Day 61 of the March on Brussels.
I’m at fruit vendor’s stand in St. Denis. The two Moroccans behind the counter look at me suspiciously. They talk to each other in Arab. At a certain point one of them asks: ¿Hablas Español?
I confirm. And I add that I’m with the march of the indignados to Bruxelles. They smile, they fill up a bag with bananas and figs and give it to me. “Here, take this to your comrades.”
Walking through the streets of St. Denis I realised that this is the world. A truly globalised suburb where you can encounter the colours and the odours of every continent. With it, come all of the problems. The people here fight a daily battle for survival in a society that considers them potentially dangerous outcasts. In this position, they stick together on the base of race, language, religion, but mostly family.
There is a lot of discrimination between them. They don’t trust the white establishment, but neither do they trust each other. It’s too intricate a situation to understand as an outsider, but it’s clear that making revolution here is not as easy as it sounds.
We organised an assembly of the neighbourhoods today in our squat resort, and as far as the attendance went, it was a disappointment. But many of the people who did attend were active members of local organisations fighting for the rights of the sans papiers, or members of grass root trade unions.
For the first time we explicitly reached out to them and we got a very positive response. ‘15M, linking struggles’ was the slogan. The associations are already moving to coordinate themselves, they are planning encounters between the various banlieues and they would be happy if people of the movement were present to share their experiences. This is the place were the next revolution in Paris will take place. If the banlieues rise up, peacefully, the city will be surrounded.
At least once every day, the Intelligence commission gathers in a secure place to exchange internal or external information. Lately, in our effort to classify all the people who are participating in our march, we have decided to use chess pieces.
Christ is king at the moment, the role of queen is vacant since comrade Rosa left for Spain. We have two strong towers which can open a wedge, we have bishops and knights, and the rest are pawns. This goes for the white pieces. There are also black pieces in our movement. They have disintegrated after the seccession, when king Cubano left together with Jose the tower and Felix the bishop. Some of the black pieces have become white pieces. The others might be reassembling.
None of the chess classifications is fixed. Certain events and certain new entries can change the distribution of the pieces. A pawn can become a knight, the arrival of a new tower can cause a bishop to become a pawn. They can also change colour as a result of a new entry. The Intelligence commission is engaged in monitoring and updating the information about the internal situation daily.
The art of politics consists in the first place in recognising the pieces on the board, in the second place in understanding how they relate to one and other and how they move, and in the third place in being able to move the right piece at the right moment.
This is how it works in our march, and I’m convinced that this is how politics works on all different levels. From the outside, you can see the pieces, but you can’t see the hand that moves them.
St. Denis, September 23
Day 60 of the March on Brussels. Reassembly.
We are camped on the grounds of an old hospital that has been squatted. There’s a plateau and a structure in wood and there’s a big sandpit in the middle. It’s almost like camping on the beach.
Today was a resting day. This morning the eleven comrades who were still under arrest have all been released. The indignados that went to support them outside the tribunal were encircled by police the moment they came out of the underground. They were escorted to the other side of the river to await the liberation of our comrades.
The only real thing the detenidos were accused of was breaking a window of the police van. I don’t know the details of what happened, but I think it’s unlikely that eleven people premeditated an act of destruction and coldbloodedly executed it all together. And even if they did, it’s not the kind of infringement for which you can put someone under arrest.
They will have to show up again at the end of October, but the important thing is that they are free to come with us. Also Jesus Christ is back, he was lost last night when we moved to St. Denis. We didn’t worry too much about him though, because we know he will find his way. The only one who has not yet rejoined us is comrade Poirot. He is in hospital due to asthma problems, but he will soon be out.
So now we are reunited in our squatting resort along the canal. The relief is big. We finally have an opportunity to catch up on some sleep. I think it has been the first real intermezzo of relaxation in many weeks. Also for me. I switch from the real game of preparing and executing actions in Paris to the imaginative reality of building a castle in the sand, together with comrade Juliette, la Parisienne.
Life is fun, one way or the other.
At the end of the day, internal assembly in the sandpit. For tomorrow a meeting of the neighbourhoods is organised here. This is one of the zones that was set on fire during the revolt of the banlieues in 2005. It might be a fertile ground to gain support for a peaceful insurrection.
News keeps coming through of actions all over the planet. In Barcelona people have been protesting outside the French consulate for three days in a row. In Los Angeles there are demonstrations out of solidarity with the people arrested in Paris. And in Paris we stand by our brothers who were arrested in New York at OccupyWallStreet.
We are a global movement, and we stand united against injustice. We will not tolerate violence or intimidation from the authorities. Not here, nor anywhere else. That is our message these days. If you touch one of us, wherever on this planet, you touch us all.
St. Denis, September 22
Day 59 of the March on Brussels. From Paris, 8 km
After we slept there, we occupied the square of the Stock Exchange for most of the day. We put up signs, we wrote slogans in chalk and we held an internal assembly under the watchful eye of massive police presence. The bus which has taken us away twice already was right around the corner.
It was a great day, especially because there was an event in the stock exchange which attracted many suits and ties. It was priceless to see them parading by the signs accusing the financial system and inviting the people to rise up, while our colourful bunch was holding an assembly.
Looking back on these days we made great progress. When we arrived we walked straight into a police ambush at the Bastille and had to retreat to the Marne in the early morning. In subsequent days we went on a crazy march through the city, we occupied Bercy, and finally we conquered the Stock Exchange. But the repression has been exhausting for many people, both physically and mentally.
Today, the police would not let us leave the square to walk to St. Denis in group. Some of us managed to break the barrier in small numbers. I walked alone.
When I left the city of Paris, it was like I could breath again. I was back in the real world, with real people of all races and ages leading real lives. The pressure from the authorities on everything different seemed to have lifted.
But that was all imagination. In St. Denis there are half a dozen of police present in civilian outfit. As long as we are in the greater Paris area, the police will not leave us alone. They will continue their repression and their intimidation.
Today it turned out that not all the detenidos have been freed. On the contrary. Eleven of them are still in custody. They are almost exclusively French, they are charged with damaging or degrading public property (the police bus), and resistance to arrest. But rumours are also going around that they are accused of ‘terrorism’.
It’s a dirty tactic by the authorities. They catch the French in our movement, and they fry them a couple of days to dissuade other indignés to speak up or to act. We are cooperating with a local lawyer and we have created a working group to have them liberated as soon as possible. This will prolongue our presence in the Paris area even more. Saturday a peaceful concentration has been called for to protest against police repression. Every day that passes, our daily marches to Brussels will grow longer and longer.
Paris, September 21
These are four of the videos documenting the desalojo of the indignados at the Place de la Bourse in Paris.
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.
Day 57 of the March on Brussels. Forced rest.
Our movement is extremely versatile. We can improvise and catch the moment, like we did yesterday, or we can lose an entire day in assembly trying to decide what we are going to do, like we did today.
It wasn’t surprising. After we spent most of the night regrouping on the Bastille, many people went to sleep only around eight in the morning. Most of the day I stayed in the Communications squat near Pompidou, where the people kept cutting, editing and difusing all day. In the afternoon the marches reassembled at Bercy and only in the evening we take our sole decision of the day. Where to sleep.
A small group of people wanted to prepare actions for today as well. They want to ride the wave. After we got gassed and arrested the night before, we gained some popular support in Paris and publicity in Spain. The wounded are out of hospital, and as far as I have been able to ascertain, the detenidos are free.
I’m eager to take a map and start planning. There’s no limit to the kind of things you can do as a peaceful group of disobedient citizens. If we were a bit better organised – or if we were organised at all – we could form different groups and coordinate actions in various points of the city, using the metro as perfect medium to move quickly from one point of the city to another. There’s is a lot of police ready to counter us, but Paris is big. We could drive them crazy if we want to. And as long as we are peaceful, they can never beat us.
Our American comrades are back, whom we lost after Dax. They told me that the movement in San Francisco works with small tactical squads who prepare the actions in secrecy. At the last moment they communicate the rendez-vous point and from there on they guide the operation. The others confide in the squad to do a good job. If they screw up, they won’t be on the tactical squad the next time.
I think our organisation should evolve into this direction. There is a big difference between policy and actions. The policy should be prepared by the working groups and decided by the assembly, but actions should only be decided by a few people. In an assembly you will never reach consensus in time, and even if you do, you lose the surprise effect.
At nightfall the assembly is visited by a representative from the police. After what happened the day before, they came to offer us the possibility to camp here at Bercy.
Our alternative is a 9 kilometer march to a sports facility in the outskirts. We decide to camp, right here, in Paris. But not after people indulge in a dialectical discussion about the decision. In the end, we camp next to the stadium of Bercy, not because we gained the approval from the police, but because we decided so ourselves – and because we are too tired to move.
We have reached an objective. We camp in Paris. The time has come to ‘declare victory and get out of here’. On the other hand, we know that the authorities are afraid of our actions. Maybe we can still prepare something funny before we march off…
Paris, 19 september.
Boulevard St. Germain. Indignados are advancing just before police use tear gas.
Panorama of indignados blocked
Police start tearing people away
Aftermath, indignados in the police bus being taken away.