A WSM members reports from the front line and the cells - Tue, 19 Jun 2007
A member of the [Irish anarchist] WSM travelled to last week's protests against the G8 in Heiligendamm, Germany. He reports on the actions that were taken and then on his arrest and mistreatment.
The Build-Up - 2nd June 2007
We travelled to Rostock on one of the 30 buses going from Hamburg. When we arrived the city was awash with people and also a gargantuan police presence. We made our way to the starting point of the rally in which the anarchist block was due to march, the second rally being composed more so of NGOs and political parties. After an hour or so of boring speeches and the monotone gloom of David Rovics, the march set off. --- A pretty impressive black bloc had formed at the rear-centre composed of AntiFa, anarchist groups and of course the Autonomous movement people. Black clad protesters are a much more eclectic bunch politically, this is worth remembering.
As the march weaved its way through the elegant city of Rostock, the Black Block seemed to swell considerably as it followed the sounds of the AntiFa sound system. My estimation is approximate, but I would guess it comprised of at least 6-7000 people. After an hour of marching and chanting, news filtered through that the other rally (which we were to meet at the Harbour) had been attacked by police using pepper spray, tear gas and of the course the ever-useful baton. Plumes of tear gas could be seen from afar and our march became agitated as it seemed the police had halted its progress at the front to prevent us reaching the Harbour and our fellow protesters. There were shouts to get into line among the black bloc as it seemed that we would have to fight our way through to the others.We were a tad anxious as the situation appeared to be deteriorating fast, but were bolstered by the apparent confidence and steel-eyed determination that surrounded us.
Soon, however,the march proceeded and the threat appeared to have abated. We made it to the harbour where the rumours of police violence were substantiated with injured demonstrators being attended to. The police then attempted to arrest people for covering their faces (this is an offence in Germany) and the crowd scattered somewhat into side streets as people fought back against the police repression.The scene escalated quickly as police snatch squads moved in at the sides of the black bloc with some force. However they were met with fearsome resistance, the like of which I have never before witnessed. Stones, bottles and other projectiles were used to give them a hostile welcome and hold them off as other protesters escaped to safety.It seemed as if police efforts to attack the march and arrest hundreds of anarchists and AntiFa had backfired as they were peppered from all sides by angry demonstrators and they had to beat a hasty retreat after a few minutes. [continued below ...]
This went on for quite some time around the harbour area and surrounding streets and can be seen and described better by pictures and video as I want to move on to the other events of the week.
For video and images see http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/05/371754.html
We went back to camp Rostock (one of the three superb G8-specific camps) that evening and digested the days events. 100 arrested, many injured and 400 cops getting treatment (no sympathy there). It was now clear to us that the German police were well-armed, well-protected, well-trained and brutal when they chose to be.There had also emerged a tendency to attack the less militant areas of demonstrations, a tactic which backfired on them big-time both that day and the following day in the German press. It was now also clear to us that the militant groups involved in this G8 were more than a match for their state-sponsored nemeses, should the situation so merit.
3rd - 5th June
On Sunday we attended an agriculture-reform march in Rostock. Again hugely well attended, the police did everything they could to incite the marchers. This pattern continued the following day at the Migrants-rights/Freedom-of-Movement rally using the same tactics as Sunday but with added severity. Following a successful march to an immigrant "processing centre" we departed to return to the city centre en bloc. The police constantly stopped the march, then let it proceed, then stopping it again and making demands regarding the clothing of the protesters. First no hoods (even though it was raining), then no hats, then no sunglasses. One protester took the initiative and stripped totally naked with an inscription on his back reading "I am a well behaved protester."
The fashion-related demands were clearly aimed at exposing the huge anarchist and black bloc presence to scrutiny, possibly because of Saturday's roasting. Very few complied with the outlandish demands, and eventually the march proceeded, moving just 1.5km in four hours! The demonstrators all but ignored the police attempts to incite them to militant resistance, everyone knowing that Wednesday (the opening day of the G8) was fast approaching and that our numbers and energy would be better spent then.
We moved to Camp Reddilich that evening as it was more suited to our political and organisational methods. Tuesday was spent moving from meeting to meeting, developing a clear and effective plan for the blockades due to begin in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Affinity groups were formed and ours nestled itself into the "English-speaking bloc" which was comprised of 60-70 people from England, Scandinavia, Ireland and Germany. After a long, long day, our last meeting concluded at 1.30am and we hit the hay with an early start and the G8 to block only a few hours away.
At about 3.30am,the camp siren sounded, along with youthful voices screaming that the camp was being attacked by police. The 6-7000 residents arose to a vision of frenzied activity. Myself and others gathered at our barrio's still-lit campfire and exchanged stories of a similar event in Stirling (G8 2005) which had amounted to nothing. This turned out to be the case again here, with the police merely increasing their numbers 500m from the front gate on a public highway. A lesson yet again to be learnt for future such events.
At 10am, a bleary-eyed bunch of us departed through the rapeseed fields at the rear of the camp area (which provided excellent cover). We had supplies sufficient to last us for 36 hours in the event of a long-haul outdoor stay. Our plan was to breach the Red Zone through the many forests of the region and create barricades on as many roads as we could. Each affinity group (5-15 people) nominated a delegate to the "spokes council" which would meet at strategic points on our route to maintain the decentralised democratic structure of the group. After about 2 hours of trekking through thick forest and dense rapeseed fields we reached our first road-target. Scouts went ahead to scope it out and reported back to the spokes-council delegates who had been chatting with their affinity groups. The signal was given and we ran onto the road,directing traffic away at either end and setting up two impressive barricades in the centre using logs, branches, dead trees and other natural supplies form the forest floor. With this complete we disappeared into the forest on the other side and began making our way to the next target using compasses and maps.
This was the group's strategy, to build barricades up and down a road and then disappear as quickly as possible to avoid police detection of our whereabouts from land-level and from above (where helicopters roamed the sky continuously). We continued in this manner for several hours pushing further and further into the Red Zone and avoiding police detection using natures cover and a sequence of call-out codes.
One larger road was blockaded with the assistance of the "Tool Team" who felled huge Sycamore trees (a pest species apparently) from the banks, making particularly impassable barricades. As we walked further down this road to build another, 3 BMW police cars (upper-echelon police types) sped by and people initially panicked. However, seconds later, they were calmed and we built a second barricade, trapping the 3 cars in between the two barriers. This was to prevent them from following us but we knew now that our invisibility had been compromised and that we had to tread more carefully from here on in.
At about 4pm, we came across a tourist map at the edge of one of the forests with a "You are Here" guide which had been conveniently altered to indicate police/G8 details by a past passer-by. We were now at the village of Wittingbeck with no further forest cover available for 2km. A spokes council was held after which about a third of the group decided to turn back and the rest to continue towards Heilegendamm. It had been an hour and a half since we had encountered the BMW police cars and no adverse attention had come our way since then, possibly due to the obtuse and unpredictable direction of our chosen route. On we went, passing slowly through the village, attempting to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Suddenly a number of police vans appeared to our right up an alley-way. They backed up immediately upon seeing us, seemingly afraid. We seized the initiative building a barricade of concrete blocks, wooden planks and bricks in front of them, trapping them up the alleyway. Some people fled once they saw the vans and our numbers had again been reduced, now down to about 30.
We were then "bolstered" by the appearance from a side street of a group of black-clad individuals armed with iron bars and bags of bricks. Our attempts to remain inconspicuous in the bustling village had clearly been compromised and seconds later, a PLATOON of police, presumably alerted by their now-trapped colleagues, appeared around the corner and it was all over. As the vans sped toward us, our black-clad comrades who I think but am not 100 percent sure were Greek hurled bricks and stones and swung their iron bars at the windows of the vans as they passed. Most of the group thought it better to flee into an adjoining field (with large agitated horses galloping crazily around).The numbers of police that appeared were overwhelming.
Myself and two comrades tried to remain calm and continued walking as if nothing had happened (we were dressed in a"non-threatening" way at this point). However, this approach proved to be to no avail as we were stopped, screamed at in German, pushed around, cuffed and taken away.The same fate befell our comrades in the field minutes later as they were surrounded on all sides by hundreds of riot police
Initially handcuffed, we were then constrained using cable-ties as more and more arrests were made and the police were running low on the luxury version. We were made sit on the grass for almost an hour in the baking heat with no communication with anyone permitted. At 6pm we were loaded onto several police jail buses and pushed around forcefully if any delay resulted as a result of instructions given only in German. We were transported to the temporary detention centre (DC) in Rostock, a journey of 25 km or so, which curiously took two hours! Slacking off, methinks!
Upon our arrival we were "processed" (personal data taken) and then one by one placed in large white cages (5m x 3m x 3m), with open sides but a white sheet shielding one cage from the next to prevent easy communication among inmates (who I shall here after refer to as "comrades"). More and more comrades arrived until each cage had about 15 inhabitants. The cages were empty of supplies with nothing to sleep on except the concrete floor. Introductions were exchanged and the atmosphere was comradely, if very fatigued.
The cages were gender-divided with the female cages protesting the loudest and most continuously for basic rights - food, water, telephone call, lawyer and doctor. These protests were almost completely ignored with food (one slice of bread) and water being the only ones granted,and even at this, only occasionally.
At 11pm, I was brought to see the "Richter" (police judge) who following a review of the circumstances of my arrest stated that I would be in custody until Saturday at noon. No private space was given to my lawyer and I to speak, a clear breach of the law and my basic riights. A phone call, etc. had still not been granted. The Richter guaranteed in front of my lawyer and translator that I would get my phone call immediately. This promise did not materialise for a further 15 hours.
During the night, any attempts at sleep were made even more impossible by the constant and meaningless moving of comrades from one cage to the next. I, myself, was moved three times and this was typical. Each of the three times I had all but breached the discomfort barrier and had dropped off to sleep.Mental exhaustion was clearly what they were going for, its purpose clearly to weaken comrades physically and mentally for the upcoming interrogations etc. I continuously demanded my phone call, demands which were ignored with impudence. Screams of the females were audible at various times from various points and levels in the building, an unnerving feeling to say the least.
At 5.30am, I was called from my cage. Weary of being incessantly moved and hearing stories of others having been fingerprinted, I refused to move unless the reason for so doing was given. No reason was forthcoming and after my refusal and my comrades solidarity the opfficer left and promptly returned with two armed cops who removed me forcefully. The law in Germany states that you are not obliged to give fingerprints but that you are not permitted to resist with force if an attempt is made to extract them from you.Three men held me as one cop pressed each of my fingers onto the prints sheet. A thoroughly disempowering experience and one that would have been much more traumatic had I not been half-asleep the entire time from exhaustion.
The hours dragged by, still with no telephone call granted and the heat in the cages grew immense. At about 2.30pm, myself and a comrade from Brighton upon receiving information from an English Lawyer (via a mobile we had smuggled in) demanded that we see a high-ranking officer. We had been informed that our detention was illegal as non-German, E.U citizens and that after our data had been taken and confirmed, we were entitled to release. Once this was communicated to him, we were immediately granted our phone calls and I phoned the legal team and the Irish consulate, explaining the legal situation and conditions to both. The consulate agreed to help, however I would like to emphasise that despite their kind words on the phone to me, they were NO help at all and merely sent me a list of English-speaking lawyers in Germany, despite the fact I had told them clearly I had a competent lawyer. Following the phone call, I returned to my cage but within 5 minutes was on the move again, this time to court in Rostock to hear the appeal I had lodged the previous night to the decision of the Richter.
The four "reasons", (not even charges against me) for keeping me in effective preventative custody were:
- 1. Being in a group with others dressed in black
- 2. Being in a group with others wearing masks. (I was not wearing a face-mask at this point nor was I dressed in black,only a black t-shirt)
- 3. Being present where a fence was damaged (I had not crossed the fence due to the lack of escape opportunities and the crazed horses)
- 4. Being a danger to the state of Germany
Thus, the Richter had deemed that to prevent me committing these or further offences in the future 4 days, I had to be detained until Saturday
I was brought to the Rostock city court building where we waited outside in the hallway for quite some time. During this time, the accompanying police officers attempted to pry information from me. I told them I would not answer any questions without my lawyer present and following that replied "Keine Commenta" to every question. They used predictable techniques such as telling me 'You willing be staying in Germany now for 10 months" and then saying that IF I just told them what happened they might be able to help me to avoid this. This continued for about 30 minutes until the judges appeared in the corridor at which point the police fell silent.
I was given 10 minutes to discuss matters with my young lawyer. We then made our case to the hearing about why my detention until Saturday was illegal. Together we described accurately the conditions, the fact that none of the charges can be evidenced in any way by the police and also that no telephone call was granted for 15 hours despite the Richter's guarantee that it would in front of both lawyer and translator (who affirmed this promise in court). The court seemed impressed and the police lawyer said very little throughout except that police resources were under much strain. I felt quietly confident at this point. The court said they would retire for one hour to consider its decision and asked would I like to stay to hear it, to which of course I replied that I would. However the police insisted that I must return to the detention centre and that they would inform me when the court rang with the decision.
I suspected foul play immediately.
When I arrived back in the D.C I was placed in solitary confinement away from all the other comrades in a cell with four white walls, a toilet and nothing else. I heard nothing for about 6 hours except the occasional sobbing and sometimes hysterical screaming of one of the other comrades who had suffered the same fate as I. The white walls and boredom get to you after a while. At about 10pm, I was joined by a German comrade, who had also been in solitary and man, we were glad to see and talk to one another. It is indescribable how bored you get on your own and how priceless it is to have another human introduced to your environment, even after such a short while alone.
Following a long chat with each other, we drifted off to sleep on our concrete beds until we were rudely awoken at 3.30am. We were being transported to Butzau prison, over 100km and a world away and despite my protests (through German with the aid of my comrade) about receiving my court decision before I left, I was bundled into the back of a van and whisked away. We arrived at the prison at about 5am and were "processed" along with some German and French comrades. After processing we were led to our cells which were in complete disrepair with little obvious improvements since the prisons construction in 1835. However, thankfully, there was an actual bed, a luxury not to be found in Rostock and we slept like babies for hours and hours.
All day Friday was spent in the cell, with no time given for walkabout or fresh air. The wing we were in had been reserved for anti-G8 protesters only, to keep us away from the large fascist prison population, or rather them away from us. My cell comrade Gerome was released Friday evening along with some of the other Irish arrestees, but they had one more battle to face as a standoff between them and a local bunch of fascists which had gathered ensued before the police arrived to ensure their safe passage out of there.
After much sleeping and chatting with my French comrade Jeremie about everything under the sun that I could manage with my limited French and he with his similarly limited English, I was released at noon Saturday with Jeremie departing a few hours earlier. I was greeted by friendly lefties outside including my friend Sean who had gotten out the previous night, as well as by food, water and a car to get the fuck out of there.
I missed two flights out of Germany and ended up leaving on Monday.
It was all worth it. Fuck the G8!
t of anarchist bloc