Yesterday there was fighting in Paris.
The major organisations had arranged more or less impulsive demonstrations (a lot of people I talked to hadn´t heard about them, otherwise we would obviously have joined). They placed shoes in the city, even the pope had his shoes there, representing him. They also formed a long human chaing through the streets of Paris. However later in the afternoon violence broke out at the place de la Repuplique because a smaller fragment of the activists found it neccesary to not accept these bans on gatherings in groups (christmas markets and the lobby activities such as concerts have not been banned- it´s exclusively the activists that have been banned from gathering in groups).
So I walked down to the place de la Repuplique.
I support the demonstrations for the peoples right to gather and to raise their voice, I see a lot of natives of the street here in Paris, I see people from all of the world, people from poorer countries who have travelled this long way but are now being supressed by the west who´s richness not only depend on gross exploitation of the poorer countries and of the environment- but now also have the nerve to tell them to be quiet.
I´m outraged and desillusioned, here we are, everyone, sitting in our rooms, dealing with our atoms, not able to reach out and connect to eachother… so yes, I support the protests. I support the spite.
However there was so much police at the place de la Repuplique. I didn´t dare take any pictures and to be true I hurried out of there. I´ve never seen so much police in my entire life. And not only ordinary police, all kinds of military looking police to. Too many loaded guns. They were parked down all the roads from the place de le Repuplique, there was no people anywhere, only police, it´s one the scariest things I have ever seen.
So I want to a place I know called Place2be. I was supposed to meet up with Charlotte Du Cann (who had a guest post here in last years christmas calendar) but I couldn´t find her among all of the other activists. So I sat down, drank a cola and observed the crowd, listened to their murmur.
They were debating the violence.
Whether or not the protester should have protested.
The outcome bothered them. I thought to myself that allthough the major organisations have commited to non violent protest that dosn´t mean that they own a patent on the protests. People are allowed to protest. Seriously. We cannot debate this.
Sure we can make the protest clever and creative, we can bend the rules and play the game, we can be quick and flexible but the underlying principle has been bend and it´s a problem.
We now live in countries where cooporations are allowed free speech but people are not. Come on!
On the walls behind all of the activists there was this.
It was so beautyful.
Suddenly a guy takes center stage and begins to talk into a microphone.
It´s Ben and Jerry´s. They are giving out free icecream to all of the activists. He speaks about how important activism is these days “this is a critical moment” he repeats over and over.
Afterwards I walk over to him and begin asking him questions, I tell him I´m a journalist (which I am) and he answers as if I´m a journalist.
I ask him about green capitalism, the debate on what role cooporations play in regards of changing business as usual, he says ben and jerry´s was founded by activists and that activism is a core value both for the company and for their custumers (the question “how does it feel to work for the machine?”…. he elegantly manages to dance around that)
He talks about how many people Ben and Jerrys can get involved in the climate discussions (they have millions and millions of customers) and that they will be focusing on Europe for the coming while. And the climate. “This is a critical moment” he repeats.
We have a conversation about how people seems to long for communities and how companies can buildt communities based on values (and not only growth). It´s an interesting debate. I think I might write him and maybe do a proper interview.
Walking around smiling to all of the activist I realize that I am an activist myself. I like it much better here than at the hotel. I realize my position as being someone who travels through the many worlds, it´s a deep realization and something falls into place within me. Calm. Calm, now.
I am the one who live in the wild but can still move easily in the city, in and out of crowds, I can connect, I realize, I am able to connect… with many sorts of people coming from many sorts of backgrounds, talking many kinds of languages, having many kinds of ideals. I am more than my atoms. I am an antenna.
I go down into the basement.
An theter troupe of improvisation theater are conducting a workshop. I´m not exactly sure what it is about, maybe something a la “how can we use improvisation theater when dealing with climate change?”
I love them.
They were so french. I sat with them for hours, they were really good at interacting with the audience, getting the audience INVOLVED (I think THAT might have been what the workshop was about). I was mesmerized by their effordless and humourous ways of getting the audience to relax and feel safe enough to get involved.
I was sitting next to a nun, I don´t know from what country, but she had been travelling here for the protests and the demonstrations, it was so important to her.
She kept saying “You must admit that your culture is racists”
I kept nodding.
It was the kind of thing you needed.
In the police state.
On my way home I stop by the place de la repluplique, most of the police is gone now.
The shoes from the demonstrations earlyer was spread out in front of the memorials for the paris attacks. A thoussand shoes. A thoussand lights.
A site of mourning.
I think we need to mourn.
The police state.