Reflections on “Blockupy Frankfurt”- a Transnational Call for Action
By: Jessie Lin
For four continuous days starting on Wednesday, May 16th, a transnational call of action has been called to “Blockupy” the city of Frankfurt, Germany, the home of the European Central Bank (ECB). The city symbolizes the big financial power system in the Eurozone. Amidst the call for austerity measures by many heads of European governments in this financial crisis, activists around the continent are gathering together to protest against the extremities of global capitalism. The idea of this action roots from the Occupy Wallstreet movement that has snow-balled around the world into the many indignant movements around the globe, including recent protests in the cities of Madrid and Barcelona where tens of thousands of people took the streets to celebrate the one year anniversary of their indignant movement.
This call of solidarity action is organized by a collective of several organizations in Germany, one of which is our sister partner, ATTAC-Germany. Delegates are expected to attend from countries such as Italy, France, Belgium, Finland, Spain and other European nations. So far I have been very impressed with the level of organization and efficacy by this collective. Information have been diffused in multiple languages including, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Polish, etc. A very detailed list of the daily events and activities during the four days was sent out to participants in a clear and structured manner. E-mails are also sent out on a consistent basis updating the participants of schedule changes, activities, places to sleep, etc. Technically, this call to “blockupy Frankfurt” was not approved by the city government, and the police is expected to seal off many of the banking districts in order to prevent protestors to go near. Therefore, the organizers have been very careful, especially for those coming from abroad about safety, legalities, rights, and security information.
Here at ATTAC-France, we started showing interest in this movement in mid-April. Ever since then I have been following the blockupy Frankfurt blog (http://17to19m.blogsport.eu/) as well as an email list called “Interblockupy”. The two networks were great spaces not only for information updates, but also for exchanging ideas and planning activities.
The series of events starts on Wednesday, May 16 which will include “Take the Squares”, “Block the ECB”, and the mass demonstration to conclude on Saturday. Unfortunately, the activists coming with ATTAC from France will only participate in the international protest on Saturday. The plan is to have buses leave Paris on Friday night in order to arrive in Frankfurt on Saturday morning for the protest. And return on the bus back to Paris on Saturday night. So far we have 3 buses leaving from Paris, and a few more from other major cities in France. It’s interesting to make a little comparison between the organizations between the two countries. So far, ATTAC has diffused minimal information other than how to register for the event. Participants have very little idea for what to expect upon arrival in Frankfurt. ATTAC France also didn’t send out their statement of support and flyer to the Interblockupy listserv until Wednesday, the day when the first actions took place. As of Wednesday, we were still receiving last minute requests to join the bus that leaves Friday night. With proper planning ahead of time, I think the network of ATTAC France would’ve been capable of making a really big presence in Frankfurt. I was a little surprised to see that ATTAC only took interest in the protest aspect of the movement, since occupying the ECB seems equally meaningful and exciting, if not more. ATTAC France also didn’t seem very interested in coordinating with the German collective. When the German organizers contacted me about sending free materials to us, the people here at ATTAC-France told me it wasn’t useful since the materials would all be in English. I’ve noticed that ATTAC-France is a bit hesitant in working with organizations in other countries from time to time.
According to news sources, the blockupy event drew about 20,000 people over four days. Around 5,000 police were called to monitor the events. And about 400 protestors were arrested by the police. But overall, the events were held in a relatively peaceful manner.
Because of scheduling conflicts, I was not able to join ATTAC this time during their participation in the international demonstration. However, here are my thoughts based on what I’ve followed. Most activists at ATTAC are very keen on protests and manifestations. They are indeed a very good way to make issues known to the public and to mobilize people to join the cause. They could also be a great sign of solidarity among the people within and across borders. However, I do feel like there are many instances with demonstrations can get a bit out of hand, where people are protesting for the sake of protesting, especially when people acts in ways to deliberately get in trouble. What’s equally important in events like this is the aftermath. Dialogues, discussions, and reflections should take place to discuss what happened, what worked, what failed, what improvements can be made, etc.? What actions can be taken now that we’ve blocked the ECB and protested the streets? How can networks from different countries work together? What steps need to be taken in order to affect policy changes?
Nonetheless, events like “Blockupy Frankfurt” are very important in connecting the world of indignant movements together and creating solidarity. While I am writing this, there is also the massive protest in Montreal currently against the rise of student tuition. Many countries are now joining their cause as well. At ATTAC, this has been a hot issue in the group “Commission Internationale”. It’s important for citizens of the world to know that the people have the power when we band together, and this is something that governments cannot ignore since their power is given by the people… at least in democratic countries so to speak.