www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> london and strasbourg as starters of the great european rebell
Alex Foti on Mon, 6 Apr 2009 18:51:04 +0200 (CEST)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> london and strasbourg as starters of the great european rebellion vs financial capitalism and the security state


dear girls and guys,

i don't know how to put it adequately, but i was witness in London vs
the G20 and in Strasbourg vs NATO of momentous developments in
european radicalism which cannot but be called historical. In London
we fought the inequality and immorality of financial capitalism that
started the crisis (as the economist titles: "get the rich!" is a
slogan gaining momentum all over europe), and in Strasbourg we went to
urban war against the securitization of internal politics and the
militarization of external politics.

In terms of my soon-to-be-published chromatological baedeker to
european activist politics, Anarchy in the EU (Agenzia X), the London
rebellion was mostly pink and green, with brushstrokes of black, while
the Strasbourg insurgence was pitch black, with splashes of red and
pink. After the suspension of habeas corpus at the climate camp in
kingsnorth last summer (people were stripsearched in a detention
center, while manacled arrested activists were placed standing at the
entrance) i had vowed to not return to england for a long while.
British-style schizopolicing (i chat with you amiably, while my
colleague files and beats you next) i can't stand. It's
psychologically vicious and it can turn violently nasty for relatively
minor infractions, as the murder of the newspaper seller by riot cop
charges around threadneedle sadly proves. In Italy and France you know
who you are against and lines are drawn in the sand. If you get
caught, beatings are normal, but the crowd of the demo will defend its
members as one. It's not as easy to get arrested. It's two sides
clashing, and no snatch squads can usually penetrate demos. German
policing is instead a combination of the two: psychological aggression
supplemented by invariably muscular policing.

Anyway, Financial Fools Day (mixing climate and bank protests) was a
stronger draw than my lingering fear of the filth. I made it to London
with belgian co-conspirators of radical europe, euromayday, and
rhythms of resistance. They stayed at ramparts, but luckily went back
to the continent before the raid thru the roof made by special forces
armed with taser guns on April 2. Others were not so luckily. Although
Rampart was behind the black horse of the apocalypse, which had a
great spokeswoman in Marina Pepper, its approach was 'fluffy' rather
than 'spiky', pink rather than black; activists were in fact sporting
pillows on which they had written slogans and demands on housing and
social spaces. It was the silver horse which exhibited a black
practice. The red horse (vs war) was hegemonized by trotskysts and
commies of all stripes, some frankly embarrassing (pro-putin signs??),
while the green horse attracted anarchogreens and eccentrics of all
sorts. From the start, they tried to 'kettle' us, an english
expression for the illiberal tactics of cordoning the protesting crowd
to sharply divide it from the rest of the multitude. So either you
stayed out of the kettle and lost your friend and loved one or had to
get in and have your freedom of mobility sequesterd by the cordon of
bobbies surrounding you at every step. But the people were so many,
that in fact it was the rest of  protesters surrounding the cops, as
it became evident when we turned the street and got at the heart of
the City, the Bank of England. The incredible spectacle of 10,000
activists filling the square and surrounding the institution that has
bailed out chronic swindlers like rbs and northern rock left soon room
to anger at the fact that we were completely surrounded by thousands
of cops: we could not leave the square. Drinking and peeing soon
became very problematic. The four rivers of activists had converged on
the heart of financial capitalism, but Gordon Brown's government had
put dams all around. After hours like that, patience grew thin and the
carnival mood turned sour. We pushed back the riot cops all the way
down threadneedle. RBS had sailed its flag high on its main building
on the other side of the square, and the haughtiness of its
gloden-parachuted management made it a target for all the rage against
banks that is spreading across the UK, in the middle as well as the
working classes (viz. the occupation of ford-related plants by fired
workers). An rbs branch was left exposed and activists broke 2 (two!)
window glasses, sneaked in a tent, wrote S-C-U-M in reverse for the
bankers to read the next day. The 1000-strong block behind them
cheered. There was the first heavy charge. Then things quieted down
for a while.

Around 3:30 we finally found a way outside the square and made it to
the Climate Camp, which had squatted the 200-meter stretch of asphalt
in front of the Carbon Trading Exchange and covered it with hundreds
of tents, food stalls, renewable-energy power systems, etc. Beyond the
banner "Nature doesn't to bailouts" a world of joyous solidarity and
pragmatic ecoactivism awaited. If the atmosphere in the City was
decidedly anticapitalist, here it was markedly postcapitalist, to use
the word that John Jordan employs to describe the second wave of the
movement that has taken off in late 00s and is apparent for all to see
in the last few days. Same-name green, black, pink-dotted pins were
distributed around, the sun was shining and there was a festival mood.
It was great! But as darkness fell (and I went to UEL for the
conference of the left vs G20; the university, frightened, had shut
down the whole complex to students for three days; half-a-kilometer
fron the ExCel center were the summit was held, for three days) things
turned ugly in the City: charges got very violent, and several banks
were smashed in response. It is then when Ian Tomlinson was killed.
Another victim of the european police state and its draconian
securitization of public politics, after Carlo, Rachel, Alexis, and
many others. Around the ame time, cops started to kettle the camp. The
voice had spread that an ecohacktive party was taking place at
Bishopsgate and hundreds of youngsters were coming with beers in their
hands from liverpool street. They found they couldn't get in and got
pissed. So legions of riot cops, some mounting horses, starting
kettling protesters, layer after layer, in a police tactics my belgian
buddy calls "pasticcio" (like pasta in the oven: a layer of activists,
a layer of cops, a layer of journalists, and so on).

In comparison to what happened in Strasbourg on April 2, 3, 4,
London's protesters were incredibly good-natured. In the city on the
Rhine associated in the public mind with the European Parliament
(altho now most of its works take place in Brussels) and Franco-German
postwar entente, a soldily binational contingent of thousands antifas,
anarchists, autonomists, and radicals of other allegiances (including
clown army, die linke, revolutionary socialists, kurdish
revolutionaries etc) set up camp at the no nato village near the
proletarian neighborhood of neuhof, determined to raise hell for the
summit marking the 60th anniversary of atlantic militarism and the
return of once-gaullist france in the american fold. After the news
that the yet-to-be-identified corpse of the protester (the muzzling of
the uk media on that event has been as unprecedented as disconcerting)
had been found near the bank of england reached the camp, at least two
thousands people started rioting in ganzau. They were joined by arab
kids living in the hood's projects. The police was overwhelmed.
Rioters also attacked the police barracks (left unattended) and
managed to seize back many scooters that had been earlier sequestered
by cops. In the next days the roar of those scooters could always be
heard. On the 3rd, barricades were erected (and the first set ablaze)
while a rain of projectiles fell on the police who had brutally
charged a peaceful contingent of clowns trying to reach the city
center. The blacks were determined to exact vengeance for the
aggression suffered by the pinks. The police had to back off from the
camp. It is then that i arrived at the camp organized by dissent.fr,
the libertarian network which came into being at Gleaneagles in 2005.
It was great. Altho more chaotic than Rostock, it was more beautiful.
It was set in a very large area and was supplemented by a smaller are
filled with stands, bars, concerts, djs one kilometer down the road.
Getting there thru the night was beautiful and magic. The place was
part rave part country fair and had the wildly free effervescence that
all events organized by free4all usually have. Congratulations! I
stood there rummaging thru antinazi tshirts waiting for Paolo to
arrive from London, where just the day before had been manhandled by
special forces at rampart. Around midnight we can hug again after we
last saw each other at threadneedle two days before. It's great to be
free together again! I have two bottles of meteor beer and enough to
smoke ourselves silly into sleep.

The next day i have breakfast with Markus of euromayday helsinki. The
black bloc starts to move out of the camp. We follow it. About 2000
people, circa half of the camp. It's opened by the french who have a
great banner that says: "Pas de guerre entre les peuples, pas de paix
entre les classes". CNT flags abound. A slightly larger german block
follows, which has many bilingual banners. Then it's sympathetic
creative activists. A block of red flags follows. We take a turn on a
boulevard. Karcher barrier-trucks are in store for us on the left. On
the right, the Pont de l'Europe to Germany. In between, loads of
trucks packed with CRS in riot gear. The crowd grows and grows. We
gotta pass that bridge. The black head of the demo tries to smash
thru. It wavers back and forth. Injured protesters are ferried in the
back lines. A deluge of tear gases and stunt grenades are thrown.
Protesters respond with flings and stones. A pyre is set alight. We
hear the subbass echo of a series of fireworks bombs: boom, boom,
boom. The police line opens retreats behind a gated field on the side
of the bridge. We conquered the bridge! The black bloc could surround
the cops and beat'em up, if it wanted to, but it doesn't, because its
job is to smash and  burn things, not hurt and humiliated people. They
say we're hooligans, if not terrorists, but we have never killed
anyone, unlike the police that faces us down. A graffiti went as far
as to say something like "we've got more in common with you cops than
with the élites you protect". Walking across the liberated bridge
makes us giddy with euphoria (or europhoria). We get to the island
that separates Strasbourg from Kehl. We want to make it either to the
other side of the Rhine or into the city center. They won't let us.
And the more they try to wall us in the rowdier the riot becomes. The
first thing we see is the franco-german customs post. It's soon
spraypanted "no border, no nation". Then its glasses are broken. Soon
a fire engulfs it. It's visible from the other bridge where berlusconi
is taking a phone call. Then we pass a vast expanse with a stage. The
trotskyites try to detour the whole demo in their chicken pen, but
anybody under30 refuses to do so and keep going forward. Problem is
there's a huge block of german riot cops blocking access to the other
side, with armored vehicles and wotnot. What do we do now? For a while
we hang out in the island in a surreal mood. CCTV cameras as smashed
by activists. The ibis hotel gets smashed by local kids. Accor has a
history of exploitation of poor immigrants, would tells us later that
night a local who gave us a ride back to the camp. They also set a
barricade on fire too close to the hotel. Some german black blocs
would like to set off the fire with extinguishers, problem is a
teenager has just thrown another extinguisher in the fire, and it
might explode at any time, so nobody can get too close. A pharmacy
also gets smashed, and later burned. But the two churches in the
vicinity are completely spared. Somebody chalks an anarchist heart
followed by  the slogan "2000 years of lies" on its gates, but that's
about it. Then the official demo start. The french keufs have fucked
it up. They block the road with 12 vans, but the demo (around 20,000
people) has to go past them, and fire trucks are trying to get thru in
the opposite direction. We follow the developments from the first of
two railroad bridges. Markus predict that the cops will be surrounded
by the black blocsters who are now the tail of the demo, since we have
switched direction and are going back to strasbourg. The peace vans
and all the demonstrators squeeze on the rightside of the street to
let les pompiers thru. After this, the vans full of cops find
themselves surrounded by a stream of black hoods. Nothing really
happens. A few windows get smashed. But that's it. We move on. The
black block has a sense of honor. Only in battle, fighting is
commendable. We walk for a short while but then we find an impassable
wall of karcher trucks that target my group with shock grenades (two
of my friends get minor bleeds; one uses his sense of hearing from his
left ear for a while). It is then that it starts to get really ugly.
Pursued by the wall of police caterpillars, we managed to get two
feedstock train wagons in their way (pretty incredible feat; we're in
an industrial zone and train tracks crisscross streets). The bastards
lob tear gas grenades like crazy past them. They sting a lot more than
before. Then a scene that seems taken from Grapes of Wrath or Roma
città aperta occurs before our eyes. A beautiful dark-haired woman
with a toddler in one arm, hands out hundreds refilled bottles of
water to the street rebels. I'll never forget that poignant image.
French cops start closing in from the opposite side. The last battle
is on the second railway bridge, with antifas defending it as
non-violent protesters try to find refuge in the industrial port.
Rioters get on it and pelt the CRS with stones taken from the tracks.
If they take that bridge it's over for us. For half an hour the battle
rages. But we're tired. A small contingent of cops manages to climb
the bridge. They are caught in the crossfire of raining stones. But
altho scared they resist and finally manage to get at the top. The
french anarchist soundtruck puts himself sideways to protect
protesters who now put their hands in the air to signal their will for
a ceasefire. The bastards make us choke with gas in response. I make
my way into an expanse where tv crews are assembled and a turkish bar
is incredibly open. We eat, drink beer, and watch euronews. An amused
black-clad old lady claps when completely unwillingly i drop a can of
beer that sprays the face of a cop sitting in a riot van with his
window open. Everybody laughs so hard and vans behind him are honking
that he has to move and can't do shit about it. The day of the largest
urban rebellion in recent european history comes is unwinding. Before
the sun goes down we walk past the burned skeletal remains of douane
and ibis back to the camp. The day after we will be searched on the
way out by taunting cops, one of whom wears a peace flag as mantle
("do you thing it fits me?" he asks, "no", i reply). These are some of
the slogans that struck me in strasbourg: "smash nato" (color
graffiti, with the social center symbol with feminist crossed circle),
"monde de peur, monde qui meurt", "Legal, Illegal, Scheisslegal",
"contre le kapital, intifada mondiale" (k in the original).

To close this long chronicle, I'd like to point out that the
franco-german sink nato network managed to build cohesion and efficacy
and must be defended from criminalization by all leftists in europe.
The London repression is directly linked to the Strasbourg insurgence,
which makes the days between april 1 and april 4 probably the first
paneuropean social rebellion. If protesters had been allowed to reach
the two city centers without being oppressed by tens of thousands of
cops, the rioting would have been very limited. Like in Genoa, maximum
police security leads to total insecurity, both for the city and the
demonstrators. London-Strasbourg was a protest full of rage against
the two decades of neoliberal lies and monetarist arrogance that have
caused inequality and depression, disjointing society and broinging
immense social suffering. Especially strasbourg has seen arab kids
(also headscarved young girls could be seen at the demo) joining
forces with anarchoautonomists, as we have first seen in malmoe last
fall. An insurgent, precarious/immigrant youth is emerging as the
european revolutionary subject, while the black bloc could (ok, this
is an enormous stretch, but i surmise it as tendential hyphothesis)
potentially emerge as a european liberation army of sorts, the shock
forces we need to dislodge, if not completely overthrow, the current
élites in Strasbourg, Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris, Berlin, Rome that
are responsible for the crisis. The Great Rebellion vs the Great
Recession. This is wot we must accomplish in europe. The process has
been ignited.


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mail.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org