Taking the SquarePosted: September 21, 2011
Day 58 of the March on Brussels. Surprise action.
This is what I was talking about yesterday. A surprise action, planned in secret, and executed to perfection by the entire group. We are an army.
At ten in the morning the tents at Bercy had to be folded. Police were present in a small number to see to it that we did. After breakfast, people start assembling, most probably for the rest of the day. I go to the Communication squat – more commonly known as ‘Media Center’ – to upload information and to the start planning the road to Brussels with the Route commission.
When we’re done, the rest goes back to the assembly in Bercy. Only comrade Roberto and me, the Intelligence commission, we stay around to do some investigative tourism in Paris. We walk towards the Opéra, looking for traces of the Paris that was. We don’t find any of it, but what we do find is much more interesting. La Place de la Bourse.
The rectangular square is big enough to hold an acampada. It’s dominated by the immense temple of commerce in greco-roman style. On the opposite side there are two major banks and a luxury bar. In an angle there is the seat of the Financial Markets Authority. And on the far side, the headquarters of the Agence France Press. There is not a single police officer to be seen. The site is perfect.
“This is where we must hold our popular assembly”, I say, “it can only be here.”
We hide away in a boulangerie, we tear out the standard tourist map of the city, and we start making a plan. The idea is very simple, it’s brilliant. We decide to return to Bercy to make preparations.
At Bercy, the assembly has reached a decision in less than seven hours. The idea is to hold a popular assembly in Notre Dame, and to go there in silent march, everyone in line, so as to avoid any accusions of us holding an illegal demonstration.
The idea is good. But ours is better. We start talking to the right people, and in short the word gets around that we have a plan B. Four people know the details. The others will have to confide.
At six o’ clock people start moving silently in a long line towards the center of town. It’s impressive to see. Unfortunately, many of our communications comrades are absent. At Gare de Lyon, I don’t know from whom, we receive a message saying that Notre Dame is full of police and that the bus is already there to take us away.
This is it. We can act. The game is on again.
Once the entire line has passed the entrance of the Gare de Lyon subway station we stop. In five persons we spread word. We go for plan B. Everybody turns around. The tail becomes the head and starts marching into the subway.
Now all has to go right. We can’t take any wrong turns, we have to keep everyone together, and we have to move fast. Divided over two trains we go to the end of line, the Saint Lazare station. When everyone is out on the platform, we move to take the number three metro line going back. Four stops and we are at Bourse.
When we are all assembled, each of us raising a hand to signal their presence, I head to the exit, a bit worried to find the place crawling with police. But no, the word didn’t get out. The square is ours for the taking. I give a shout of joy as we pour out into the daylight. “Assemblee populaire! Ici! Maintenant! Put the word out on twitter, facebook and whatever! We are here, in front of the Stock Exchange!”
It takes five minutes, we are getting ready to sit down in a circle, when we hear the police sirens. Two vans drive up. They immediately surround us. Within moments there’s a police officer behind every single one of us. I move to the center of the circle to start filming.
Jesus Christ, one of the four people who knew about the plan, together with me, Roberto and Geraldo, moderates the assembly. He keeps his cool, we all keep our cool. We continue as if nothing is happening. The people at Agence France Press only need to look out of the window to gather news. I’m overjoyed, the move worked out as I planned. The rest is out of my hands.
We are informed that this assembly constitutes an illegal manifestation, because it was not announced to police. We respond that we are peaceful citizens gathering in a public square, not to demonstrate, but to hold an assembly.
Other people start to arrive. They want to join in, so they start to sit down outside the police perimeter, beginning to surround them. The police retreats to break the siege and let the people join in on our assembly. From behind their windows, the people at AFP look down curiously.
As police prepare to clear the square, we all move to the center, locking arms and legs together. It takes time and a lot of effort for them to drag us away. Outside the circle, sympathisers are cheering us one, someone is singing Schillers “Ode to Joy”. Curiously, the police respect the people who are filming. We are allowed to shoot it all from the beginning to the end, close up. We are the last to be rounded up. While they take me away, someone starts singing the “Marseillaise.” I can’t resist. I sing along.
“Allons enfants de la patrie / Le jour du gloire est arrivé / Contre nous de la tirranie / L’étendard sanglant est levé”
And so, yet again, they take us away in one big bus and various vans. Eighty people in total. But this time they don’t bring us to some vulgar police station. We got a huge promotion in just two days. They take us to an office of the French Intelligence.
They check all they need to check. Hours pass by, they don’t interrogate anyone. At midnight, once again, we’re free.
So what do we do now? We go back to the Stock Exchange for our rendez-vous. We can sleep there if we want, but without tents, or we can go back to Bercy and camp.
We stay. As I put out a piece of cardboard to sleep on, I smile. We conquered the square today, and we will hold it through the night. French intelligence was outsmarted by our own intelligence today, and I’m proud of it. Now we can leave Paris with our head up high.