It’s a wonderful evening in Orléans. We’re camped in the central square, right beneath the statue of Jeanne d’Arc. There are public plug-ins for electricity, there’s free wifi around, and the field kitchen is preparing an exquisite meal with all the goodies that people have brought us.
I came walking alone today, again. The others took the national road, I don’t know why, because parallel to it there’s a quiet little path through the green along the Loire. I couldn’t resist, also because it is the last day we will be following the river. Tomorrow we turn straight North towards Paris.
We have joined forces here with the march from Toulouse. They have been here for days, waiting for us. Given the fact that their march has departed the same day as ours and they had to cover only half the distance, they had all the time in the world to walk up here, doing only 15 to 20 kilometres daily.
Up until now I knew hardly anything about their march, because of the lack of a good Communication commission on our side and the lack of time to find things out myself. It turns out they’re relatively small, varying from half a dozen at the minimum to about twenty people at the moment. By comparison, our march has numbered anywhere from thirty to a hundred people.
The Toulouse march might be small, but it’s very well organised. Their official blog is excellent, and I was happy to meet the comrade responsible for its daily updates. And not only, there were more people I was happy to see, like comrade Manuel, the most prolific member of the Audiovisuals commission of Sol, and comrade Smiling Sparrow, who was with us until Bordeaux.
Smiling Sparrow has seen all the three marches. So it was interesting to hear her make a comparison. In ours, which is officially called the ‘Meseta March’ – because it originates from the Spanish meseta or highland – we have had a lot of problems, as you will know by now. But it seems that the ‘Mediterranean March’ from Barcelona is much worse. Smiling Sparrow used an understatement, and said that it was a “complete disaster”. She only resisted three days.
“There are a lot of ego’s in the group, they are very immature, there are lots of parasites and only few people walking. Many of them just go hitch hiking when they don’t feel like marching.” Toulouse on the other hand is supposed to be a well drilled army, or at least a platoon. Also because “with less people there’s less to organise.”
In the three days that they’ve been waiting, they received hospitality from local sympathisers. They didn’t dare to camp. The reason being that Orléans is a so-called ‘Sarkozy laboratory’. The city is almost completely controlled by camera’s, police have far reaching authority to repress people sleeping, camping, or otherwise behaving out of the ordinary. Putting up tents here, anywhere, is a risk. Police can come in to arrest and destroy first and ask questions later.
We do things the Spanish way. We don’t care. We put up our tents and see what happens. Until now there hasn’t been a single police officer in sight. We’re much more numerous today, and we were on the front page of the local newspaper. It’s always possible that they attack tonight, but as we are leaving tomorrow they probably think it isn’t worth the bad publicity.
The news coverage also helped boost the presence of locals at the assembly, the biggest so far in one of the cities. I had the honour to give a small opening speech about the history of our movement, like I had already done in Tours. It’s not my kind of thing to speak in public, especially in a language – Spanish – that I do not yet perfectly master, but being ‘the official historian of the march’, it came down to me.
The assembly is over by now, locals and people from the marches are mixing while tasting the food. Showers are being offered continuously by sympathisers. Footage of the march is being projected on a blanket by comrade Jason, our cameraman driving the medical support vehicle.
Yes, dear comrades, it really is a wonderful evening in Orléans. And tomorrow morning we march all together. In five days we’ll be in Paris.