It was with genuine curiosity that I visited one of the camps of activists, anarchists and all-purpose demonstrators in a field just outside Rostock today. The gathering of 9,000-odd protestors has a festival atmosphere, and as I arrived many were spilling out of their tents and heading into the city.
Yesterday they demonstrated against the European Union’s restrictive policies on immigration. Given their pro-freedom stance, I figured it would be fine for me to wander around the camp and speak to some people about their motivation for demonstrating.
As someone working for a radio station in rural Uganda, I’m here to report on the decisions that might affect my listeners’ – mainly subsistence farmers – lives. So I wanted to find out why these people have travelled far from their homes to sleep out in the cold for a week.
I hadn’t got far before I was stopped by a demonstrator who told me she didn’t trust any journalist, no matter which country they come from.
I was promptly escorted back to the media centre where one of the coordinators explained that many of the protestors are sick of the press tramping through the campsite (and many of the more radical ones wouldn’t be so polite in telling me so).
I was puzzled… these guys are from wealthy families, they have plenty of food (some show it all too visibly), and they’re living comfortable lives. So why on earth are they demonstrating?
It took me a while to find anyone able to engage with the issues. Many have a hazy picture of the G8’s politics – beyond saying it’s “undemocratic” – but hey, here they are protesting anyway!
After a few attempts I managed to get into conversation with Andreas, a white guy with dreadlocks, who had travelled from Brandenburg.
“We are demonstrating because the G8 is taking raw materials from poor nations and they are not giving these countries the chance to develop on their own,” he told me.
“They are carrying away oil, agricultural products, minerals, you name it, from African countries, but they never give any compensation. All they do is come to every summit and pledge monies which are never fulfilled on time.”
Next I alighted on Wilhelm from Potsdam who said that the G8 must play a “give and take” game with poor nations. Another protestor nailed the debate for me by saying that the United Nations could do a better job of providing for poor nations and soliciting funding, rather than the G8.
Perhaps these demonstrators have got a serious point, and aren’t just here for the party after all.
[A version of this article appeared in die tageszeitung newspaper on 6 June 2007]