A Personal Account From Chris Dugrenier
Rostock, the largest city in the north German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommen, near the Baltic Sea, welcomed the alternative G8 summit from 5th ax00x00 7th June while the G8 took place 15 kilometres away at Heillingendamm, a selective and secluded holiday resort from 6th ax00x00 8th June 2007.
Being in Rostock with Of All The People In All The World gave me the opportunity to observe and try to understand what people are marching about in those big demonstrations. It also gave me thechance to witness the before and after of such events and to confirm the selective nature of the mainstream media.
Everyone knew that a big demonstration was to take place on the 2nd June in the centre of Rostock. Arriving on the 28th, I witnessed the unfolding preparation from the police. Every day more peoplearrived and every day more police arrived. A couple of day before the big day, our German assistantrelated to us that people had stocked up with food. Inhabitants of Rostock felt under siege. Anti-Riot Police made their presence very visible, all in khaki uniforms, complemented with protective gear – bullet-proof vests, helmets, guns and batons. At one point I counted 18 police vans and that was just a small portion of what was being put in place. Shop windows were being boarded up. Rumours of cash points being emptied to thwart demonstrators passed around to more confusion and unrest. The tension created by this display of force was incredible. So many police around – men, women, vans, cars, helicopters; at every corner a police presence, the unrelenting noise of hovering helicopters, the checks, the sirens.
THE BIG DEMONSTRATION: Saturday 2nd June 2007
The demo started from two different locations in town, planning to meet at the harbour where the stages were ready for speeches and concerts. We arrived late due to the cancellation of all tramways going in or out of the City Centre; bus replacements had been provided. We arrived by our venue. St-Marienkirche was a very open church, having welcomed us and our show, letting demonstrators inside for reflection and leaving its doors open for a 3 Day prayer vigil (which, late one night, was one of the most moving moments I witnessed in my stay).We were greeted by noise, colour, vibrancy; a carnival atmosphere under the ax00x00watchfulax00x00 eyes of the riot police. A variety of people young, old, family, some in groups chanting, some walking on their own, lots of cameras everywhere (the police had brought theirs as well), big papier mache figures, colourful banners in many languages, all passed by us.
Different causes gathered here under the banner “Another World is Possible”; anti-capitalism chants unifying them all. The atmosphere changed suddenly when “The Black Block” passed by; young men and women wearing their uniform black jeans or trousers, branded trainers, and sweatshirts, caps; most of them hiding their face under scarves and/or sunglasses; their red and black banners forming a tight square around them, uncompromising. They were followed by more music, more colour, more vibrancy.
Later on, we heard sirens, police vans speeding to the harbour. Curiosity took the best of me, I wanted to go and see what was going on, be amongst it, to witness with my own eyes, unmediated. We were forbidden access. Police had formed a large barrier around the harbour area and stopped all those who wanted to get in. Rumours passed like a cold. Clashes had broken out between the young men and women in kaki and the young men and women in black. Stones were thrown, people injured, cars burned, arrests, water cannon and tear gas in retaliation or to calm things down. And in the middle, were all those who came there to have their peaceful say, being robbed of the attention they deserved.The burst of violence between “The Black Block” and police made the front pages. The first evening showed a fairly accurate account of the demonstration I had witnessed, but by morning the only images displayed in the 3 minute TV reports were those of the violent clashes. Nowhere could we see or hear the joyful atmosphere that had been the main feel of the demonstration.
Over the next few days, the police presence remained. It felt very strange to be walking the streets, eating strawberries or ice cream and seeing so many police everywhere. Most disturbing for me were the constant sound reminding of their presences: helicopters over our head, sirens whizzing by. Those sirens aren’t designed to impart calm.
The thing I kept thinking was that the police, those young men and women dispatched from all over Germany, were only doing their job and yet everybody resented their presence. Then my opinion changed. I needed to go to a shop that stood behind a police line. The shop front was literally 5 steps away but they did not want to let me pass. They had to stop people going up that road, “That’s the order! That’s the end of the matter! I stomped away, back from where I had come, entered a Shopping Centre, walked through the Chocolate and Jewellery sections and exited a minute later behind the police line and entered my destination. Their blockade was utterly inefficient. Later I realised that they did let some people go up that road after all, it became apparent that, for some reason, I was among those who had to travel the temptation route.
THE ALTERNATIVE G8 SUMMIT
I attended the closing speech of the Alternative G8 which gave me a much clearer sense of what the demonstrators were trying to achieve; basically stopping the dominance of big corporations appropriating natural resources for their profits. Vandana Shiva, the very charismatic head of the panel told us “Air, Earth and Water are resources that belong to all. They should not be privatised”. I was sold on the cause and yet when I came to the speakers’ table I saw they had been drinking bottles of Vittel water from disposable plastic cups. The presence of these objects undermined everything I had just heard, demonstrating the difficulty in applying those fine ideals in everyday life.
Chris Dugrenier – August 2007