflund from Amnesty International, and the march was accompanied by a brass band.
In Prague, police escorted a ‘stop ACTA’ march through the streets. Many German town hall squares from Chemnitz and Magdeburg in the east to Koblenz and Dusseldorf in the west were for the second time this year filled with Stop Acta banners and megaphones calling for a free Internet. Similarly, there were anti-ACTA protests outside town halls in many French towns. In Strasbourg, a 200-strong group marched up to the European Parliament.
In Rouen, ‘liberty’ was symbolically buried in a coffin laid down in the town square.
Other protests against ACTA were held in Budapest, Bregenz (Austria), Gothenberg, Novi Sad and Belgrade in Serbia, and Rotterdam (Holland).
It is still not entirely clear who is behind the ACTA demonstrations. But it looks very much as though it is coming from the hacker community and the group calling itself Anonymous.
Anonymous France has gone to some pains to separate itself from other protests, such as the occupy campaigns. A promotional video tells people to march peacefully, and not to bring anything which the police could decide to confiscate, including such things as tents.
A key message from them is to protect our fundamental freedoms in the Internet space, notably freedom of speech and privacy. Their fear is that the measures entailed in ACTA will inevitably result in surveillance and hence an attack on both of those freedoms. It is probably no coincidence that the biggest anti-ACTA marches are in eastern Europe, the region which has most recently experienced authoritarian regimes and state surveillance.
There is one reason whypolicy-makers might wish to listen to them. If anyone would know what can be done surreptitiously on the Internet, it is a hacker.
The next wave of ACTA protests is already in the calendar for 10 March. Venues and timing tbc, as far as I understand it.
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