A personal perspective of protests in Bonn

Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 11/09/2004 - 10:09

Raising profile
The protesters in Bonn drew up twelve principles (see http://www.risingtide.nl)an inclusive set of ideas which, if implemented, would almost certainly bring about the changes necessary to prevent climate chaos.

The idea behind many of the actions was to demand the right to have the principles heard at the conference. We asked to have them read out, using the incentive that the 123 people blocking the main road in Bonn would leave if they were read out. Secondly we took the message directly to them by doing a banner drop just outside the security cordon but within site of the Maratim Hotel, where the conference was taking place. Finally we took the message into the closing session of the whole fiasco.

Reclaim The Streets / Mobile beach party
Eight people ‘locked down’ (use strong plastic arm tubes and wrist clips to form a circle) around the fantastic ‘Dragon bike’. For a few frantic seconds we were struggling to get clipped on before the police could realise what was happening. Success! Eight people lying relatively comfortably around a three metre high dragon in the middle of a happy crowd of about 400 activists. 115 people joined us by locking arms in and around us or locking themselves to the dragon bike by their necks.

Entertainment with a strong message was also provided. The front line Samba band was in fine form all day keeping the spirits up and feet tapping (for those who could move their feet....) Alchemy, an Australian group of artists/activists campaigning against Uranium mining performed. And good old Rinky Dink the solar/human powered cycle sound system were pumping out their message of sustainability to any one within hearing distance or able to pickup their FM radio transmission.

The atmosphere was great, resistance with a clear message; to get our 12 principles read out in the opening session. Many of the people there had never been involved in this kind of direct action before. As the police line closed in around us hardly anybody left despite repeated warnings and opportunities to leave. The Samba band kept going for at least four hours straight. Most of the police were reasonable with notable exceptions of a few totally unnecessary kicks, standing on people and trying to pull peoples arms out of tubes that they were clearly not going to come out of. People decided how far they would resist arrest, most holding on until they were dragged away or cut out of their arm tubes or D-Locks. Each and every one of the people lead away and detained got a big cheer.

At the police station the party atmosphere continued in the three large holding cages. When we were released we were met outside with beer, biscuits and a train ticket back to Bonn. We wait to see the legal ramifications of the action but at the moment it’s looking like they may try and go for a small fine. Many people will not be paying their fines but donations are welcome to help people who would prefer to pay- contact info@risingtide.nl.

Crane Action
There it was, a crane, just outside the security zone but within full view of the conference centre, perfect except for the 24 hr police presence just a couple of metres away. Eight nationalities were represented by the six women and two man team. Most of us had never climbed anything like a crane before. Another sleepless night as we decided to go in at 3.30am under the cover of darkness. Dawn was breaking spectacularly as we unfurled the huge banner saying ‘60% CO2 reductions here and now’, together with two smaller banners saying ‘Climate talks = Money talks’ and ‘Climate change = Social change’.

The police were not happy and pressured us from the outset claiming that it would cost 10,000DM if they had to get the fire brigade to get us down and asking for "just a couple of you come down to show ‘good will"! They also arrested our ground support and police liaison, falsely claiming they had tried to climb the crane as well. Finally there were only two of us left plus our cameraperson. We both absailed (rappelled) off the crane as the special forces climbers climbed up. One of us finally came down of their own accord just before they had to lower him down, the other was not going to help them at all so they had to cut the rope and lower them down. A nice soft landing was provided by the fire brigade in the form of a inflatable airbag. Once again we were all out of the police station within a couple of hours.

Closing session
There were only a few people left for the final action. What we lacked in numbers we made up for in audacity and imagination. The plan involved teams with banners, people sitting on beams above the conference hall and two naked superheroes.

I was in the team that entered the final session with forged press passes — we used press passes so as not to infringe on the groups with NGO accreditation. (as it turned out they weren’t allowed into the final session anyway). Unfortunately our press badges were checked against a list of participants and we were rumbled by security - we may get prosecuted for forgery.

Whilst being lead out by security one of us managed to give them the slip and join the ‘beam team’, the remaining banner crew got the banner out and jumped on desks of varying strengths to get their message over and despite some stubborn zips the naked duo managed to strip off whilst security guards flapped around in differing degrees of embarrassment and bewilderment. The message was article 19 of the UN human rights convention about the rights to free speech. In the confusion the banner team slipped out of the centre passed the police rushing to the scene of the action, nice one!

The beam team talked to the bemused delegates press and NGOs for about 40 minutes until they decided that everybody who was going to listen to us had and it was time to leave. We negotiated with the UN secatariate to leave of our own accord if we could go and talk to the press in the press tent. Very reasonable we thought, however the UN secretariat and security had different ideas. They led us out the back, through some glass doors into the arms of waiting police. It seems that they told them we were ‘violent black block from Genoa’. The police were very nervous despite outnumbering us about 5 to 1 directly and about 500 to 1 in the whole security zone. They used totally unnecessary plastic zip ties to handcuff us behind our backs before being put into a sweltering police van. Three women were put in one tiny cell without the fan on and still cuffed. Once we arrived at the station we were left for about 20 minutes before we were finally let out. One of the women passed out due to the terrible heat, lack of air and horribly cramped cell.

Counter demonstration against right wing US students
Maybe we should be flattered that ‘they’ are copying ‘us’ but when faced with 20 right wing republican students from the US throwing soap at us our life does seem rather strange. Several of the north American Rising Tiders just couldn’t let these ‘rent a mob’ get away with being allowed into the conference centre to lobby without a counter demonstration.

Friends of the Earth "Lifeboat"
The above is a personal view of actions in Bonn undertaken by the loose network of individuals and groups that came together under the banner of Rising Tide. Of the other actions and events in Bonn, special mention must be made of the "Ark" built by people in the Friends of the Earth network. About 4,000 people were involved in building the boat and pulling it through the streets- a major mobilisation of people by any standard. After The Dyke in The Hague, and The Lifeboat in The Bonn, whatever next? The full story and photos are on http://www.foeeurope.org/lifeboat

For more information and photos: http://www.climate.indymedia.org