Letter: Slogans which make no sense

TONY BLAIR says of the Balkan war, "This is a battle of values. We defend free speech. People are entitled to criticise and question" . On Saturday 29 May I went with about 60 anti-nuclear protesters from 17 countries to take part in a series of non-violent activities at Nato HQ in Brussels. I was hoping to present myself at the gate as a citizen of a neutral country, Ireland, and to request for dialogue with a spokesperson about how to stop the war. I had no intention of involving myself in acts of civil disobedience.

I never got anywhere near Nato HQ. As soon as we stepped off the tram about half a mile away, we were hemmed in by a large force of police. A young woman was dragged out from among us, handcuffed, and pushed into a police van. I asked an inspector what was going on. He said he had ordered us to disperse "10 minutes ago". I said I hadn't heard him. He said, "That's because you're old and hard of hearing." I realised this was some sort of mass arrest. I was then manacled, with my arms behind my back, and heaved into the van. At the police station, women were separated from men and put into a "hold", a barred cage inside a room, far too small for 30 people. It was extremely hot, without ventilation, and the 30 men next door were in a similar condition.

After 12 hours we were released. We were told that we had been subjected to what is called in Belgium "Administrative Arrest", as authorised that morning by a decree of the Mayor of Brussels. Also, it seems that Nato had declared itself a "war zone" within the city of Brussels and had thereby sealed off its HQ against any attempt to exercise any democratic right to "criticise and question".


Galway, Ireland