First report from Refugee Freedom March
Two or three thousand protesters in Berlin said farewell to our group who left for Strasbourg on Friday. The singer of the popular indie rock band Tocotronic played and the federal chairman of the socialist party held a speech and most minor or major socialist organizations sent people to sell pamphlets and stuff.
It was not sure if enough refugees would show up and in the end we had to send back the travel coach we ordered, but we set in motion motivated by the large demo.
The police held back one of our small busses, claiming it had damaged a parking car while moving out. Another bus broke down on the highway but was later fixed.
We drove to Freiburg through Thüringen, because the Bavarian route, which is shorter, also has more border controls by the German police. We did not stop at gas stations and left the highway to fill the tank.
At one highway stop we met an older German woman traveling with her husband; she wanted to know where we were heading and we gave her a poster for the march. She was “enchante.”
Our bus needed about 10 hours for the 650 km to Freiburg and arrived after dark, around 11 PM. We stayed in a high school building; the food was very good, but way too much, because we had announced twice as many people as actually appeared. The whole march group so far has about 60 people.
“Equal rights, not better toilets!!!”
We had breakfast in a cultural center in Freiburg. The Vokü was good, the plenum was a Caucasian chalk circle. I found Freiburg rather green. The cultural center has a fashion store for organic fair trade clothes. Because even fair trade stores have surplus production to destroy and seasonal tastes to satisfy, they throw unworn designer shoes and clothes in the free shop.
We left Freiburg in style.
Also the local Green party talks about vegetable diversity instead of racism and they have separate bins for junkie syringes – at the back entrance of a parking garage. Herrmann or Henkel – keeping the fatherland tidy since 1933.
At the train station in Kehl we gathered to cross the bridge to Strasbourg around noon. Kehl is also the station Sigmund Freud passed when fleeing the Nazis. Some 300 people came. Lebenslaute played. We had a speech about the abolishment of borders. Most of the shops in the train station are already run by immigrants. Only the big businesses belong to Germans. A mega poster of the perfect Nordic green energy family smiled on our demo. Not many locals cared for our demo and passed with traditional German hostility.
The riot troops of the German police followed us to the bridge but stayed on their side of the Rhine. On the bridge we tied shoes to the rail to commemorate the migrants who die in the Mediterranean. On the French side, I noticed two things:
1. There were no white people except for the police
2. The few cops that came wore regular business shirts and drove small Renaults or scooters
Later some riot cops showed up, but they usually stayed far away from our demos, and during our concerts and speeches, they never stood next to us, but always waited hidden around a corner. There are no contact officers as in Germany.
The route was long – about 7 km – and ended in front of a museum in the old part of town. The people in Strasbourg had organized a stage and bands played until the evening. Many people stopped and looked, but the crowd became smaller. In the end there were only about 100 people left, but the music and the weather saved it.
Before the concert, there was a lengthy announcement of important stuff everyone should know, translated into several languages. The palaver also demoralized the police – while a dozen riot cops with shields watched the stage being set up, only 3 survived the announcement.
Unfortunately, translation does not make boring information more understandable and interesting information will find willing interpreters quickly. We should consider this when publishing manifesto-length flyers for each micro-minority we’ve ever read a Wikipedia article about.
Right now, old cliques are still very close. Most activists are old faces, most refugees on the march are new faces. No “inclusion” or “outreach” measures can change this and we should leave superficial diversity politics to the Greens. Trust is not a translation issue. Lucha armada, not lucha palabra.
We spent the night in a concert hall called Molodoi and ate dinner at a nearby art studio. It’s a poor neighborhood of Strasbourg, and it looks worse than similar areas in most South German towns. On the other hand, the neighborhood for the EU nomenklatura can compete with Berlin’s government district.
After breakfast we held a very long plenum, which I didn’t go to. I heard it was like most other meetings. After the meeting, the ethnic groups did not dissolve, but sat faaar apart on the spacious lawn to have some privacy for breakfast. I am suspect that palavers, jirgas, soviets and other councils did more for Western imperialism than for the participants.
The following demo was uplifting. On the way from Molodoi, some white French people cheered from their windows. In Kreuzberg, you’d never see native Germans (or immigrants) supporting a rally for refugee rights. Maybe they were also confused, becasue we played drums and sang slogans, mostly in English. Or they just like manifs; “the” French have been accused of it.
The police was again invisible during our demo. In Germany, we are always surrounded by so many cops, nobody can even see us, but here we were able to make contact with the population.
For the final speech, we rolled out a long list with the names of migrants who died because of the EU border. We also played songs and danced, and made a cheerful and non-violent impression. In Germany our demos are more aggressive, but as I said, it’s hard to sing “Kumbaya my Lord” when you’re surrounded by paramilitaries.
A member of the European Parliament, Sandrine Belier, and a camera team from ARTE came to speak to the protesters. Although Belier was quickly surrounded, it was a smooth meeting. She seemed interested and promised to hook us up with some of her buddies in Brussels.
Older people, younger people came to individual refugees and asked questions, a little shy at first, but our speakers did a good job talking to everyone. Unlike Germany, there were no frustrated old farts telling us to get a job. If we don’t brand the people here as Front National fascists, they might not brand us as smelly hippies.
The demo gave new motivation not just to weary organizers but also to doubtful participants. We sat on the square for several hours; a street musician sang Bob Marley songs for us before we left. There are no bad people, just bad actions. Today was a good action, and we have made enough mistakes to learn from.
A delegation of four also went to a detention camp for East European Rroma people run by the Red Cross. (See official EU pictures here.) The people moved to this barbed wire facility “voluntarily” after being rounded up by French cops. Our delegation was not allowed to take any pictures.
The delegation also visited a detention camp for sans papiers. Only two delegates managed to enter, but were soon thrown out. The inmates said it was the first time someone ever visited the place to see how they were doing.
The living conditions in these jails are better than on the street, but hey – it’s a jail. Many homeless people prefer the street to this social darwinist charity.This reminds me that our protest is not for better toilets but for equal rights; it is not for freedom to sleep in an emergency shelter, but for the freedom to sleep in your own bed.