Report from the in blockades in Lausanne

Jun 01, 2003

I spent time in the Intergalactic and Vaaag villages and in Lausanne, where I took part in the blockades on June 1st.

Activists at Lausanne attempt to get across the lake

On Thursday 28th I joined the fluffy protest from the Intergalactic and Vaaag campsites to the centre of Annemasse.  There were anarchists with black and red flags, quite a few people from ATTAC, people with colourful anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation banners, a little bit of street theatre, a pink and silver contingent, quite a big samba band and more.  It was very internationalist with a French majority but plenty of people from all over Europe including quite a large group from Ireland – plus the odd American.  My section of the crowd started off with an ironic warm-up chant of  “On est tres mechant! On mange les enfants!” (roughly = we are very nasty, we eat babies).  The demo had a definite carnivalesque street-party atmosphere, people were happy and smiley, dancing around in the streets waving to the locals – who seemed quite pleased to see us and I dare say relieved to see that we were not the baby eating hooligans they may have been led to believe by the mainstream media.

The campsites operated through autonomous “barrios” (as working class neighbourhoods are called in latin american countries) where food was provided for donations, and various workshops and video showings were organised.  On one night, Bowling For Colombine was projected onto the side of the “Autonoom Centrum” bus from Amsterdam.

On Saturday about 300 of us, including plenty of samba players and The Trolly’d Soundsystem (from Sheffield) made our way en masse down to the border and onto a free train to Lausanne, where the blockaders desperately needed more people.

I joined the large pink and silver contingent for the blockades the next day.  There was also a sizeable black bloc.  The blockades were a little late setting off (after 7) and we could have done with more people (I’d say we had between 1 and 3 thousand but I don’t know); however apparently we managed to delay the G8 by a couple of hours.

The atmosphere was exciting, somewhere between a joyful street party and a chaotic riot.  We had a samba band *and* a soundsystem which played breakbeats and drum’n'bass laced with subversive political vocal samples.  There was a lot of cheerful dancing around and having fun reclaiming the streets for the morning, but the demo certainly left its mark – car adverts were removed, street furniture was rearranged, fire hydrants were let off, anti-capitalist graffiti was peppered liberally around town, and various petrol stations had their windows smashed and their contents looted.  I’m not sure if this is a valid tactic or not but I certainly didn’t shed any tears for the oil companies.

Of course, there was tear gas galore and the odd water cannon.  I was impressed by the way the crowd often just kept marching and didn’t panick in the face of the teargas attacks.  Most people had masks anyway, and the samba band were brilliant at keeping it all together.  Once when we were dispersed in a park, it took only about 5 minutes to regroup and re-reclaim the streets.

My one lasting image from this day was of a line of policemen guarding some establishment building in full riot gear covered in multi-coloured confetti and with big pink hearts stuck to their fibre-glass shields.

Arriving back at the camp we were surrounded by cops who started to arrest us, dragging us away one by one.  We sat together and linked arms in solidarity, singing “We all live in a terrorist regime”.  I was held in a cell with about 30 other demonstrators for about 2 and half hours before we were all sent back on a free bus to Lausanne.  The police had gone and given up arresting people, apparently when they decided to go and hassle the local anti-G8 march which had been passing by.

On my way back to Annemasse the next day I saw the aftermath in Geneva.  Boards covering every other shop, themselves (the boards)covered with slogan after spray-painted slogan denouncing the G8, corporate globalisation, war, capitalism and all the rest of it.

Hugh Jones

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