I remember sloshing through the tall, wet grass. I remember enemy helicopters creating mini-tornados above our heads. I remember sneaking through fields at night while a searchlight swept back and forth. I remember sleeping on the street to make sure a convoy of vehicles couldn’t pass.
No, I wasn’t fighting with the Viet Cong…
I was in Heiligendamm protesting against the G8 summit in 2007. We were able to delay the opening by six hours – the thousands of assistants couldn’t get around the mass blockades. Now, the G8 has become the G7 – Putin was kicked out – and is back in Germany. This weekend (June 7-8), seven heads of state will be meeting in Schloss Elmau in Bavaria.
Lots of people will be travelling from Berlin for the protests. What are they mad about?
1. Global justice
Last year, Oxfam reported that 85 people – the occupancy of a double-decker bus – now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population. And it’s only getting worse. Since the protests about the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, just about every international summit of the rich and powerful has been accompanied by protests. What they call “free trade” just means choking the Third World.
Back in the day, the Group of Eight used to promise they would defend peace on earth. But now Russia and the West are slogging it out in Ukraine with heavy weapons. These powers are responsible for most of the arms production in the world – and they need at least an occasional war to keep their sales up.
What is the content of this mysterious transatlantic trade deal between the US and the EU? Sigmar Gabriel, super-minister from the SPD, doesn’t want to tell anyone. But it’s clear the treaty will ‘unify’ rules on labour rights, the environment and health – always reducing them each to the lowest level. For us in Europe, this will mean the right to eat chlorine-soaked chicken from the US. Yum!
4. The summit itself
Everyone likes camping with friends. So why shouldn’t Angela Merkel be allowed to have six friends over? Well, because all taxpayers are shelling out €360 million for this 24-hour-meeting. This includes costs for setting up an 18km fence and mobilizing 24,000 police. Don’t these people have Skype if they need to have a chat?
5. Democratic rights
When Putin held the Olympics in Sochi, the Russian government allowed for a protest zone just 15km from the games. The German government is not giving us the same right to assembly. The authorities have only approved for a demonstration of 40 metres, and they tried to ban a camp for activists (even though that’s currently allowed). We need at least the same rights as in China.
6. Police provocations
Why are there 24,000 police in Bavaria? The organisers are expecting less than 10,000 demonstrators. Will each flag-waving activist be accompanied by four heavily armed police officers? You know the police will have to retroactively justify these enormous costs – you can be sure they will do everything in their power to get pictures of violent protests. Keep your eyes open for “demonstrators” with short hair and olive-green underwear committing acts of violence.
“There is no alternative” – that’s what Margaret Thatcher said about the system we live in, and sometimes it feels like she was right. The G7 is a chance to say that we are not happy. And let’s be honest: It’s fun! Being searched by police for six hours can make anyone feel like a dangerous spy. And running through the fields like Viet Cong fighters is something you don’t get to do every day.
How to get there? Check for the buses from the Berlin Anti-G7 Alliance (they appear to be sold out) or take commercial transport.