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Posts Tagged ‘March on Brussels’

May 23 Memo

In Madrid, Spain on 23 May 2013 at 21:18
Demo for Press Freedom, May23, "We are not afraid."

Demo for Press Freedom, May23, “We are not afraid.”

Yesterday two photographers who regularly cover demonstrations in Madrid, were arrested at home, accused of defamation via social networks. Earlier today they were released with charges and this evening there was a solidarity protest outside the office of the Delegate of the Government in Madrid. Citizen press brandished their cameras and smartphones shouting ‘these are our weapons’ and ‘freedom of information’.

I also met comrades from the marches, with whom I have a bond that was forged over hundreds, even thousands of kilometres on the road. I have been a bit  out of contact with most, so I was shocked to hear the news. Comrade Abdelatif, battlename Abdullah, has died three weeks ago. He was a veteran and an icon of the Acampada Logroño, of the Northern Column and of the March to Brussels. He was over sixty years old when he marched all the way from Madrid to the heart of Europe, and apparently he was already sick.

Abdelatif’s past was shrouded in stories of a thousand and one night. Nobody really know who he was, where he came from. What we do know is that his family had him buried in Algeria. Some people say Abdelatif was as old as Methusalem. They say he is still alive, just like Elvis, just like Andreotti. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know. Otherwise, may he rest in peace. It was an honour and a pleasure to march with him.

Comrade Abdullah

Comrade Abdullah, augustus 2011.

Family Reunion

In March on Brussels, Spain on 1 January 2012 at 16:00

Móstoles, January 1

Dear people,

Never mind all the stories about spirits and kindness. This year, Christmas was whispered to become a marathon orgy. It started on the 21st of December 2011 and was supposed to go on until the End of Time, scheduled in December 2012.

Unfortunately, we got there late.

It was the evening of the 24th. We were expected in the countryside in the outskirts of the outskirts of Madrid. We left everything to the last minute, and when we finally lifted our bags to go to the metro, we saw how the shutters of the station slowly closed in our face.

So there we were. All people were safe and warm at home, the shops had closed, even the Chinese. We were left with a pack of dry lentils, one egg, a bottle of cheap wine, a bottle of even cheaper sangria, and no cork screw.

“What do we do now?”

Our only luck was that the bottle of sangria had a screw tap. And because I’m a romantic soul, for me there was but one option. “Let’s go to Puerta del Sol. We’ll get drunk out on the streets and have ourselves arrested. Given the situation it’s the only decent way to celebrate Christmas Eve.”

I was a little bit disappointed when the Spirit of Christmas came to save the day. But in the end it was probably better that he did. The three of us ended up listening to hard core Christmas music and playing cards until eight in the morning.

On Boxing Day we finally managed to arrive here in Móstoles. It turned out that the rumours going around on Facebook about this being a kind of End of the World Mega Party, were slightly exaggerated. We were four people. But it was only the beginning.

This is the country garden of comrade Geraldo, at fifteen minutes walking from the closest metrostation. When his grandfather worked this piece of land, the towns of Móstoles, Alcorcón, Fuenlabrada and Getafe were still small communities over the horizon. Now they are the vanguard of Madrid. At night you can see how the lights of the metropolis are slowly advancing from all sides. It won’t be long before this piece of country side will be turned into a park surrounded by vacant appartment blocks.

The advancing metropolis

During the week, from all corners of the country and the continent, the veterans of the March on Brussels arrived, one after another. We started celebrating New Year’s Eve a week early, and we just kept on going. “Do you remember?…” someone would say, and there came the stories about the march. The triumphs and the disasters. The good, the bad and the ugly.

There was the legendary ‘Chocolate man’ for example, who served us hot chocolate every morning during our last days in Euskadi and our first days in France. There was the couple from Barcelona who took heartfelt care of us on various occasions. And there was the family from Murcia who joined us for a few days just before our arrival in Paris (mom, dad, daughter of about 17 and son of about 9). It was one of the many times when our march was subject to internal struggle and chaos. Comrade Lodovico didn’t believe that a family would ever want to be associated with us lunatics, and he had a very hard time explaining them the true situation without discouraging them to participate.

They stayed, against all odds. And one way or another they pulled the group together and turned into the spirit of the march. We must have left them a good impression after all, because yesterday just before the new year, all four of them showed up.

Then there were the stories about the week we spent in Revolutionary HQ in Brussels. I haven’t even told you a fraction of what happened there. Most things I heard for the first time. Like the day a man came into the kitchen, and climbed onto one of the tables, and stripped. He spread his arms and announced that he was the incarnation of god on earth. When someone tried to cross his divine path, the scene turned into a full scale riot.

The third floor assassination attempt was another of those stories, probably drug related. Someone had apparently been bottled on the back of the head and left there to bleed. He was only found because of the trail of bloody foot steps that the perpetrator left in the corridor.

Everyone could enter Revolutionary HQ, and indeed, everyone did. Cases of plundering and robbery went on all week. On one of the last days someone really ‘wanted’ must have looked for refuge inside the building. All of a sudden police cars arrived from all directions and a helicopter came hovering over the roof. This scene I remember. They came in, they caught the man and took him away. In ten minutes everything was back to normal. If I had disposed of a camera crew, I could have made an action movie about the week in Brussels.

The Hulk in North Africa

Aside from telling stories, we play Risk. We didn’t have the game at hand, so we made it. A stack of cards, five dices and multi-coloured poker chips is all you need to play. I drew the map on coffee table. Comrade Perro shows a photo of the game of Catan which they made in the squat in Paris.

As revolutionaries, we are slipping, I have to admit it. While we are sitting here, playing Risk on the fifth day of New Year’s Eve, other comrades have arrived in Madrid and engaged in actions. “¡Hostia!” says Geraldo when the news comes in on his phone. “Police is charging at the Cabalgata indignada. There’s a photo of comrade Smiling Sparrow being clubbed in the head. ¡Es una pasada, chabales!

We are shocked. Geraldo puts down his phone, and picks up the dice. “So, the Hulk is going to attack North Africa from Brazil…”

On the other side of the table I drew a map of ‘Risk Iberia’. But as a result of local nationalist sensitivities, it caused more conflict around the table than on it…

Risk Iberia

The last day of the year was amazing. Comrades Cristo, Getafe, Kanario, Carmencita, Sebastian, Smiling Sparrow and many others arrived, both from the Spanish and the French branch of the march. With a few exceptions we were all there, the best of the march on Brussels. When darkness fell we turned into one big tribe dancing around the fire. ‘If only for this,’ I think, ‘the march has become a success.’

Geraldo jumping the flames

By now the stories had started to focus on what happened after the march. Some people went to the protests during the G20 meeting in Nice, or helped to organise the March to Athens. Others have formed their ‘Revolutionary A-Team’, gave it the name of ‘Proyecto Nomada’, and returned to Paris to take part in Occupy La Défense. I heard about it, I’ve seen images of indignados building a cardboard camp only to have it destroyed by police over and over again. I’ve also seen images of the spectacular dome they built, but hearing the first hand accounts of what happened, standing around the fire, is definitely better than anything you can find out through the web.

On the radio the clock of Puerta del Sol starts to strike. Two thousand twelve has arrived. Soon each of us will leave in different directions. To Rome, to Barcelona, to Bayonne, to Berlin, or back to Brussels. But tonight we’re allvhere, and we celebrate. In a certain sense we are one big family. And at some point on the paths of the revolution, we will meet again.

First day of the year

 

 

March on Brussels Documentary

In March on Brussels on 23 November 2011 at 21:18

Dear people,

I send you a link to a short documentary about the March on Brussels by German film maker Martin Keßler. Enjoy!

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Gute Nacht, Freunde…

In #GlobalRevolution, Belgium, Brussels on 16 October 2011 at 22:39
October 16

AcampadaBrussels @ Jubelpark

Dear people,

 

Yesterday’s demonstration concludes a chapter of the revolution, or maybe just the prologue. On the day after, many of us say goodbye. People go their own way. Some are returning to Spain, some are hanging around. I go up to Holland.

 

It has been an honour to march with these people, or most of them at least. It will be a pleasure to see them again, wherever, whenever. We are dedicated to the revolution, we are the first wave, we have a bond.

 

Almost five months ago I arrived in Sol, and I camped. “If this is going to be the defining moment of my generation, then I want to be there”.

Since then I have had the pleasure to witness and to document the acampada, the summer of the popular marches and the big demonstrations, the destruction of Sol. Finally the March on Brussels, the occupation of the university and World Revolution Day.

It has been an extraordinary experience. And now it’s time for me, and for many of us, to take a rest.

 

The first winter of the movement is at hand. Revolutionary HQ has been cleared and sealed by the police. The experiment of the free space has been too short to properly evaluate. In this week we were severely handicapped due to sanitary problems and lack of internet. The society might have seemed to be on the edge of collapse, but it could just as easily have selfregulated itself. I’m actually pretty optimistic about that. I’m convinced that we can fruitfully occupy covered spaces as a movement.

I also think these actions should have a clear goal, as opposed to the wild occupation of Revolutionary HQ. Spaces for living. Spaces for meeting. Spaces for study. Spaces for art. There are spaces enough. And together we can make them useful. All it takes is a little fantasy.

People are occupying squares in all the world. Also in Holland occupations are going on, in front of the Stock Exchange in Amsterdam and on the Malieveld in The Hague. We really did come a long way in the last five months. Even my brother, a notorious capitalist, wasn’t ashamed to walk along with the demonstration in Brussels. He doesn’t believe that something like a revolution is really possible. But he believes in evolution, in change for the better.

 

Now that it has started I plan to keep coveering it, but I do not know yet where and when. In the next few weeks I want to try to put my experiences, and the current expansion of the movement into perspective. Then I’ll see.

 

It concludes my chronicles of the march and the initial months of the 15M movement. I thank you, first of all my revolutionary brothers and sisters with whom I have had the pleasure to share this. And of course I thank you, my beloved readers. If it weren’t for all the heartwarming and inspiring comments I received I might never have been able to keep it up until the end. I thank you too for the sporadic negative reactions, because I’m convinced that if something doesn’t meet with opposition it can have little meaning. It’s the same reason why I don’t support the consensus model. If an idea is shared by absolutely everyone, it can hardly be a good idea.

 

I leave you with the image of our outsourced Media Center. People behind computers twenty-four hours a day. Empty bags of crisps on the table. A comrade of mine who wants to remain Anonymous, tells me how it all starts. The march, the occupations, the acampadas, the demonstrations, the whole damn thing. It starts right here.

“You know that the idea for a March on Brussels, has been circulating since February. We did that. We simply started bombing the social networks with messages about a march on Brussels. After that, people began to talk about it, it went around on Facebook, and in the end, a group of people started walking. I was overjoyed the day that the Mediterranean came by right beneath my window.”

I imagine things like Occupy Wall Street being organised in the same way. A couple of nerds behind a computerscreen on a sunday morning, eating donuts. “What shall we do today?”

“Global revolution?”

“Heck, why not? #globalrevolution it is.”

 

Cheers,

Oscar

“This Is What Democracy Looks Like”

In #GlobalRevolution, Belgium, Brussels, March on Brussels on 15 October 2011 at 23:59
October 15
Global Revolution Day


Dear people,

During this week at Revolutionary HQ I have gradually moved my sleeping space up the building. From the skybox over the aula magna, to a corner in the library, and finally, on the last night, to the ‘Comisión Me la pela / Me la suda’, home of the Meseta hard core.

The commission had recently transfered its quarters from the third floor to the fifth, because of shit invading the hallway. Comrade Brina called it a ‘problem of convivencia’, people who continue to use the toilets even when they’re out of order. They have been shoveling crap every day, but in the end they gave up and moved away from the center of gravity.

“This building is killing us. You hardly know any of the people you encounter. This is not a community, it’s bloody chaos.”


I too moved up because of the invasion. Graffiti has been appearing since a couple of days. The problem with the drain was never fixed and people finally had to use dry bathrooms in the garden, accessable through the window. In the first few days, much of the electronical equipment had been plundered and interpersonal theft became a common practice.

It’s the other side of the ‘free space’ where no one decides and where no one bears responsability.

The first rumour I heard this morning was that police were going to close the university while everyone would be in the demonstration. As a precaution, many campers picked up their bags and left.

I was a bit disappointed that nobody wanted to defend the free space. But it also meant that all of us were decided to take the streets. We can occupy another headquarters whenever we want to.

Media Center 2

The people from the hard core don’t shed a tear for Revolutionary HQ. Faces are flourishing when we walk to Media Center to drop off our bags. We take our time to reunite, and by tradition we’re late. When we walk up to Gare du Nord it seems that no one is there. For a moment, in between the skyscrapers, it appears to me that all this revolution thing has only been a silly dream.

Then we hear the drums.

It’s going on. This is what we have come here for, marching all the way from Spain. Global Revolution Day, October 15. Today we are Brussels, we have to play our part on the world stage.

Fans of mine 😉

The vibe of the crowd is good. There are many people. All types, all ages, and many different languages. I see slogans in French, English, Spanish, Dutch, German. These people are citizens of Europe, demonstrating joyfully against the lack of European democracy, right here in the capital of the empire. The sun is giving us a glorious late summer salute.

Arrival at Beus

We go to the Stock Exchange, our first stop. It’s an excellent photographic venue, but this particular place doesn’t count in the world of 21st century capitalism. The real power is down the road, in an anonymous skyscraper near our departure point. It is the headquarters of Euroclear, the ‘bank of the banksters’.

You probably have never heard of this enterprise. That’s because you are part of the 99%. You are not eligible to have an account there. You don’t need to know that they exist and that they shift billions of dollars per day in obscure financial transactions. We circle the skyscrapers, holding hands. One of our comrades had prepared a dossier on Euroclear, which was presented to the press, and flyers to inform the public. This anonymous institution probably knows a lot more about the causes of the crisis than we do.

In front a Dexia office

The crowd moves east, towards the European Quarter. At one of the Dexia offices riot police protects the building after sporadic acts of vandalism. There’s a bit of tension, but soon the march goes peacefully and happily forth.

Police don’t let us pass by the Wetstraat, the Street of the Law, which leads straight to the European roundabout. We are led around the institutions, and at sunset we enter the Jubelpark, right under the triumphant arch of the Belgian military museum. This is public space now. Park regulations are overruled by the people. We make fire, we make music, and we camp.

Esta noche acampamos! Esta noche acampamos!” It’s the Meseta hard core. Many of us had brought tents, and those are the first to go up. In the meantime sound and internet are being installed near the Media Center van, and food is being prepared on camp fires. We made it. It has become a success. “Abrazo colectivo! Abrazo colectivo!

Comrade Anna

“Well over two thousand people,” a police officer reports into his walkie talkie. He and his collegue retreat to the exit. The burgomaster of Brussels had ordered a complete camping ban in the whole city. But police give in, they won’t interfere with us camping tonight.

I walk down to Media Center. The rooms over there are full of people receiving and distributing the news. This is the Brussels information hub of the movement. I see pictures from Japan this morning, from Corea, from India. I see pictures from Puerta del Sol. There are half million people occupying the center of Madrid, my revolutionary home.

The barricades

I take my tent and my bagpack and I walk back, passing by the red zone for a change. To my right there is the European Council, the legislative. To my left there is the European Commission, the executive. I walk on, past barbed wire barricades, into the park. We camp here in the heart of Europe, in this theatrical scenario. We have achieved something. But only when the live connection starts, I know what it is.

Pictures from someone streaming in Berlin. A group of people is sitting down in front of the Reichstag. The police is trying to arrest them, but they are ignored. This is not television, this is us, broadcasting ourselves. I feel a shiver. History is happening everywhere, right now. We hear that 8000 demonstrators have gathered in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. People are camping.

We switch to New York. There are crowds in Wall Street, there are crowds uptown. Images of Time Square, taken over by the people. “Whose streets?! Our streets!! Whose streets?! Our streets!!”.

I join a group of comrades around a fire. It’s one of those gratifying tribal pleasures. And while we’re there, looking into the flames together we hear the rhythmic sound of the crowd in Times Square chanting, live, “This is what democracy looks like!”

I look up from the fire and I see the arches, and the moon rising. It’s an amazing feeling. We have become citizens of the world.

Cat on printer in Media Center

A Comfortable Chair

In Belgium, Brussels on 10 October 2011 at 23:30
October 10

Agora Brussels Day 2

View of Brussels from revolutionary boardroom

Dear people,

I have planted myself in the boardroom of the Media Center on the top floor of Revolutionary HQ, in a comfortable chair, with a stupendous view over Brussels. I just wanted to have the feeling.

 Still, there’s little we can do here. The people from Media Center have made badges, and attached indications throughout the building, but they haven’t yet fulfilled their one and only scope. Guarantee a broadband internet connection accesable for all. For the moment the connection is limited and unreliable. To be able to upload things I have to look for internet elsewhere.

 

 This is one of our problems. Another one is that we still can’t use the toilets after yesterday’s inundation. We are used to worse in two months of marching, but as long as we don’t resolve these things, we are seriously limited in our activities.

Fortunately, there are other things we can do. Among all the stuff that was left here by the university there were boxes full of fluffy ‘anti-stress dices’, part of a ‘student survival kid’. When they were brought to Media Center, people were happy to stop trying to connect themselves with the world and start a battle, throwing dices, and seeking cover behind the desks. It ended when someone acvtivated the fire extinguisher. When big clouds of white smoke came out of the windows, the people below thought that the building had caught fire.

It was the most interesting activity of the day, as far as I know. We have an official program, with debates, and forums and other serious things, but hardly anybody cares. Not the people from outside, and not even the people from the marches. Most of them are busy with projects for after Brussels. Our comrades from the Mediterranean are active in preparing the indefinite occupation of this place. Many people from the Meseta march are planning future marches, to Greece in the first place, and maybe to Palestine later on. Others are developing a nomad project, which consists more or less in forming a kind of ‘Revolutionary A-Team’. They would wander around Europe and the world, searching for hotspots of rebellion where they can participate in sedition, and put their experience into practice.

 The people from our march are already complaining that the comfort of this place is leading to a dangerous lull in revolutionary enthusiasm. And they are right. For now most of us just want to make maximum use of the potential of our building. It’s like a christmas present that you can’t put away for as long as it doesn’t start to bore you.

Revolutionary HQ

The Cafetaria

Revolutionary entrance

There are some commissions that have been fully active from start. One is the ‘Direct Action’ commission. It’s composed by two Spanish comrades who joined us in Paris. Until our arrival here they were mainly known for drinking beer and making noise, but once they got their own office, they have been preparing flyers and manifests in different languages all day and are active in distributing them at the night. It surprised us, just as it doesn’t surprise us that the more intellectualoid activists have been burying themselves in blabla all day long. The General Assembly has simultaneous written translations in three languages now, but hasn’t been able to disuss or decide about anything.

Another commission that has been seriously active is the commission Mushroom Cloud. This morning the three core members went on a trip in the woods and they brought home dozens of varieties of mushrooms. They have classified and exhibited them, with a warning not to eat them because some are known to be lethal. The hallucinogenous ones are being dehydrated. They have been claimed by the Spirituality Commission for their mind openening characteristics.

First mushroom harvest

At late night we have a little reunion in the economy department of the library, where comrade Roberto has made his home. The evaluation we make of the situation is not very positive. The people who were arrested are suffering from a kind of ‘Vietnam Syndrome’, as comrade Canario put it. They thought they were defending the great cause of our movement when they had themselves arrested, but when they came home they noticed that most people didn’t really care about what they did. Now they bear a grudge. They accuse the people from Brussels of underappreciating the marches and of using our arrival for their own glory. I have also heard accusations of elitism and lack of activism.

I haven’t yet been able to analyse the new situation well enough to say something about this. But it’s clear that a structure made up of closed spaces invites people to separate themselves and close their minds.

Revolutionary Headquarters Brussels

In Belgium, Brussels on 9 October 2011 at 22:22

October 9

Agora Brussels Day 1

Dear people,

Yesterday some of us had themselves arrested for defending the public space. Today, the public space lay abbandoned, and no-one seems to care. No way we are going to camp, we have an entire building now!

The comrades who got arrested were dropped off at the Basilique this morning, next to police vehicles with horses and water cannons on standby. They didn’t receive anything to eat during the night, they were forced to suffer the cold without blankets. They were exhausted when they entered the building of the Flemish University this morning, and they found people occupying spaces in a state of infantile happiness.

For the first time, our movement has a roof. The evening before, we could only use the central hall and connected corridors, but this morning, keys were found, and one by one all the spaces of this enormous building were conquered.

It lay frozen in time in the year 2010, when the university moved elsewhere. The library looked like an Egyptian tomb that was recently raided by grave robbers. Only small piles of books and chronicles were left on the otherwise empty shelves of the b ookcases.

The Library

The building has a curious structure. And not everywhere the light was working, especially on the stairs. In this situation, exploring the five levels of the building, and the various levels hidden in between was like playing a Doom-style video game. You enter the dark in a hexangular space. The stairs are on the side. When you descend them, there are various directions to choose from. One of them leads to the light. It’s the underground level, the cafeteria, where the kitchen is installed. If you take another direction, you might find the entrance to the Aula Magna, which hosts our General Assembly, the first one with real seats.

In between the two there is an intermediate level with a small reunion room and two offices that overlook the Assembly hall from behind glass. There’s a table, a chair and electricity. For now, I have put up my camp there.

This evening I have been exploring the building. The class rooms and the offices on the third and fourth floors have been occupied by groups of people from the marches mainly. Some of us have claimed a private space, resulting in the consequent animosity.

On the higher floors, the first commissions and working groups have claimed their spaces. The Media Center is on the fifth floor. Their major problem for the moment is to set up a stable broadband internet connection. We have another Media Center completely operational elsewhere in Brussels. The video upload works from there.

Up to eightteen commissions have popped up for the moment, but their whereabouts and have not yet been clearly defined. One of the few commissions that has already been well-installed is the Mycology commission. They treat mushrooms. Their goal is to gather and index them on the basis of their hallucinogenic potential and organise ‘psycho activation’ classes. Fortunately, we have someone with relevant knowledge on mushrooms. “Any shroom that grows from shit is hallucinogenous, and it’s strong!”

Commission Mushroom Cloud

Another adventure has started. Out of primordial chaos the first faint glimmers of order are taking shape. During the first day we have suffered already an inundation of the kitchen and foreclosure of the bathrooms. For now we have been able to feed the approximately three hundred persons present. But it’s highly likely that this situation will attract people from outside the movement. It will be interesting to see how we can deal with this and all the relevant social and revolutionary issues.

General Assembly of Agora Brussels

As for the General Assembly tonight, the first one indoor, it was a full blown trilingual disaster. When I left, we hadn’t yet reached an agreement on the day’s agenda. So for now, the only thing that moves our organisation is personal initiative.

Having a space, of this size, all for us, is almost too much to grasp. Many people are already decided to occupy this building indefinitely. With winter coming, it would be ideal to have our own physical space. But some of us are worried that it might be a shrewd move by the authorities. Conceding us this space, they probably hope we will not be too visible in public. Furthermore they might hope that our bunch of anarchist vagabonds will be unable to manage ourselves and that our society will soon collapse.

It’s not impossible. We will have to see in the coming days what we will be able to get of the ground. Today was a day of excitement, a day of exploring our new playground and dreaming about all the possibilities.

Embassy of Puerta del Sol

On the Fifth Floor there has been installed the office of the Communication commission of Sol, without internet. I pop in and I meet some of the comrades that I met during the first few weeks of the acampada in Madrid. Reminiscing about the early days I look around. “Imagine. It all started with party tents and canvases under the equestrian statue of a public square. And look at us now. We have our own embassy of Puerta del Sol, in  our own Revolutionary Headquarters in Brussels.”

Triumph of Stupidity

In Belgium, Brussels, March on Brussels on 8 October 2011 at 23:37

Brussels, October 8

Day 75 of the March on Brussels. From Aalst, 29 km.

A suburb of the Acampada in Aalst

Dear people,

Dark skies hovered low over Aalst when we got ready to leave for the last leg of our trip. The great day had come. Many new faces had joined us to walk, all the way, in the rain.

Route Commission had planned three reunification stops, to make sure we would enter Brussels as a group. On all those occasions, right from the start, we were carefully observed by three police officers. The day before, comrade Canario had gone to Brussels to see how the coordination of our arrival was coming along. This morning I asked him for his evaluation.

“It’s chaos.”

Route of the last day

For some reason, I’m not surprised. And as the walk starts, the Central Committee reunites to consider the various possibilities. Unfortunately, none of the indignados from Brussels accompanies us with up to date information on the situation we will encounter. A detailed map of the city only arrives at the second reunification stop. At that moment, we hear that we do not have permission to camp anywhere and that our primary camping site near the Basilique is crawling with police. Repression like we experienced in Paris is in the air. We start plotting about alternatives.

Close to Brussels the rain stops and we receive the news that the police is retreating from the park. We can go there, after all, for our grand arrival.

Comrades Christ, Roberto and Canario

 

 

Thus, late in the afternoon of August 8, we enter the capital territory of Brussels. A band of indignado drummers is there to greet us, and to accompany our entrance with a beat. Hearing that sound, seeing us march by with banners saying things like ‘bonheur pour tous’, the people in the windows watch us joyfully. Some of them respond to our salute with a V-for-victory sign.

 

In one of the smaller parks we reunite once again with the Mediterranean. Our group is numerous as never before when we march the last few metres to the Elizabeth park near the Basilique. The press will be there at seven.

At the park, a discrete group is people is waiting for us together with the Brussels indignados. They submerge us with cheers and a heartfelt applause. It’s great. But after walking thirty kilometres in the rain, I would have preferred it if they had welcomed us with warm drinks and something to eat.

At nightfall, we camp. The tents are deployed for the eye of the cameras, and the people lay out peaces of cardboard on the wet grass ifor a popular assembly in the dark. A lady from the municipal police intervenes to congratulate us with our accomplishment as a march. She says that the police does not have any intention to cause us trouble. She hopes that we will be able to work together in a constructive way, and she comes with a proposal. In short, we will be able to use the Elizabeth park every day for assemblies, working groups and other events. In case of bad weather these activities can be hosted at the Flemish University of Brussels, located at two minutes walking. It offers all basic facilities and we will be able to sleep there the entire week. But we will not be allowed to camp in the park. If we try to do so, police will evict us.

The rest of the assembly is dedicated to deciding if we will accept the proposal, or if we will try to camp anyway. The evening turns into a farce.

At Elizabeth Park

Many of us are hungry and cold. They don’t care to have an assembly about anything here. But as usual, it takes hours. Most people from the marches have gone elsewhere, so we start to wonder who is actually deciding in assembly about what we are going to do.

The only rational decision to take is to accept, without even calling an assembly. Then go to the university, and have one hell of a party. But apparently there is a small group of indignados who want to camp at all cost, to claim the public space.

I sigh. Once again we are giving a dire image of our movement. At a certain point, the police lose their patience, and van after van full of officers in riot gear are unloaded. They block the assembly on three sides. They give us ten minutes to accept the offer to go to the university or be arrested.

The reaction of people was just as predictable as it was stupid. Many of them sat together, bracing arms, ready to be taken away.

It made me think of the ‘dos de mayo’, the day in 1808 when Spain rose up after Napoleon had forced the Spanish king to abdicate in favour of the emperor’s older brother. The Spanish people didn’t rebel because they were attached to their king. He was a complete idiot, and everybody knew that. But when they saw the way their monarch was treated, they rose up because Napoleon had trampled on their national pride. ‘He may be an imbecile, but he is our imbecile.’

Something similar happened yesterday. People probably knew that it was absurd to hold a lengthy assembly in the dark about whether to stay there and be evicted or not. But when the police came to pressure them they rebelled. ‘This might be idiocy, but at least respect our assembly an let us finish this idiocy in peace.’

Some people from our march joined with the hardcore protesters out of solidarity. I didn’t. I’m not against a confrontation with police, as long as we have a space of manoeuvre. But here we sat with our backs against the wall.

We will be able to organise actions all week. The public space is ours, in any case. We don’t have to camp in the mud to prove it. I respect the conviction of the people who remained, but conviction without common sense is counterproductive, and potentially very dangerous.

They were taken away, more or less peacefully. There were too many police officers around, and it was too dark to be able to film anything.

I was there with friends of mine who had come to visit from Holland. “So this is Brussels, at last,” I said when the police bus drove away. “Let’s go grab a beer.”

Provisional Acampada Brussels

The Advantage of Chaos

In Belgium, March on Brussels on 7 October 2011 at 21:15
Aalst, October 7
Day 74 of the March on Brussels. From Gent, 29 km.

'Saludo al Sol'

Dear people,

We left Gent this morning in group, and we were singing our usual songs in French and Spanish. “They call it a democracy, but that isn’t true / It’s a dictatorship, and you know it!”

To me, it sounded a bit strange to sing something like this in a country without a central government for one and a half years running. But we are not talking about political dictatorship. National governments don’t matter that much any more, the states have lost their sovereignty bit by bit. The economy is queen, and her high priests united in obscure institutions like the Fed, the IMF, and the ECB decide on policy for the world at large. National states only need to implement their directives.

In a nutshell, this is what we are going to denounce in Brussels. Our political system has nothing to do with democracy. The socialist government in Greece is forced to sell the people’s property to multinational vultures in exchange for loans at unpayable interest. If it weren’t for the revolution, which will take place more sooner than later, the country would be enslaved indefinitely.

Action interview

St. Peter's Square in Gent, this morning

In Belgium, the crisis hasn’t yet made a real impact. Some of the Belgians I spoke say that this is in part thanks to the fact that they don’t have a government. Drastic measures cannot be taken by a provisional government, so deep cuts were not made until now. Life goes on here, banks are falling, but as long as people don’t feel it in their pocket, they don’t really care. They look at our protest as something picturesque. They are sympathetic towards us, but they’re not yet worried about themselves. In the South of Europe the tempest is raging, but here only few people have noticed the clouds rumbling in the distance. The storm is heading towards them as well, and when it arrives, they will remember us.

Leaving Gent

Gent is the most northern point of our expedition, from here we turn straight East, towards the rising sun. Like yesterday, the city never ends. These are still the suburbs of Waregem. The national roads are a very interesting urbanistic shadow zone. It seems like things are permitted here that you will not see in the cities themselves. There is no real need to keep up a façade, because apart from us, no-one walks by. Between the houses, the villas and the shopping hangars, you find lots of erotic night clubs and brothels, where people from the city can enjoy themselves anonymously, far away from peeking eyes, and far away from the lord our god. You will find all kind of buildings on the way, but you won’t find a single church.

Along the road a police van stops to ask us where were going. We are going to Aalst, our last stop before Brussels. It’s four thirty in the afternoon when we arrive, but it seems like it’s three a.m. on a saturday night. High school students are clustering around the bars in the center, drinking beer. Disco beats are blasting out onto the streets on every corner.

On the central square the mayor is there to welcome us. She offers us a camping space near the swimming pool at the edge of town. We respond that we prefer to camp in the center, and we create a ‘Square Commission’ ad hoc, to look at the different possibilities. The central square is out of the question, because there will be market tomorrow. We choose a square with access to water. A bit reluctantly, but with a smile, the mayor accepts our decision. I doubt they have sufficient police force at their disposal to evict us.

Instead of an assembly, cancelled because of the rain, we take the square and we play a game of ‘stoelendans’. The revolution is fun. It can only be fun, or else it won’t be worth the effort.

Scenes from a 'stoelendans' on the central square of Aalst


Tomorrow Brussels. It’s going to be a different story than what we’ve encountered in the Belgian towns. In a world without national states, the metropoles form a Champion’s League apart. The capital of Flanders, Belgium and the European Union has more in common with cities like Barcelona, Paris, Milan and Tokyo than with a small town like Aalst.

Yesterday evening we lost a lot of time in an internal assembly, trying to decide if we will accept the invitation of a Scandinavian left wing party to enter the European parliament. We could have made much better use of that time, to work on the preparation of debates and actions. To me it seems that many people consider all the talking to be an activity already. Once they finally decide on something, they don’t see the necessity – or they are too exhausted – to put it into practice.

The result is that we don’t really know what is going to happen in Brussels. Things have been prepared, but it’s not really clear by whom and how it will turn out. It might become a very constructive week of exchange. But it might also turn into complete chaos, which is more likely.

Still, as the great Dutch philosopher (and former football player) Johan Cruyff says: “Every disadvantage has its own advantage.” And the advantage of chaos is that everything becomes possible.

Revolutionary Sabotage

In Belgium, March on Brussels on 6 October 2011 at 22:28
Gent, October 6
Day 73 of the March on Brussels. From Waregem, 30 km

Popular Assembly in Gent

Dear people,

This morning the lowlands were covered by a sky in all the different shades of grey. A strong wind was blowing, and while we were having breakfast, the rain started.


It felt good. The rain and the wind are as a much a part of this country as the canals and the dikes. It fits. And besides, we have been too lucky already with the weather. A bit of rain is always good for the epical aspect of our expedition.

It didn’t last long. While we walk over the bicycle lane of the national road to Gent, the wet weather ceases. From then on the walk is easy.


Belgium has lots of peculiarities. One of these is the urbanisation of the roads. When we arrive in Gent it seems like we never left Waregem. We didn’t really cross the countryside. All along the way there were houses, villages or shopping centers.

Through the years Belgians have kept up the tradition of building their own house. And up until not so long ago they could legally do so wherever they bought a piece of land. And because most people for convenience’s sake want to be close to a road, this resulted in an endless variety of houses lining the national roads, from one village or town to another. It might seem that most of Belgium is one big city, but that’s an illusion. The country side starts in people’s back yards.

Comrades Charlie, Cowboy and Abel

Comrade Maria

The Avengers, from the Flemish public television

Along the way I talk a bit with comrade Rino, from Italy, who has been with us before on various occasions. After Paris he has joined the Mediterranean for a while, and I was happy to hear positive news about them for the first time.

They called themselves ‘Ecomarche’ when they left Paris, because they wanted to give an example of an expedition without a carbon footprint. They went without support vehicle and carried their bags on their shoulders. That was the beginning, later on they were joined by a support vehicle all the same, so to uphold their ecological image they started gathering the trash they found along the road. Some of the many, many bags they filled were piled up on the squares of the villages and towns where they arrived, to confront people with everything they just throw out of the window.

Rino denied that Lady Blue is a dictator and that the marchers wouldn’t reach Brussels without her. She’s with the vanguard, she prepares the arrival and coordinates the diffusion in the towns. The others contribute to the march in their own way and sharpen their objectives with the feedback of the assemblies they hold in the towns. If it’s all true I would have to admit, shamefully, that their march is working out better than our own at the moment.

Scene from an assembly

We enter the lively town of Gent and we occupy the impressive square of Saint Peter. All day long we have been followed by a Flemish television crew. They have the occasion to film our first trilingual assembly. Dutch, French and Spanish. The indignados from Gent have been very active in preparing it, they have been waiting for us and they received us with cakes and sweets and lots of food. Some of them were already present at the border and at Kortrijk. It was a great occasion, but before too long it was sabotaged by a band of anarchist squatters. They came with drums and a whistle. A brilliant move.

Late night demonstration

As the samba rhythm echoes over the square, our bagpipe player joins in and people start to dance and jump around. Finally, after all the endless assemblies in Spain and France we had to come here to the cold and windy lowlands to find the one fundamental and indispensable ingredient of the revolution.

Music.