What I remember from the march is not the boring meetings, the migration stories, the cheesy songs, the fights, the wasted young (and old) men, the critical whiteness debates, the all-inclusive banners – I know all this from Berlin and I know it won’t change soon.
I remember the what was different than Berlin, where there was potential for change:
The sleepy village cops who marched with us out of boredom, because nothing ever happened in their backward regions. Whenever they tried to disturb our march, we easily convinced them to rethink.
The mayor who paid our electricity bill and let us sleep at his commune’s fancy tennis club – without telling his conservative council members.
The local chapter of the Marxist-Leninist party who organized a huge sports hall for us to sleep in and donated ten euros – together with a picture showing a sad black man. The caption read: “Asylum for all oppressed people.”
Two young officers in Belgium, male and female, who prevented their older colleague from sending our march the wrong way. They escorted us all the way to our sleeping place, through the liveliest part of town. The guy laughed when he saw we had pasted his car full of stickers and the woman sounded her siren and waved good-bye to us.
The “diversity” of the homeless people in Brussels: Romanians, Roma or not, Jugoslaws, Belgians, Maghrebis, Afghans. I met all nationalities on the street, except Vlaams. In Germany, the majority of people living on the street are Germans – because stray foreigners are very promptly deported. In Belgium, like in Italy, the streets are full of immigrants.
A family from Macedonia had lost their Belgian residence permits over night; the oldest girl was still dressed ready for the schoolyard, now they were sleeping in the park. They watched our gatherings for a day or two, but did not feel comfortable enough to join.
One Romanian family in the park had paid a truck driver EUR 1000 to smuggle them into Belgium. Although Romanian citizens are also EU citizens, the Romanian state does not give passports to homeless citizens. I know this problem from Germany.
The father repeated with devotion that he’s not a thief or beggar. I gave him a tent to sleep in, but had to move it away from our media tent, because our security guard, an immigrant from North Africa, felt uneasy having “Romanians” sleep next to our valuables. In fact, some homeless kids were sneaking around our camp, stealing stuff, but so were our own people. But instead of giving the guard a lecture on triple oppression in broken French, I just moved the family to a quiet corner of our camp.
The park we slept in was full of immigrant kids who played football or did other teenie stuff. The whole neighborhood was full of immigrants, the immigration office was right next to our camp. However, in the week we were there, we never properly introduced ourselves to our neighbors. A few visited us, but it did not feel as if we were making real contact with the people. Instead, we ran around in front of government buildings, shouting slogans, waving flags.
The final purpose of our “revolutionary” movement is to talk to those in power and convince them to make decisions in our favor. By walking to Brussels, we implicitly paid respect to Europe’s epicenter of power. We usually ignored “regular” people, after handing them a flyer or yelling “Stop Deportation!”
In 2013, one of the Belgian activists told me, the sans-papiers had marched together with the unemployed; they were received warmly in every village. He was disappointed that people did not even leave their houses to join our march this time.
We already proved our distrust in the power of the people and our trust in the capitalist, racist regime that rules Europe. The distrust is not unfounded. Mass movements are scary. But if our march has shown one thing, is that most people are threatened by the same forces as we, or at least that they support us. When we demonstrate in remote villages, in dying mining towns, the people actually care what we have to say. We cannot draw lines between working people, unemployed people, migrants and refugees. Our papers are different, our interests are the same.
The dope dealer who supplied our camp in Charleroi was a white Belgian of maybe 20, wearing a wife beater and a baseball hat. He visited our camp with his “gang”: his girlfriend – pushing a baby – and some little cousins. The future of all Europeans is unemployment, street crime, drugs.
It’s bad enough that the police and rappers portray social problems as a “minority problems.” We have to stress that the problems in the refugee squats, on the street are majority problems. That the children of engineers will be fighting over empty beer bottles with the children of prostitutes. This is the only social equality Brussels can promise us. They did it in Eastern Europe, and they’ll do it in the West.
Even if some Europeans still have outdated, even colonialist views, our counter-propaganda cannot consists only of shouting at them. There are plenty of chauvinisms within our own movement: The superiority of this or that religion, of penises, this province vs. that province, or the shameless commodity fetishism of many friends, not to mention the “soldiers of Gaddafi”…
With refugees, the typical explanation for such views is: “Oh, they’re just colonial subjects.” Then we ignore it, and hope they’ll figure out for themselves.
When Europeans express the same prejudice, they are racists and we don’t speak to them anymore – hoping they’ll figure it out for themselves. If we, the high-priest_esses of equality cannot provide a simple, convincing explanation why nobody is better than anybody else, then how can we expect “commoners” to figure it out for themselves?
So what I learned from Brussels is what I learned from Berlin – you can’t change society without talking to people. It’s not about telling everyone how bad things are in “those” countries, but how bad they are right here. And that they will get much worse for everyone if we don’t act together.
The problem of internment camps and food vouchers, for example, is a very peculiar problem. Only refugees in Germany have these problems. With such a narrow focus, even “Lampedusa” refugees or East Europeans are excluded.
So if maybe 0.001% of the world’s refugees make it to Germany, focusing only on the German situation excludes 99.999% percent of all refugees, not to mention the many people living in miserable conditions in Germany. We need more universal demands: work for all, equal rights, free healthcare, freedom of movement, etc. If they see us fighting for their rights, they might also fight for ours.
As Marx wrote in 1844: “Warum soll der Deutsche sich für die Befreiung des Juden interessieren, wenn der Jude sich nicht für die Befreiung des Deutschen interessiert?” A minority movement must fight for the well-being of all or end as a lobby group.
We arrived in the mid-size town of Beauraing yesterday and are staying until tomorrow. It is just past noon now. So far, an “action” meeting has occupied the day. We are relaxed, also due to almost a week of sunshine.
One frequently discussed topic is the “holiday camp atmosphere”, i.e. that we are not doing enough actions and have few meetings. Also we don’t have many contacts with locals and press in the villages we stay in. A Belgian newspaper called us a “Woodstock with a radical edge.”
A promising echo, but after the sit-in at the meeting of interior ministers in Luxembourg and the following arrests, we did not speak about it in a larger meeting for almost a week. Considering all the experience our group has with police confrontations, I was unhappy that the action was so uncoordinated and we were often forced to react to a backwoods police force. I think we took too many risks and had more luck than skill. Also it was stupid expose ourselves to the police in a place without witnesses.
Nevertheless the group’s morale grew after this day and many marchers support confrontation. It was a shoulder-to-shoulder experience, while in the camp we often live side by side.
That we live peacefully in the camp is a result of the professionalized infrastructure. There are few practical issues to fight about. Our kitchen, medical and logistics teams work day and night. Nobody on the march has to worry about food, shelter or health care. This improves people’s frustration tolerance. Many at our camp drink beer, not everyone is happy about it, but drinking and fighting are not serious problems right now.
In Berlin, the infrastructure broke down at one point. Everyone had to see for himself how to get a warm meal and a mattress at night. People ganged up against each other, deadly fights could break out at the shower. This is not so different from the situation in East Germany, were jobs and public services disappeared almost overnight; drugs and hooliganism followed. Like in East Germany, you will not find explanations by analyzing people’s collective traumas or “cultural prejudice,” but by following the money trail.
As Fanon writes, a colony, i.e. a space where the basic means for survival are withdrawn, turns into a giant concentration camp. Every small inattentiveness towards another is an assassination attempt and provokes a violent reaction. Such colonies are not faraway places, they are portable like the passports that deny or grant legal protection. When people are outlawed, nothing else but lawlessness can be the result.
When everyone in a group has a minimal feeling that s/he will not be cheated, individuals will not act like assholes. Recently some mobile phones disappeared, but the refugee plenum reacted very quickly. Like with all thefts, there’s no hope recovering the stolen items, but it was made clear that we look out for each other’s things. People still feel comfortable leaving their valuables lying around all over the camp. People also respect the group’s finances; it happens rarely that someone demands repayment for private receipts, and they accept it if we explain them that we only pay public expenses.
At night, the film makers among us often show documentaries from previous actions, and most marchers watch them. Today, on our free day in Beauraing, we had a visit from a TV team, who interviewed some activists. Right now we are simulating a sit-in attacked by police and almost the whole march is taking part. There are also workshops from “radical clowning” to vegan sausage making.
The part of Belgium we are traversing towards Brussels is very rural and there are few people we could speak to here, but we are using the time to prepare greater actions in Brussels, to contact the press there and mobilize the local scene. Some of us feel that our group could do more campaign work. Because the marchers don’t have to set up the camp or cook, they have time to discuss tactics or speak to locals.
Sometimes we only march 10 km per day, about 3 hours. The experienced activists among us already have trouble finding something to do. New members often sit around waiting for orders, and since nobody likes to give or receive orders, there’s a lot of idleness. I also have the feeling that those who have a regular “job”, like infrastructure, banner painting, whatever, become a little over-ambitious and would rather work twice as much instead of training potential competitors. This is supposed to be a problem specific to capitalist wage labor – one will work for ten instead of risking his job. But it exists even without wages. A job is not just a source of income, it’s also a justification for having privileges. You don’t gain status through your job, you get a job because you already have a status. The job, the income, the consumption rights are just manifestations of your status.
Especially passport-holders need to feel like they’re “contributing” something, while refugees have an unquestioned right to stay. The headcount economics of care work dominate not just the European welfare/asylum system: The more souls we manage, the more we are worth. The less they speak, the better for us.
We often had the discussion about people working “autonomously” or “collectively.” The more we march, the more we see that stuff gets done faster when everyone knows what to do. It doesn’t make sense to choose twenty new people every day to pack the transport cars, when three can do it. Also, the refugees on our march are not here to learn a trade, they’re here to get publicity for their cause. If the kitchen doesn’t work, nothing works. Infrastructure is the backbone of our movement, funding is the engine. These fields are also controlled by “experts.” But we are not marching to build a kibbuz, we want the whole continent.
Refugee rights were a projection surface for dreamy white “anti-racists”, “post-colonialists” and NGOs as long as they could talk among themselves. We don’t want better humans, we want better rights for all, even the assholes.
We are back in Germany. Still no freedom in sight, although we all can now paint the word in eight languages. We’ve had a sexism workshop without men, one or two young boys going crazy, plenty of useless meetings, some useful demonstrations. Some people from a lager outside Saabrücken joined us. The place is called Lembach. It’s an emergency shelter (“Zast”) but many people live here for ten years or more.
Maybe the German officials think, refugees feel more comfortable in a place that looks like a war zone. The buildings look very much like the Macrorayon district in Kabul, Soviet buildings that hardly survived 20 years of bombardment by Jihadis.
Except for the immigration office, which is also on the compound, all buildings in the Lembach lager are falling apart. Often three families share one apartment. The three-floor barracks have no showers. The staircases have no windows and you see the naked bricks.
I usually say, our struggle is for equal rights, not for equal toilets. In Lembach, it’s about everything. Families in the Lager have many kids and few alternatives. The German police crash apartments in the middle of the night and deport families back to places like Kosovo, where they have to live on dumpsters. The refugees here live in pure terror. Don’t tell me this is peace.
Even though they have little children, even though they are under constant supervision, many refugees joined our delegation who drove out from Saarbrücken and came with us to the city to demonstrate for their rights. Just like our friends from the Roma prison near Strasbourg, they risk everything for demanding very little.
The kids from Lembach enjoyed visiting our camp in a public park. Our demos are well rehearsed; our marching band, our dancers, our outfits convince people before they even know what we demand. Refugees join the march slowly but steadily. The ones that are still here will probably stay till the end. Still our march is about 46% refugees to 54% supporters – not counting the logistics team.
Our most important propaganda organs are not multilingual flyers (always hurts me to think of the costs to finances and forests), but convinced refugees. The demos in the small towns, the thumbs up from open windows, the dancing grandmothers, the surprised people in the lagers, even the awkward provincial journalists motivate our marchers. It’s no use begging our friends in Berlin to round up anyone they can find in the park and drive them to our show. If we make a good march, people will come by themselves.
I’m not so happy with the mentality behind our action. One refugee asked me, why we take so much trouble to march by foot. I don’t know myself, but I feel the daily practice improving our communication. But the people in the lagers usually have other problems. The most frequent questions are: “How do I get out of here?” “How do I get a work permit?” Long walks in the fields are nice, but there are no people near Lembach to pressure the authorities and document their crimes.
In Germany I feel more tension between the citizens and our group. For one, this is because so many student activists joined our group. Our most important contribution to the welfare of the German worker is to shout “No nation, no border.” While we imagine refugees to be global society’s most oppressed revolutionary section, we are worlds apart from the realities of our own neighbors.
The outskirts of Saarbrücken, former mining towns, are shabbier than anything I’ve seen in East Germany. The only buildings showing any sign of investment are brothels. Businesses like “Balkan Exotic” or “FKK 214” have a steady flow of customers from France, where prostitution is semi-illegal and minimum wages are high. Just like I at 28 for the first time see the slums of my own country, some of our refugee friends never saw the bad sides of their countries unless their cars broke down.
Of course these poor Germans will say: “Why should we care about them, if they don’t care about us.” Supporters, knowing the guts of German society, should feel responsible not to increase the division between Germans and refugees. Most of our refugee friends want to live peacefully with their neighbors, even if they are greasy hooligans. Refugees are not our tools. If we are serious about inciting revolutions, we have to tell people what’s in it for them. If all we can offer is sex under trees and vegan food, we’re not a movement, but a circus.
I saw a strange scene in a village near Saarbrücken. Our march group shouted a Taksim slogan when passing a Turkish family in a driveway. Next to them was a sleazy German pub called “Oskar’s”. The Turkish people clapped. A huge, tattooed German in the door of the pub asked what we were shouting. The Turkish dad said, overjoyed: “Those are my brothers!” Then someone out of the dark pub yelled something like: “We don’t understand what you’re saying!” The big German turned around reflexively to hush him up. At least they don’t want their neighbors to think they’re racists. But what do I know about Turkish workers and German bikers?
The internal discourse in the German supporter group is always: “Oh, the next village is a real Nazi nest!” “We bought some peppers pray, in case Nazis attack.” “Those guys drinking beer a hundred meters from our camp looked really strange, better organize a security shift, in case they’re Nazis!” “That granny who stared really weird and dropped her garden shovel when we walked past was probably a Nazi.”
So far, the only attacks on our movement with deadly weapons came from refugees or from other Ausländers. But then the hobby psychologists of our movement are always ready to attest some sort of trauma or mental blackout. I’m not really interested why someone becomes a Nazi or a killer or a capitalist, by accident, by purpose, whatever. I can’t judge anyone, because I’m worse. I want the campaign to be effective. I want that the people who take part don’t feel like they’re wasting their time – me included…
The German police are relaxed. I did not see riot cops at any of our demos, only regular officers. Our march is accompanied by two cars, like in France. There was a small discussion, because the German police stopped our march at every intersection to let the traffic through. In France they did it the other way around: They blocked traffic to let the march pass. I guess it’s just the method they’re taught at police school. Not surprising that Germans value traffic rules over civil rights.
After some arguing, the responsible officer gave in. Now the cops block traffic for us. Still, I think it’s not useful to play power games with the police, like do we walk on the sidewalk or on the traffic lane. We are not pubescent boys discovering the veins in their biceps, but a self-confident movement with a righteous cause. Therefore our sympathizers forgive small breaches of etiquette.
In Völklingen, our stop after Saarbrücken, we happened to walk past a “clearing house” for unaccompanied minors. Because international law forbids deportation of kids without their parents – not together with their parents – Germany puts them in special foster homes. The one in Völklingen is run by the Protestant charity organization Diakonie, a Frankenstein monster of state, church and private business. A few of us went over and talked to the kids. The rest shouted slogans from the other side of the street. The employees were friendly, even though the single police guy on site tried to hush us away. A giant, who said he was the gardener but looked like the bouncer of a rock club, came out and gave us veggie patties.
It calms me that we are gaining routine. Our group reacts more intelligently to stressful situations than a random gathering. Also there’s respect within the group. So far nothing has been stolen. There is no regular vandalism against toilets or tents. No trash stays on the floor when we move camp. People pack their things quickly. Food is always ready and people eat what is served. So even if the march can be tedious, I think we will have a small but very dynamic group in the end.
After cheerful processions through five or six villages, we camp near a small monastery on 20 May. We have a good marching band with drummers and a trumpet and simple slogans to sing:
– O lala, o lele, solidarite avec les sans papiers
– Vive la marche des sans papiers, Strasbourg a Bruxelles par pied, pour la liberte
– Abat, abat, abat les frontiers / Personne, personne, personne n’est illegal
We avoid aggressive slogans, slogans in languages locals don’t understand and other mistakes spontaneous demos often make. Our messages are simple and in the end, everyone will have a small “tape message” to repeat to the public. Not everyone can talk freely to regular citizens, but everyone can learn it.
Before each village, we gather the march group and our “hype man” (man!) gives a warm up speech to raise the group’s energy. We forgot the banners on the first day, but brought them after. Our group is well trained, after only 2 days of marching.
Our people run around and give flyers to every villager we pass. The villagers react more friendly, the better we perform; most wave their hands from a distance. One old woman even came down from her terrace and danced with us in the street. The people are not afraid, and this is important, because they have no idea who we are. For example, one woman and her little son passed us on their bikes on a hiking route, and the police offered to clear her way, but she just waved them off.
Although we often block traffic, the drivers are friendly. The only driver who yelled at us was a German handwerker on a customer visit. Also in villages known as “conservative”, people often give us water on the march. Last night, we slept on the property of a fancy tennis club. The mayor came personally and ate with us. He let us use the wifi from his nearby home and even paid our electricity bill. He had given us the camp site without asking his council – they’re too “old fashioned”, he hinted.
We even have a march security team: guys with walkie talkies at the front and back of the caravan. They make sure we don’t block the opposing lane. Only two regular police cars accompany us, so it’s good to have our own traffic security.
The greatest danger to our movement are the meetings. They stank in Berlin and they stink in France. Usually it’s the Berlin group of activists who summons the meetings, proposes topics, what to do and then extensively discusses all hypothetical actions we could decide to decide upon. Of course each statement – which never deserved air time in the first place – is translated into five languages. This way, it takes only 20 minutes to discuss whether or not to let a German reporter take part in our march – decision to follow.
Most refugees attend with faces that require little explanation. More experienced ones get really angry. At least this is better than resignation, which is the polite reaction to this bullshit. We have 6 hour long meetings every day – on the march. If there’s anything to discuss, people can do it then. Afterwards they are tired.
Today I developed a tactic to peddle my issues without ever going to a meeting:
1. Grab sugary snack
2. Find person you think can solve your problem (yes, usually it’s one person)
3. Offer them sugary snack
4. Politely creep into their conversation
5. Ask if they can fix your problem
6. If yes, ask them to fix it; if not, go back to 1
Bribing your local functionary is the usual way of getting shit done under socialism, and also in (gr)assroots movements, cronyism is the only way to survive the deadly incompetence of the democratic council or the dictatorship that offers the only salvation.
Despite the happy family vibe in the general meeting, most peer groups stick together. Those people who share a language do mix, but many refugees speak no English or French.
But so what? The refugees don’t want to make friends with us, they want to get (positive) publicity for their problems. As activists, our job is to make sure the march goes through, to contact politicians and journalists and get out of the way when we’re not needed. Meetings are the opposite – we get in the way when we’re not needed. 90 percent of the speaking time at meetings is occupied by the master race. They hold their real meetings at lunch and declare when it’s time for solidarity and when to sing “freedom, liberte, libertad, azadi, huriya, libertad”.
People communicate more easily by playing soccer together, cooking, playing music (even if they’re bad). Although there is so much talking in our movement, sometimes even rivalling the discursive quality of smaller city councils, our public communication is evolving only very slowly and it depends much more on the morale of the activists than on their theoretical firmness. Yes, sometimes the local people are just ignorant, but more often we, the “radical” students, are more prejudiced than they and do everything to prevent the erosion of our moral pedestal.
I saw it again today, when we held an open mic rally in the center of Saverne, a medium size town. Our mobile kitchen set up at the town’s central fountain, right in front of a mobile sausage stand. The people eating there, usually not the premier members of their community, and the overdressed teenagers dozing in the sun, were confused and never really opened up to us – because except for one or two people, none from our group even spoke to them.
We set up a big sound system and let people publicly proclaim their issues for all to hear – in at least five languages – but we did not descend to even have one longer conversation with the one or two hundred citizens who passed our rally. We handed out a few flyers and waved from a safe distance, but that was it. One journalist from the local paper came, a few kids petted our horses, one woman and a drunk man grabbed our mike to proclaim their support, but public relations are not press relations.
If we want to “reach out” to the public, we have to talk to people. This is the whole point of marching through the countryside, otherwise we could just send a press release and ask a European parliament member to read a letter from our movement at the next plenary session. Yaaawn!
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.