Bad Heiligendamm, Germany
As the leaders of the G-8 nations met at the opulent resort of Bad Heiligendamm along the Baltic Sea in Northern Germany, an international assortment of social justice activists opposed to the group’s policies took up residence in three protest camps in and around nearby Rostock, carrying out an ambitious agenda of daily protests and direct action blockades, as well as an alternative summit.
Things kicked off dramatically on Saturday, June 2 when nearly 100,000 people took to the streets of Rostock for the “Make Capitalism History” march. As the crowd reached the city’s hundred-year-old harbor, where the demonstration was scheduled to end, police attacked a block of protesters, setting off a full-blown riot. Demonstrators set cars alight and pelted police with cobblestones excavated from the city streets. For their part, the police beat and detained those they could get their hands on. More than 1,000 were injured, equally split between police and protesters, and over 150 were arrested.
For days, much of the media ran with stories of violent protesters who would destroy Rostock, rather than discussing the police violence and provocation at Saturday’s protest and leading up to the summit. Furthermore, this discourse avoided a substantive discussion of protesters opposition to the G-8 itself.
On Wednesday, following three days of peaceful marches focusing on agriculture and food sovereignty; immigration; and militarism, thousands of protesters flowed out of the camps during the early morning hours and took up blockades of the Rostock-Laage airport, where G-8 leaders were arriving, and the gates that led through the 12 kilometer long, two and a half meters high fence surrounding Bad Heiligendamm.
At Camp Reddelich–overflowing with 7,000 campers and a hub of blockade organizing activity–spirits where high. Around 9:30 am thousands headed for the fence, hiking under the hot sun and over rolling hills blanketed with fields of grain. When groups of protesters encountered lines of police along the way, some of them stopped, some kept moving forward, some squatted in the waist-high grasses, others ran. The squads of police, burdened with helmets, body armor, shields and batons, were no match for the fluid and improvisational streams of protesters and their overwhelming numbers. Within hours, the two gates into Bad Heiligendamm were blocked.
“It was awesome. There were rivers of people flowing through the fields,” said Lisa Fithian, an Austin, Texas-based activist and veteran summit protester shortly after she returned to the camp. “It was a realization of thousands of peoples’ power.”