Meant as a left-leaning alternative to the World Economic Forum in New York, the World Social Forum kicked off in Brazil.Tens of thousands of protestors from all over the world took to the streets.
30,000 people gathered in Porto Alegre
"No to imperialist aggression and neo-liberalism!" protesters shouted as they marched through Porto Alegre in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The face of revolutionary Che Guevara was everywhere. Workers groups waved bright red flags emblazoned with yellow stars while gay rights organisations carried rainbow banners.
The groups were taking part in the what has become the annual answer to the World Economic Forum gathering of global business and political elite. The World Social Forum, was organised by eight Brazilian groups, including the huge Workers Central Union and the Landless Rural Workers Movement, which seizes fallow land and gives it to the poor.
Last year’s summit grabbed world headlines when a French farmer joined Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement and destroyed a genetically modified corn field at a farm owned by US biotech firm Monsanto Co.
Police Lt. Col. Rodolfo Pacheco estimated some 40,000 people, some from as far away as Nepal, marched in the protest, which culminated with music at a lakeside park.
While its organisers say the turnout is proof that more people want alternatives to market-friendly policies being discussed in New York, detractors criticised it for failing to provide viable alternatives.
The World Social Forum is a forum for centre- to far-left groups discuss everything from third world debt to child labour.
While some participants virulently oppose capitalism, globalisation and free trade, others simply want to give it a more human face.
There is broad agreement on the need to fight the spread of unchecked global capitalism. However, there is little consensus on the viable alternatives.
Last year the World Social Forum came up with proposals for radically reforming institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Those themes are likely to be elaborated upon this time round. And the focus is likely to shift on events following September 11. Many groups present this year are alarmed by increased security measures and US intervention around the world.