A continent in crisis, Europe is calling. Calling for resistance.
by Jori Jansen.
For those of you who missed the news, Blockupy Frankfurt was a big international action against the austerity disease across Europe at the HQ of the European Central Bank. I will not pay too much attention to the background. I want to tell a story about my experiences.
The weekend of May 17, 18 and 19 is clearly etched into my mind. Where normal days fade out, I can still vividly remember a lot of situations of this particular weekend. It was impressive and intense. I am not an experienced protester; I had never before seen these numbers of both police and protesters out on the street. In the following I will highlight intense encounters with both over the three days of action.
Thursday morning a busload of Dutch activists departing from Nijmegen. Singing, laughing, chilling and getting to know each other in the bus reminded me of school fieldtrips. The bus also gave us bits and pieces of information of the situation in and around Frankfurt. There were rumors of 3 (or was it 12?) busses being stopped, searched and escorted back to Berlin or of activists randomly searched on the streets, police taking away camping gear and handing out ‘platzverweisen’ (area restriction) as if they were campaign flyers. It sent us into a different reality. We began to realize that our field trip was heading to a daunting and unpredictable destination, where we would have to be on our guard and expect the worst.
When we got to Frankfurt we tried to avoid being seen by the police, so we got off the bus in the outer edges of the city to continue by public transport. Hiding in the shadows and behind bushes we evaded long hungry snakes of police vans. Especially at the ‘Hauptbahnhof’ interesting things happened. The subway entrance was heavily policed (thirty+ vans). Breaking off into affinity groups our first discussion under pressure was to be made; should we try to reach the subway, should we go to the next subway station or just walk to our sleeping place?
It all turned out to be unnecessary as a bus arrived at the ‘Hauptbahnhof’ which was of great interest to all the policemen, so we could sneak behind and go into the subway system; safe at last.
What I found very difficult to figure out at the time and still actually is, if all our caution and precautions was really necessary. Since I did not experience direct encounters with the police myself I cannot answer this question; although accounts from other people who were less fortunate are telling enough.
Friday the blockade was another day filled with precautions; walking in small groups to not look suspicious, grouping, regrouping, hunted down, blocked by full gear riot cops and their massive backup of vans.
But there is so much more to tell than only this grim picture of being hunted. The protestors were a wonderful bunch of well-spirited, critical, energetic and creative minds. Back on at the University campus where we were hosted, we discussed the day’s experiences, caught up with those arrested and already released and relaxed after an intense day.
An epic moment I clearly remember was after the huge demonstration on Saturday. After walking for a couple of hours in the burning sun it was time to chill. And chilling we did, with live music and DJ’s we partied in the park underneath the ECB, until the darkness crept up on us and brought thunder and rain. Feeling the rain on my face I looked up towards the tall bank towers and screamed, sang and danced with the ecstatic crowd. The whole experience gave me the feeling of connectedness to those near, of being in charge of myself and my life; I felt comfortable with myself and the world –and free.
All in all it was way more intense than I expected it to be. As I said it is etched into my memory. Impressed by the police presence, impressed by the protesters, impressed by the organization, impressed by the sheer numbers.