A report from someone that was in the first big demonstration in Rostock, that ended up in a violent confrontation with the police. A report about police repression, about protesters power and union, about the lies of the mainstream media and about the common will of thousands of people of closing G8.
What was supposed to be only a peaceful march (the first one) of all the people present, at the moment, in and around Rostock, quickly became a field battle.
The meeting point was the Rostock central train station. We already knew how difficult a protest could be because of the lack of places to do it. The ones that exist are not big enough for the thousands of people who want to protest against the aberrant G8 (witty police... or, at least, who organized the defence in this G8...), the camps are limited to a ridiculous number of people (knowing how much more are on their way), and the spaces that can hold demonstrations, protests and alike, are private property.
Back to our first march: (around 2p.m., vide timeline)
The crowds, only way of describing the amount of people that was gathering in the station, were getting bigger and bigger, and soon we were so huge a crowd that we couldn't see the end of it. There were people waiting at the meeting point, in the other side of the station, going out very slowly - too much people for so small space. As people were arriving, members of different organizations (e.g. Via Campesina) made speeches on a stage set for the event. The speeches in portuguese, italian, spanish and english were translated to german, and the ones in german translated into english.
Obviously, the police was there. Caracteristic of the police in this G8: absolute presence and the will of being threatening. Since our arrive in Rostock until now, the effort of "our friends" was of intimidation. Maybe that was their great victory, at least in the first days.
The helicopters that overflied (and still do - this is happening now) the camps were then over our meeting point: two of them had stopped in the air, doing whatever... Their presence at the beginning, although a little bit weird or even, to some of us, threatening, was now for almost everyone nothing but a bore, or even an indifferent situation.
According to some protesters the cops were trying to look omnipresent, but they only look powerless. They are powerless when we get together and say "no" to police and their presumed authority.
To note that, at the beginning, in the camps, we had felt a certain suspicion between the campers, but now, here, in the middle of the protest, the mood was of happiness and strength in the alliance of so many wills and opinions. That was a party - a quite silent party (according to our ideia of party), but still a party.
That silence surprised us: even during the confrontations that followed, we never heard much noise (screams or others...). It is expressed in the comment of one of the members of a portuguese group: "everyone's so quiet!", "even our last protest in Portugal was noisier!"
Note: the obvious impossibility of counting the people present in the demo makes it impossible to tell a number, but the 25000 reported by the police is a ridiculous number. In fact, there would be something closer (more or less) to the 80000 protesters reported by Indymedia.
Our group marched through the city and, a short time after, we found some friends. Thus our affinity group grew from 4 to 10 people. Our group's name is worth of mention, but as everything is still happening..., we'll tell you later.
We advanced in the rally until we were side by side with one (or more, it is hard to tell) quite big group of the so spoken of kids in black, called by the media as "black bloc". The truth is that a bloc is not a group, but a tactic used by different groups, what makes the definition quite ridiculous. Anyway, and to spot the reader, we'll call "black bloc" these more or less organized groups. It's important our observations of the events exactly as they happened, at least to show off the lies told by the tv and papers. If we are writing this article, maybe that's due to the existence of those "terrible black blocs".
Throughout our march, black dressed elements with covered faces were walking to and fro along the side of the demo. They made it for our security, to control possible police atacks (undercovered or not).
Note: our feeling of insecurity since we're here is undescribable, but in has never been related to the presence of those guys or any other group. It was the police in riot gear, all over the city and with eyes radiating hate, that really scared us in the beginning. Now we know that their power resides in the fear they can suggest in us - in part, this is a won war.
Why do we actually need the police for?
At a certain point in the protest, we had to pass under a viaduct. So far, the great majority of people were in uncovered faces (yes, even most part of the bloc guys... the only ones that were uniformily face-covered were the clown armies that were marching with us). From that moment people in faces covered with bandanas, scarfs, t-shirts... turned to be a common thing. We did it also - legal or not, we won't allow them to film us.
Note: it's of extreme importance to mention that the ones lidering the march were not those groups of kids dressed in black, but a party or a trade-union (we can't figure it out, and at the time it didn't seem important - lesson learned) whose main color in flags and t-shirts was yellow. Accompanying those big groups was a truck playing music, funny messages and making smoke and soap bubbles to keep the party going. The bloc was immediately behind, but some good dozens of meters from the lead of the protest.
In arriving to the harbour (2.50pm), the group in the lead (apparently) decided to get in the inner city, walking up one of the perpendicular roads to the main harbour street where we were.The police, that of course was present, sent orders for people to retreat (although this isn't clear: we can't assure that the police didn't just groundlessly decide to charge...) That leading group continued to advance and the police charged violently with the bastons. A picture of that police charge can be seen in the front page of the german paper Der Tagesspiegel of the 3rd June 2007. We advise everyone to have a look to that picture of the beginning of the confrontations - we'll try to scan it as soon as possible. We pay 5 € to whoever identifies the terrible black bloc in the middle of the confrontations - whoever is capable of ignoring the men, women and younsters being attacked, defending themselves only with their flags and banners.
The black bloc couldn't be with those people because it was with us, some 30-50 meters away from the conflict.
The police charge started around 3pm (maybe some minutes earlier) and we only realized that there was actually a police attack when people inside the truck started to scream in the microphones in german, english and spanish that we were being attacked. When the spanish translation came the police was already in front of us.
The bloc (ok, let's call them thus) immediately formed a serie of chains, making people hold the arms of each other - a barrier to dissuade police from advancing, and even the protesters that could possibly panic (a generalized panic can be infinitely worse than a police charge). They assumed the defense of all the protesters and were standing between the police and the rest of the protest. Before the front groups could retreat we saw an ammount of objects flying, apart from the already told flags, but we couldn's figure out what. It's important to mention that there was no stone attack until that moment - no one was expecting the police attack, no one had prepared for a war, our protest was peaceful. Only the police was prepared, only them wanted the confrontation.
If it's confrontation what you want...
When we realized, we were close to the truck. We were some 30-60 people, with bloc members outside the circle to defend us. We weren't prepared for the attack and so, the frail human barrier soon yielded to the police charge, first on the left side of the truck, then on the right side, the side of the harbour. At that time we were expecting to be arrested, or at least to receive similar treatment to the leading people. In an attempt to escape, we tried to run - the bloc didn't let us and we're grateful. Soon we were actually besieged by the police.
Before the police could think in what to do, the guys in black and other protesters counter-attacked heavily: practically without weapons at our left and behind us, and with anything they couild find (everything in the harbour was good) at our right side.
The attack was well succeeded - from the right side the police retreated more or less orderly while the left side just ran away and formed again behind. That was the opportunity we were waiting to run, and so we did in small groups towards the other protesters.
Note: we remember again: there were almost no stones in the air. Until that moment, the objects that were thrown were also the first objects being thrown.
We noticed that, at the moment, more than half of the protesters were leaving, another group was going back to the confrontations and the other, mostly those people in black, were fighting the police. It's positive, more than positive, than if those people in black weren't there, the police had done nothing but (ab)using the baston, beating everyone in their way.
The bloc then started breaking part of the sideways of one of the streets as recollecting the stones. With those stones they started the counter-attack, much more organized this time. This was long after the police charge!
We looked back and, to our happiness, the great group of protesters that had left was now coming back, slowly but - coming back.
Note: the police was using the so called riot gear, helmet and baston. Later they used pepper-gas and water cannons, but as far as we know, they didn't use the well-known shields.
The battle kept going with several advances and retreates and, as often as possible, the protesters retreated walking instead of running, what gave courage to a lot, showing that those people were not in panic. Still, as inevitable, there was panic and it wasn't always the possibility to retreat calmly or orderly. What we wanted to show was our right to be in that harbour, in that city, and take the police away the right of simply invading our space and scare us.
The crowd that came back to the battle field returned thus the service that bloc had prested them: 3000 guys in black throwing stones are nothing when isolated and facing several thousands of policemen eager of blood. It doesn't happen when 50000 people gather to confront the police. The importance of, apart from parties or ideals, walking together and fighting together is essencial.
In part (a very important part) the cops' strategy failed. The fight ended up lasting some good hours.
Did we loose this battle? Did we win?
If it is a victory to the police preventing us from entering the inner city, then yes, we lost.
If it's a victory to run us out and show who's the boss, then we won. In that moment the people had the power and not the robocops in riot gear protecting their cowardice and their guns to beat who (apparently) can't defend themselves. We ran away and came back, we fighted and came back...
If it's a victory for them to have a quick skirmish - we're sorry, but we won: it took hours.
If intimidation is a victory for the police, then again they lost - people got out stronger.
Here I turn this article more personal, informing you that this "reporter" of yours had to abandon the fights before the end, because one of the members of our affinity group had an absolute panic attack. I had to acompany that person to Berlin, so that she could go back to Portugal, but with the assurance of creating the biggest "rumour" in this world in lusitanian lands for what people are facing at this moment (while I write) in Rostock, to close that monstruous thing that is G8.
Not everyone has to be in the battle front throwing stones, filming, reporting, giving medical and legal support, cheering up the spirits as that group of clown-soldiers that, in the middle of one of the most violent moments of the skirmish and when even the bloc was running from the police, was advancing cheerily through the crowd, stealing smiles even in those that couldn't see hope for all the ones in there. There's uncountable ways of fighting, uncountable ways of shutting down this system that, to be dead, only needs someone to explain it that it's already dead, that it already smells like a corpse.
From our group to her - a big kiss. Give them Hell, we'll do the same here!
We are the Media.
We are winning.
Spread the word - WE'LL SHUT DOWN G8.