G8 Blockades

Posted: June 15, 2007 in Uncategorized

The massive blockades June 8 images

From my column to MRR..

June 4, 2007 Monday

Reddelich Camp, Northern Germany

It is starting to rain again and the sky is a dull flat grey. More people arrive at the camp every hour, more activists wearing backpacks with tents under their arms, checking into the Information Point, finding out where to set up camp, reading the latest news from the actions during the day, pieces of paper forming a timeline on a large wooden bulletin board, handwritten notes from IndyMedia such as, “Monday. 11am. 200 people on the train from Reddelich stopped and searched by police on the way to the immigration rights demonstration.

The camp opened last Friday, and now estimates and rumors say between two and five thousand people are here, all gathered to protest the G8 Summit which will convene June 6-8 about seven kilometers to the north of here, in the tiny seaside town of Heilingendamm. The largest organized group here is “Block the G8” which plans to stop the G8 meeting from taking place by closing the roads to Heilingendamm. In the larger scheme, the anarchists see the protest as a scream of our displeasure at the capitalist beast, a small stone in the eye of a system that destroys our lives. Blocking the G8 leaders from meeting will not stop capitalism, but its worth coming to their party and making a stink.

Today is a resting day, when most people are organizing in meetings, discussing strategy, attending workshops, arriving and building up the camp. At night, when the last meeting is done, there is socializing in the bar, sitting around camp small fires, listening to music, talking and relaxing a bit before the stress of the next day begins again.

The camp itself is massive.

The largest kitchen, a combination effort between the Anarchist Teapot from Brighton UK, and Le Sepot in Denmark, served 1,500 people a dinner of salad, seitan and potatoes tonight. There are fields full of tents divided into different “barrios” whereby affinity groups can work together, and then send delegates to a large daily Plenary held in a circus tent that can hold a few hundred people. The large open bar is constructed out of wood with a loud sound system and a bonfire and a kitchen outside. There is a tool shed where people can borrow hammers, saws and other construction implements, and get help from a carpenter collective. There is a children’s playground and a family barrio, and several smaller kitchens serving meals and providing bread and peanut butter and spreads to take to the demos which will last all day. There is also an Indy Media tent where people can check their email, and an Activist Media tent where people can plug in their laptops, that is where I worked on my video and put it on the web. The atmosphere is like being at a festival, except half the people I see are dressed all in black, anarchists out camping, waiting for the action days.

There are also two other camps, one in Rostock to the east with an estimated 5,000 people, and Camp Wichmannsdorf to the west that is smaller in size and closer to the coast. The three camps are just outside the area where the German government has declared “protest is forbidden.”

Repression leading up to the G8 has been severe in the German context, and seems to be following the American way of handling dissent. A few weeks ago the police searched forty places on the same day–including people’s homes and social centres such as the Rote Flora in Hamburg, one of the G8 Convergence Centres (and a home to good punk shows)–with the excuse of looking for terrorists. This tactic was meant to scare people, and to gather information about organizers and networks.

Another law aimed at those who express their dissent to the state is that protestors are not allowed to wear masks, or any protection from police attack. Meaning, anarchists must show their faces so they can be photographed, and people must not wear a helmet or padding so they can club you with better ease!

Perhaps the most distressing development in response to the German “state of emergency” around the Summit is that police are now allowed to “pre-arrest” people to prevent them from disturbing the peace. This is stolen right from the pages of 1984. Don’t even THINK about doing something illegal! You can be searched for looking suspicious (such as wearing black) and then if you have a previous arrest, or they make some excuse, you can be put in jail for two weeks, or until the event is over.

But despite the atmosphere of fear that the German government has tried to create, more people arrive every hour to the camp, and despite the cold and the rain, the energy is high.

June 6, Wednesday
3am and the camp alarm is screaming from the top of the watch tower. I jumped out of our tent, shaking, my heart racing, and in another moment my camera is in my hands.

I’m already dressed as the night had been so cold, and the atmosphere so tense, suspecting a police raid, that I had simply laid down under my sleeping bag fully dressed, my camera bag and jacket ready.

It is still dark and figures are running through the fog with headlamps yelling, “Wake up! The police are here!” in English and German.

Within a few minutes there are crowds gathered at the designated meeting points, at both entrances to the camp, and next to the watch tower, ready to defend the camp. I’m cold but adreniline is pumping through me, getting prepared for what will happen next.

Then, the news that the police cars are leaving. Thirty or so cars had driven to the entrance of the camp, and then left.

Stivie and Mirja arrived during all of this, somehow able to drive Mirja’s black huge van through the police checkpoints without hassle during the night from Bremen. It was so good to see them! We sat around a cold campfire for another hour, catching up and talking about what is going on, then went to sleep, attempting to get a few hours rest before the actions the next morning.

Four hours later the camp is awake again, this time preparing for the blockades. The aim was to make it through the no-protest zone, and take control of the roads leading to Heilingendamm, to block the fucking G8!

By 10am there were thousands of people leaving the camp, headed for the blockades. We were literally an army of protesters, marching through the German countryside, crossing through waist high fields of beans and over grassy hills. It was a sight I will never forget, a line of people as far as I could see.

We were lucky and the sun was out and it was warmer than it has been all week. People were in high spirits and the cops stayed in their helicopters overhead.

We marched onwards!

The East Gate (Gate II)

As in a medieval battle, about 5,000 people gathered at the top of a large hill, and organizers shouted at the crowds, “Have courage, they want to stop us but we won’t let them. We will make it through the police lines!”

And then people joined hands in a human chain that stretched the length of an enormous field and we walked quickly towards the road, everyone excited and gathering speed, the sound of thousands of people rushing through waist high grass, excitement and tension building.

And then, in a rush we all climbed up and over the railroad, through a line of trees, and unbelievably, just like that, we had taken the road!

We had expected so much more resistance, but in this case there were just too many people for the cops to stop us. People sat down on the road, locked arms, and we waited for the police attack.

The police marched by the blockade, pushed a few people, and then retreated to make a stand in front of the gate, one of the two main entrances through the protective fence built around Heilingendamm.

Soon, seven state police helicopters hovered overhead, large as buses, each able to carry over 30 people. In the distance, I saw about five of the helicopters landing in formation in a nearby field. Along with other media I followed them, running through waist high grass, trying to get a few shots of the surreal scene, the noise of the jet engines and helicopter blades loud and ominous.

The helicopters landed, and about a hundred state police in black military gear got out and marched in formation. It was surreal, all this happening in a lovely grassy field on a beautiful day, a battle of ideas, the power of people, and a show of force by the state to maintain control.

The riot cops were soon greeted by the press (ha!), we had lots of cameras on them, and then they continued marching towards the fence built around the Summit.

The blockade continued for hours. People slept, ate snacks, sang songs, talked and read the paper. At one point it was announced over a speaker, “The other roads have been blockaded as well. We have done it!” By 1pm there were an estimated 10,000 people on the blockades. Hell fucking yeah!

The afternoon went on, and at Gate 2, there were so many of us, the cops did not attack. After about seven hours at the blockade, after a discussion between the police and the legal team, and a meeting of delegates from the different affinity groups, most of the crowd left, leaving about 2,000 people still on the road, getting ready to spend the night.

The main organizers, the Block G8 group, had stated very strongly they “did not want any violence, especially from anarchists.” And for myself, getting arrested without a fight, sitting on the road until “peacefully removed” by police batons wasn’t on my personal agenda for the day. Things were calm, there wasn’t a direct threat to the people who decided to stay, and so we also decided to leave.

I thought the action was successful, as all the roads leading to the G8 were blocked, even if for a short time.

And even more importantly, everyone there saw with their own eyes that people together can successfully take on the state, that despite the millions of Euros spent on security, the hundreds and perhaps thousands of police, the helicopters, water cannons, fences, harassment and threats, the G8 had been blocked.

Never forget, people are more powerful than governments!

Back at Camp
It is now 10pm and I am back at camp, tired as hell, writing like a fiend in the Indy Media tent, pounding out a few words for you fucking punks. I wonder what will happen these next few hours, this night, what has happened at the other blockades during the day.

It is getting dark and cold again. It took me and my three friends a couple of hours to walk back, as we got lost in the countryside, walking through fields of grass, poppies on the side of the road, walking through small villages, trying to find the camp again. It was a beautiful day, with the contrast of the constant whir of the police helicopters overhead, and the wonder of what is going on at the other blockades, what happened to the people who decided to stay. The entire countryside feels like a battleground, and the small roads are full of barricades made of piles of trees and wood taken from the nearby forest. Some people have bicycles and as they pass us going towards the front they give us the news of police checks behind them, and we tell them what was going on at the gate when we left.

Things in camp are tense again. Camp Rostock has been surrounded by the police, people are not allowed in or out of the camp, and we can perhaps expect a raid here as well tonight. Tomorrow will be another day of action, perhaps the largest yet.

End Notes

I have to finish this now, I need food and sleep and other people need to use this space. The best (and most accurate) site on the web to read about the protests around the G8 summit is http://de.indymedia.org/ticker/en/. Find out what really happened, fuck the corporate media!

Love and Solidarity, until next month, Erika


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