Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reasons not to join a drug cartel in Agua Prieta...

From a local paper last week:

"However, despite the Secure Border program’s successes in combating street-level crime, drug-related violence had continued in Agua Prieta. Last week, in an especially brutal incident, a couple aged 55 and 51 were found dead in their home with their faces carved off".

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rostock, Heiligendamm and the G8

Saturday June 2nd

6.30am - the skip bloc arrives at the union offices to get our bus to Rostock. Around 7.30 the 15(!) or so buses head off, after almost a month of travelling I'm finally on my way to the G8

We arrived in Rostock around 11.30, passing hundreds of police vans, cars, helicopters, tanks(!) and riot cops. It was going to be an interesting time, and the police had stated they would have 16,000 cops ready to go. Thankfully we passed over 100 charter buses that had transported protestors up, and that was just those who had come by bus.

Around 1pm the first big protest (well there were two starting at different points and converging at the harbour at 4pm) set off, with probably 5000 or more people. Within 3 minutes I'd already had an undercover cop ask me some questions, but I caught on quick as to what was going on.

The beginning of the west-bound march in Rostock

The Black Bloc had a large presence in the crowd, a few hundred at least, and quite the spectacle to see 100s of entirely black-clad protestors. Though it is illegal to mask your face in Germany, they were able to get away with it.


The march comprised a myriad of political affiliations and beliefs, and was heavily patrolled by the 1000s of police. The march weaved its way into the historic town of Rostock though it was questionable as to how many people were left in the city. Many stores were closed or boarded up. However, some stores, instead of boarding up, wrote signs saying they were in support of shutting down the G8, which worked it seems to stop them from getting attacked

The boarded up stores (dissentnetwork.org)

Eventually the march converged with the other march that had come from the opposite direction, and the 1000s of protesters all joined together along the harbour of Rostock. A huge stage had been set up for speeches and live music, and there were a bunch of tourists about too.

The view from above of the protest converging at the harbour (dissentnetwork.org)

Just some of the police vans at the harbour

Before we knew it the Black Bloc had launched into action, digging up pavement to smash into projectiles to throw at the now 100s of riot cops. For the next two or so hours a continual back and forth of Black Bloc vs. riot cops occurred. The cops would surge forward at the protesters, and then retreat as the bloc surged back at them. Its legal to drink on the street in Germany, so there were plenty of empty bottles being thrown, and the sound of police stomping on bottles to reduce the amount of materials the bloc had to throw.

Digging up the sidewalk (dissentnetwork.org)

Eventually the police fired tear gas into the crowd and things started to get more and more out of control. A car was set on fire, leading to the water cannons being brought in to control the bloc. Unfortunately the German police also like to mix tear gas into the water cannons, making people not only soaked but also burning in pain.

The water cannons in action (dissentnetwork.org)

After awhile we decided it was time to get out as the barricades began to get built and more water cannons came in. This was definately going to up the ante for the rest of the G8 protests, and there was a feeling of unease about how the cops would use this to justify any actions they took from there-on-in

A few more spectacle shots of the Black Bloc. Though I hate that the media usually chooses only to show these actions in the newspapers etc, when much more happened at the march, I plead guilty to the enjoyment of the spectacle, regardless of whether I agree or not with their tactics (and it makes my blog more interesting...)

(all from dissentnetwork.org)

We caught a train from the city center out to one of the three campsites for the protesters, which held around 5000 people each. We were in the Reddelich camp, which was divided up into different "barrios". The Skip Bloc had decided to stay in the queer barrio, but there was also the anarchist, Ya Basta!, anarchist teapot, interventionist left, and other barrios. There was also a "conceierge", showers, media tents, info tents, and a kitchen in each barrio cooking food up for everyone. Most impressive was the giant bar, easily the biggest structure in the camp. This all led to a very rock concert cross protest feel.

An aerial view of the Reddelich camp, well some of it (dissentnetwork.org)

Sunday 3rd June
Today was the immigration organizing day, so I headed to the Rostock Convergence Center, a few train stops out of town in a 5 storey squatted school. Thankfully the rail company had been kind/smart enough to run a train once an hour from the campsites into the city.

The Convergence center/squatted school (dissentnetwork.org)

At midday we had an all in meeting, comprising of maybe 300 or so people concerned with organizing around issues of immigration and global apartheid. The meeting then split into a series of 5 or so workshops, and so I attended the No Borders workshop, facilitated by some London No Borders activists I'd met a few weeks ago, and memebers of No Lager from Bremen (http://nolager.de/). About 50 or so people attended the workshop, including a number of migrants who were able to attend who had been self-organizing from within the detention centers. Myself and Onto were able to give a quick run-down on the actions taking place on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The workshop went well, and I think for only 5 hours, we were able to develop a lot of contact information, and info swapping. The need to translate in 3 different languages slowed things down a lot but was necessary. Unfortunately by the end there was some tension over the lack of supposedly concrete proposals achieved, but I think this was unrealistic given the time frame. Following the workshop was a closing all-in meeting but by that stage I was too tired.

You can see the program and the special newspaper produced for the G8 concerning immigration in English and in Dutch at http://www.noborder.org/

A few of the Skip Bloc hung out at the convergence center to eat, and some headed to a nearby holding center to do solidarity actions for those that had been arrested during the day at the agriculture related protests. After that it was back to the camps

Monday 4th June - Migration Action Day
Today was dedicated to migration related actions, and for my research and participation, I felt was most important.

We left the camps early to get to the first action. The train was incredibly full, and after it announced it would be delayed at a station for 20 or more minutes, the call was made to get off and start a flash march to the main action. The march was fun as it was totally unexpected, and there were barely any police in sight as they were unaware of it happening.

We converged with the main demonstration that was being held at a reporting center in Rostock. Reporting centers are used to keep a tab on migrants who are not being incarcerated in a detention center, but who's status is still being determined. Migrants must report weekly or monthly to ensure the government that they have not fled to another city or country. Unfortunately many are deported directly from here without any warning. Once the protest converged at the center, a number of speeches were given by migration activists and migrants residing in Germany.

Shutting down the center

There were two more demonstrations planned for that morning, one outside a LIDL supermarket, and the other as a memorial to the 1992 pogrom in Rostock, where neo-nazi's and other fascists burnt down public housing for migrants in the city. As we were about to leave we met up with some friends from Holland who were in their media-bus and offered us a ride.

Unfortunately a large bus full of activists draws attention, and we were stopped almost immediately by 30+ police vans. From there we were held on the bus for 3 hours, as they searched the bus, and then one-by-one took us off the bus and searched us. A few were arrested for having things like bandanas(!) in their bag (this is counted as passive armament against the police). The entire ordeal wore us down considerably, and the police achieved their objective of stopping us getting to the next action.

Being detained on the bus (this is also when my camera finally died)

Afterwards we drove to the make-shift prison where the people arrested from the bus were being held to do a solidarity action, and then it was on to final march of the day, which had began at a migrant detention center just outside of Rostock (and conveniently near the city's zoo!).

After hanging out for about 2 hours, as the police would not let the march leave as they believed there were "violent elements in the crowd", the march finally left and headed towards Rostock. On the outskirts of the town the march was stopped again, and we were met with 8 or so water cannons, and 1000s of police, who had said we only had a permit for 2000 to march, and they estimated 10,000. Eventually it was decided it would not be possible to march so we had to disband.

(all from Indymedia.de)

A few of us walked back to the harbour and I headed to a panel session on migration organized by Block G8. Though interesting, as it comprised migration activists from the U.S., Africa, Germany and the Ukraine, I was too tired to stick it out till midnight. There was also an art show on by the harbour which I checked out, and had some interesting stuff regarding borders. Though the more impressive art was seen around town, created by the group Holy-Damn-It as part of the lead up to the G8

One of the 8 posters designed, and definately the best

Tuesday 5th June
Today most of us decided to take a break and hang out at the camp a little more. We also attended 'blockade training', possibly the most fun training one can be involved in. Some folks had organized a number of blockade trainings for the upcoming days of blockading the roads into the G8, so we headed into a big field near the campsite to learn effective techniques. About 100 of us acted as protesters, and the other 100 as police, and we went through some techniques including the much-hyped "finger approach", where the mass of protestors breaks off into 5 'fingers' at the last moment in order to force the police lines to break up.

After that I headed into Rostock to buy supplies for the next few days and did an interview for the Future Archive (http://www.futurearchive.org/archive/play/26 if you want to watch me drone on for 10 or so minutes).

About 3am that evening I was awoken to the sounds of people running past my tent yelling "POLICE RAID, EVERYONE UP!". There had been concerns about Nazi attacks, and moreso about police raids (police were always sitting outside the camps), so there was a 24 hour watch on top of the silos next to the camp incase of a raid. We all got up, but as it turned out the cops were just messing with us, along with hovering a police helicopter above the camp for an hour. All this as a strategy to make the protesters sleep-deprived and on-edge constantly

Wednesday 6th of June - The G8 blockades begin!
Today was the first day of blockades, as the G8 summit was beginning and the delegates (Bush, Blair and so on) were arriving. The summit was being held only a few miles from the campsite, but was fenced off by a fence that cost $13 million, and was surrounded by a "red zone", an area deemed illegal for protest

A map of the red zone and the inner-zone that housed the G8 conference (the hotel was right near the water, an ex-Nazi occupied building that was never returned to its rightful owners). Rostock is just to the east, and our camp is where it says Reddilich

Some of the fence after protesters reached it later in the day (dissentnetwork.org)

A few of the Skip Bloc set off to walk the 4 or so miles to the first round of blockades. Other blockades had headed to the airport so that delegates could not be driven out, and were entirely successful, forcing all delegates to be flown in by military helicopter, or brought in by boat. The blockade we were involved in comprised of approximately 3000 people doing a sit-in on a major road into the summit area. We set off around 10am from Camp Reddilich, and about 0.5 mile in we encountered the first police road block (though they effectively did our job of blockading). No problem, we will just take to the forest!

The blockader's encountering the first police block just before we headed into the forest (dissentnetwork.org)

After 30 or so minutes of trapsing through the forest we came out into a big field, only to see 10 or so military helicopters shuttling in delegates and other staff/media/etc for the summit, so we knew the airport blockades had been successful. We congregated on a hillside until the other blockade coming from another direction could meet up

Coming out of the forest and heading through the fields, I'm in there somewhere (dissentnetwork.org)

From there another hour or so running through fields of rapeseed (seemingly the most popular crop for northern Germany) until the road came in to sight. The police had caught on but were mostly watching as they had decided to let us take part in the road blocks. Across the train tracks and onto the road, 3000+ people hit the road and began settling in for the long haul

The blockade settles in behind police-lines (dissentnetwork.org)

Though a 'peacful' action the black bloc were still about, theres just something so unnatural about this photo...

The 6 military helicopters that landed next to the blockade but then took off soon after, I guess as intimidation (dissentnetwork.org)

The Skip Bloc sat-it out for a few hours, but some of us had to return to the camps to ready for tonight's action, so we headed back through the nearby town of Bad Doberan on way back to the camp

Midnight, Thursday 6th June
Though there were many blockades going on, Skip Bloc had been invited to take part in a smaller autonomous action. Two days of meetings (and apparently a year of pre-planning) involved 27 autonomous groups, 2 delegates from each (to reduce the likelihood of police informants being involved) to plan out the action. Our two delegates were able to take part but only to a small extent as we were invited in late into the planning. So 9 of us decided to take part.

We met with one other small group of 3 at 12.30am at the camp, and then set off. We would have to walk for approximately 4 hours through fields to get to the part of the road we were intending to block, but it was necessary to walk and stay off the roads as to avoid police spotting us.

The second we entered the first field, I realized everything was wet, and 2 minutes later my feet were soaked. On the other side of the field was the train line, and so we crossed, but as soon as we hit the tracks we realized a train was coming round the bend, "TRAIN!" as everyone dove off the side of the tracks and laid against the rocky embankment so as not to be spotted. A close call with death after 10 minutes.

We continued on for another hour in the fields, tailing the smaller group so as not to draw too much attention. But it turned out we had done one big loop and were back near where we started. After consulting the map we decided to take some small lanes and so we set off again. All was fine for an hour or so until we hit a road heavily patrolled by cops. 4 times we were forced to dive into the bushes as cop vans came down the road, alerted only by their headlights. This resulted in a few nettle stings, and for G, a meeting with an electric fence (though this wouldnt be his last).

Eventually we got off the road and hit another patch of forest, and after a short break continued through until we hit the edge of a giant field. We set off through the rapeseed crops, but as the sun had come up (it gets light at 3.30am) we had to hide in the field as another train went by. The second we got through that field and into a plowed field a military helicopter showed up and started circling nearby. With no-where to hide we thought it was all over, but we managed to run to a fence that had some long grass growing along it, and were able to hide before we were spotted. 15 minutes later the helicopter finally stopped circling and we were able to make it into the next patch of forest before it came back.

So we were about 1 hour late, and as we arrived in the patch of forest beside the road we would block, about 50 or so others appeared from out of the trees (another 100 or so were elsewhere ready to construct the inner, more fortified, road block, our job was to build a temporary outer block to stop traffic and distract the police).

5 minutes later it was time to go, and though it was supposedly a 'peaceful action' (only paint bombs and smoke bombs to be thrown at cops) everyone began to mask-up...shit. People grabbed logs from the bountiful forest floor, and some grabbed an entire rangers tower and began to carry it towards the road. We broke out onto the road as cars came to a screeching halt and began to construct the outer road blocks with logs and branches. A semi-trailer driver decided he wasn't having it and attempted to ram the blockade but was stopped by protestors.

About 10 minutes in, seemingly out of nowhere, the riot cop vans showed up, and police in full riot gear were running at us, one announcing over the loudspeaker in German-accented English, "Stop, you are all under arrest, stay where you are". Nuts to that. We dropped the branches and abandoned the blockade heading into the forest. The plan was to head back to the inner blockade and help hold it, alas we had arrived late and weren't exactly sure where it was. So into the forest! Unfortuantely there was a large river only a few meters in, so people were forced to run through it, but that didnt stop the cops, many of which were supposedly trained for forest combat, great. I decided to run alongside the river with two others, and looking back saw a group of 10 or so riot cops following, so I headed back into the dense forest beside the road and proceeded to hide for the next two hours.

I could just see the road from where I was hiding, and could see the 40 or so police vans racing back and forth, while 2 helicopters circled overhead as they rounded everyone up. Turns out about 80 people were arrested, but only for a few hours. So with nowhere to go, I hid out, only to be confronted by a large deer! Turns out it was more scared than me, but only just, and it took off

Eventually the police seemed to take off, and so I came out of hiding onto the road, and proceeded to walk back, past the police road block, which didnt seem to notice me, and was helping our objective of blocking the road. I later found out the main block held for about 3 hours, so was largely successful.

Not our road block, but one that looked something like it (dissentnetwork.org)

With no idea where I was, I soon realized I was on the edge of Bad Doberan, so was able to get back to the train station. To my surprise and relief, 7 or the other 8 Skip Bloc where there, they had all escaped arrest after running through the river. Only Simmo was missing, and we later found out she was arrested after hiding in the forest for an hour, but stood up to see if the coast was clear...it was not

Back at the camp we all took a well-earned nap, and then decided to head to the beach, at the end of the trainline. A week of ongoing jokes about protesting Bono, who was due to appear that evening at a very expensive "anti-G8 concert" were soon realized, as when we got off the train at the bourgeis little sea-side town, Bono and 10 of his P.R. crew walked by. A few of the bloc realized this was our chance, and proceeded to chase him down, chanting "Starving children help sell records!", he didnt take to this too well, and a short argument between Bono (and his P.R. crew) and the Skips broke out. Soon after the riot police came skidding to a halt to come protect Bono, but by then we were done.

For footage of this head to http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/skipbloc/videos/bonog8.ogg/view

It was definately a surreal day.

Friday 8th June
The last day of the G8. The Skip Bloc packed up and headed for Rostock where the final march was to be held. I stayed and minded everyones bags near the station, but apparently I didnt miss much at the march. Everyone was protested-out, and it was hot. Most said their goodbyes, but I was staying one more night at the camp. I had a few drinks at the bar in the camp with the remaining Australians, and some of the Dutch crew, before sleeping outdoors (all the tents had left by that stage).

Saturday 9th June
Up at 6 to get the train to Rostock, then the train to Hamburg, which involved 3 hours of sweating to death. Nice trains in Germany, no air-conditioning. Then it was a train to Lubeck which I managed to avoid paying for, and an hour bus to Lubeck airport, damn you Ryan Air. The airport was some ex-military airport, so the terminal was er...rough. A short flight back to London, and back to my friend's house in Hackney for a much needed shower, and real bed, the first in 3 weeks.

Sunday 10th June
We went to the Brick Lane markets for lunch, one of the most impressive markets/outdoor events I have seen in a city in a long time, if only the U.S. understood. Then it was on to the bar/s for some substantial drinking.

Monday 11th June, 5am
Still drunk. Pack and head to the bus in the rain, and then catch the train to Heathrow. 11 hours flight to LAX. Arrive at LAX, and am denied entry into the country, as my I-20 form (a new form brought in after S-11 to ensure students aren't terrorists) had gotten wet whilst running from the police in Germany. It was somewhat interesting hanging out in the immigration check-point room, though the 3 hours wore on and I knew Laura and V were waiting to get me from the airport. Of course having the priviledge of being white, and with correct documentation (albeit, kinda destroyed) meant I knew I was getting out. The 30 or so Chinese nationals awaiting the immigration's decision, probably didnt find it so interesting.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bike Swarm!

Conveniently timed on my 5 day return to L.A., Bike Swarm! (www.bikeswarm.org) had a dinner at the newly opened Pure Luck restaurant now run by a close friend of ours, and located next to the Bicycle Kitchen, Scoops, and Orange 20 (and one block from Megan's new warehouse space). Heliotrope is the new place to be...

Our Swarm! jerseys and socks recently arrived, so at the dinner everyone was given a jersey which provided a good chance for a team photo (minus Alex, who's strange and toothless face you can see hovering in the background). Its being involved with things like Bike Swarm! that fill my heart and make me glad to be in Los Angeles


Tuesday 22nd May

I left the apartment in Glasgow early this morning to get to Glasgow International Airport, comparable to Coolangatta airport in Queensland, ie: not much going on. After a short flight to Schoenberg airport on the outskirts of East Berlin, I found myself for the first time in a country where I know absolutely none of the language. Combined with the concern of not much money, and possibly nowhere to stay after the first night or so, and having no conception of where I was, lead to the onset of some anxiety. It was also incredibly hot compared to Glasgow...

Thanks to the awesome directions of R, I was able to catch a few trains to her house where I was hoping to stay for my time in Berlin, thankfully that worked out. R lives in a now legalized squat just inside where the Berlin wall stood a decade or so ago. The squatters movement in Berlin is amazing, with nothing comparable in the U.S. or Australia (at least to my knowledge). Many squats started after the fall of the wall, and soon after the goverment gave the option to many to purchase the squats and have them legalized. The squat I was staying in is known as K9 (for the street address Kinzigstrasse 9), possibly the nicest place I've stayed in years, so not really what youd typically envision when the term squat is mentioned. I think around 40 or so people live there, including families with kids. Downstairs are a number of offices for different organizations such as Ladyfest, a bar, and on certain nights, a nightclub in the basement.

Outside the K9 squat

R was kind enough to loan me her spare bike for the 10 days I was in Berlin, and as I quickly found out, everyone rides in Berlin (well, almost). The sidewalks/footpaths (I'm getting more American by the day) are split in half for cyclists and pedestrians, and everyone tends to ride pretty beat-up bikes to reduce the likelihood of theft I guess. Most bikes are 3-speed internal hubs, complete with moustache bars and baskets...speed isnt the key here. It was such a refreshing change to see parents waiting outside schools to pick up their kids by bicycle, people with baskets overflowing with food shopping, and even a guy with a bird perch attached to his handlebars for his giant exotic birds to hang out on while he rode the streets.

I did however feel like the first time cyclist for a few days. In L.A. its not common to have to be mindful of the 1000 other cyclists surrounding you, so I was constantly cutting people off, or worse still, riding on the wrong side after having switched back to the opposite side in the UK.

I rode down to Kreuzberg to meet Anja, who I hadnt seen in over a year, so it was so great to see her again. I soon realized that Kreuzberg, though for a long time a largely Turkish neighbourhood, was also the center of activist circles in Berlin, but also a recently gentrified area too, ala Echo Park/Silverlake in L.A.

To my joy I also discovered the 60cent German pilsner beer, and that you can drink legally on the street. At this point I realized I belonged in Berlin. 10 minutes later I was witness to the first of many protests I would experience in Germany - they like to protest here. However, as part of police requirements, you must alert the police to any public demonstration 24 hours before it occurs. Given the climate of the upcoming G8, there were at least 20 police vans filled with riot police present long before the marchers had even gathered.

Anti-gentrification march in Kreuzberg, curiously comprised of mostly white youth rather than residents most affected by rising rent prices.

I returned to K9 and met 3 other Australians I would be staying with for the next few weeks, John, 'G', and Shane, who had just arrived from Spain, who I quickly came to realize would be the most fun people I could possibly hang out with and share a floor with whilst in Germany

Wednesday 23rd May
I rode back to Kreuzberg this morning to meet with Anja and some friends of hers living in Berlin, one previously from Melbourne. A little later the other Australians showed up, including Kate, another Australian living in Berlin. Kate and her partner would prove to be the best Berlin guides and organizers for us at the G8.

We walked across to the New Yorck squat (http://www.yorck59.net/), just across the park from where we were. NY was operating as an info point for the lead up to the G8, so we gathered a bunch of information and spoke with some organizers there. The squat was huge, though as we later found out, it was a new location after being evicted from a previous building

The New Yorck 59 squat from outside

From there we walked the short distance to Kopi, probably the largest, and definately the most punk squat in Berlin, that has been around for 17 years, and houses 100 people including the caravan park beside it (http://koepi.squat.net). It was also operating (somewhat) as an info point for the G8. Unfortunately the Kopi is facing eviction, as the owner had just sold the building, which will surely be demolished. This means there is a heavily fortified gate into Kopi, guarded 24/7 by friends or residents of the squat. It makes for an intimidating time getting in, as you are assessed by someone peering from behind the gate to determine if you are an undercover cop or not. As it turns out this is not without reason, as at least two undercover cops, unsuccessfully, attempted to gain entrance


Part of my reason for visiting Kopi was to meet with members of an Eastern European anarchist journal called 'Abolishing the Borders from Below'(www.abb.hardcore.lt). Though publishing out of Berlin, it is entirely dedicated to publishing report backs from anarchist groups and actions outside the E.U., including a number of No Borders actions. Through earlier email contact with ABB I had been told to go to Kopi and that I would be "very close to our office". I asked around as to where the office was, though noone seemed willing to tell me, or simply didnt know, where their office was. Eventually one guy who spoke almost perfect English told me that one of the members of ABB would be back soon and to hang around for 20 minutes or so. So I joined the others on gate watch for the next two hours and eventually S of ABB turned up. He then told me the office was actually inside Kopi...anyways. We organized to meet up the next day to do an interview.

I called the others to see where they were, and I was told to meet them by the Canal near the Turkish markets. From there we went to Goerlitzer park, where for each night up until the G8 there was a Voku (people's kitchen). So we headed there with a bunch of beer and ate at the food not bombs-esque kitchen. The park itself is pretty impressive, 100s of people there, and some old ruins of some non-descript building to hang out on.

Biking it up in Goerlitzer, with the television tower looming in the distance

Hanging out at the Voku

After that we ended up at some fairly horrible bar and proceeded to get relatively drunk. We met a friend of Kates who was heavily involved in organizing the 'Block G8' roadblocks for the 2 days that the G8 summit was meeting, who was amazingly friendly and helpful

Thursday 24th
I think Rachel arrived yesterday, another Australian to the crew. We cooked up a big breakfast at K9 and ate on their roof. I had to be at Kopi around 1pm so I pedalled over there, however S was unable to do the interview. After that I rode to the Hau cafe where the registration for the Summit: non-aligned initiatives in education culture conference was (I'll return to this in a moment). Later that evening a few of us went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3, I'm still not sure how I was suckered into giving up 8 euros to see it but it was fun nonetheless

Friday 25th
A few of us got up early today to get to a fairly radical bookstore in Kreuzberg today, as we had gotten word that there were some $10 bus tickets to the G8 still on offer. Turns out that essentially every single charter bus in Berlin had been booked to get to the G8, so tickets were running low. We managed to get the last few tickets available on some buses organized by one of the big unions in Berlin. After breakfast at a small Turkish eatery I rode over to the Summit conference.

Summit...where to begin? You can read about the conference and its purposes, along with viewing a lot of what happened here: http://summit.kein.org/

The conference was supposed to be a few days of meetings with artists, academics and activists to discuss the state of education culture, and to do so in a non-heirachical sense, or at least thats how I read its goals. The site states that its goal is:

"The goal of SUMMIT is to bring together a wide range of initiatives, projects and protagonists from the fields of art, education and political activism. The event is designed as an opportunity to find out about possible links and connections across different registers. On this basis SUMMIT seeks to enable joint strategical interventions in the current debate around education. SUMMIT is supposed to issue a declaration and an action plan, and by doing so it needs to reflect on the very conditions of what it could mean today to declare and to plan something in a collaborative fashion.

The idea of SUMMIT can be characterized as an attempt to turn the impossibility to define a common ground or common agenda into a chance to produce a perspective that reaches out beyond politics of identity, professionalism and representation."

The reality was, as far as I could gather, a bunch of artists and academics flexing their egos and spouting rhetoric till the point that most of us wanted to vomit. People heckled presenters, presenters went on for hours about themselves or name dropped theorists constantly, presenters walked out on panel discussions, so on and so forth. As Anja mentioned (who was presenting but was able to leave her ego out of her presentation!), it was a bunch of artists talking about things like migration, in order to appropriate such things for their benefit. In the end I think I gained absolutely nothing from being at the presentations.

Seeing as the Summit was close to Potsdamer Platz I decided to go check it out. Potsdamer Platz was a central transport and meeting hub in Berlin. However during the war it was one of the most heavily bombed areas, and resulted in almost all of the buildings being wiped out. After the war, it also became the western edge to the Berlin Wall. Since this time it has undergone serious rejuvination (for better or worse) and now has some of the most expensive infrastructure in the country, such as the Sony headquaters. However, close by are numerous landmarks, such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Jewish holocaust monument, the Topography of Terrors, some sections of the wall and various other buildings that evade my memory now.

After that I rode over to Hackesher Market to meet the others who were crashed out on the lawn near the canal that passes by Marx Platz and other landmarks. Hackersher seems to be probably the most gentrifyied and well off neighbourhoods around. However soon after getting there a huge storm rolled in so everyone was running for cover.

After the rain let up we headed back to Kreuzberg and randomly came across some other Australian friends who were in town from London to attend the Summit conference. This led to an exceptional amount of Gin being drunk and a long walk home with some further drinking.

Saturday 26th
Arghhh too much Gin...Everyone decided that minimal movement and a big breakfast on the roof was in order

Later I headed to Summit to see Anja give her presentation as part of the Future Archive (http://www.futurearchive.org/), which I think was one of the most successful parts of the Summit, though the heat and humidity was killing people, that and people wanting to get to the education protest in Kreuzberg (that was cancelled due to rain)

From there a bunch of us headed to another collective space/squat where there was an information meeting on organizing for the G8. Though all in German thankfully Renata and others could translate for us, which helped dispel a lot of concerns about being at the G8

After that the Australians had a meeting nearby. We had jokingly decided to refer to ourselves as the 'Skip Bloc', and were mostly concerned with working as an affinity group whilst at the G8, mostly in case of arrest or police violence, but also with the hope or coordinating some different actions

Sunday 27th
An attempt to see some friends present at Summit failed miserably, as we got the time wrong by about 5 hours. Later that evening the Skip Bloc met up to attend 'queer ballroom dancing' at a placed called S036, one of buildings that had been raided earlier in the month as a part of a fear campaign led by the police previous to the G8

Its needless to say that I can't dance, but thankfully having Kate as my partner (as as the leader given its queer ballroom dancing), I managed to bumble my way through the foxtrot.

After that me and G headed to the Kopi to see Severed Head of State play. My liking for crust punk is limited, but I figured this would probably be the most punk event I'd ever be witness to, and I was largely right. We met up with Chris from Australia who had been staying elsewhere (and featured in my photo of Pogo Cafe from London without me realizing) and proceeded to drink more 60 cent pilsner on our walk home

Monday 28th May
Back to the Kopi and more waiting around...Finally the meeting evolved, though was largely unsuccessful, so it goes. I did manage to acquire a number of back issues of ABB no longer available outside Germany so that was useful, and allowed me to further justify my travels as "necessary research"

Around 4pm we headed to the "Reclaim the Park" in Prenzlauerberg (further into East Berlin), though it seems reclaiming a public park isnt really reclaiming anything. On the way we passed a fairly large and established legalized squat in Prenzlauerberg that had burnt down earlier in the day. It was incredibly sad to see 50 or so people sitting outside their place with nothing they could do

As it turns out it was mostly a bunch of german drug-taking-trance-listening-wankers dancing on a patch of grass in the park...

We were blessed with meeting Simone from Canada, who we later affectionately dubbed "Simmo" and welcomed her into the Skip Bloc

Tuesday 29th May
This morning we went to the Turkish market, one for food, and two to make a giant Skip Bloc banner, which turned out to be a boxing kangaroo with a black hoodie on, ala Black Bloc style. Hopefully a photo will eventuate

A few of us headed from there to the Jewish Museum. I'd studied the building a few years ago back in my undergraduate days in Melbourne, so I was keen to see the building, moreso than the museum contents perhaps. It was designed by Daniel Liebskind, and asides from the actual museum display itself (mostly dedicated to the history of the Jews from 1200 a.d. on) it also contained the Garden of Exile and the Tower of...(I forget now). Though I am unsure how I feel about Liebskind (like many other "super architects") the Garden of Exile and the Tower were real examples of how architecture and the built form can effect haptic experience. The garden contained 49 slanted towers, about 15 foot high, on sloped ground. This lead to an incredible feeling of nausea and being lost/alone, and was supposedly meant to represent how migrants would feel when exiled to a new country. The tower was an almost pitch black room, that was probably 100 feet high with a small window to let in the slightest bit of light, entirely silent within. However a thunder storm had broken out making the experience even more surreal and unsettling

Later we had a failed attempt at a Skip Bloc meeting, and after eating at the Voku at New Yorck, I headed back with Renata to her place to crash

Wednesday 30th May
This morning me and G met up with Eve to go to the Hannah Hoch exhibition at the Berlinischer Gallery. Unfortunately I got us a little lost, so 20 minutes became almost 2 hours of walking. The exhibition was quite impressive, though the wider exhibition of Dada works was less so. The gallery space, dedicated to modern art from Berlin, was quite amazing, one of the better galleries I had visited of late.

We then walked to the Topography of Terrors, basically an outdoor gallery set in the excavated basement of the previously bombed out and demolished headquaters of the SS during the reign of the Nazi party, and adjacent to a remaining section of the Berlin wall.

On the way back to the train station we passed this pretty impressive squat...

I also passed by M99, a store in Kreuzberg that is basically a Black Bloc supplies store. Asides from being a radical bookstore, you could also purchase any number of black jackets, hats, shirts, sweaters, gloves etc, along with helmets, gas masks, handcuffs and so on. All that you could possibly need for your next militant protest against the riot cops

After that me and G headed back to K9 for an amazing dinner cooked by Rachel, and an amazingly bad dance party in the kitchen (bad in the "so bad its good" way of course).

Thursday 31st May
Another day, another severe hangover.

Managed to arrive an hour late to meet Kat and Ashley, friends from L.A. who had helped me in organizing the G8 info tour a few months back at the F-House. Finally I had made it to see the Bauhaus museum, something I had been wanting to see for years. Unfortunately it was an incredibly let-down, with very few works by the members of the Bauhaus I was most interested in. It seemed all the money had gone into the gift store (where most things started at over $100 euro). oh well...

Later I rode to New Yorck to meet with Steev from Arizona Indymedia/Dry River Collective/No More Deaths who had just arrived in Berlin. It was great to see him after a few months since we last met in Tucson at the No Borders organizing weekend

From there we travelled to Tacheles, a now legalized squat, and probably the most impressive art-space I have ever visited. Tacheles was a building built over 100 years ago, occupied by the Nazi's in the 30s and later bombed, and then occupied by squatters and defended from demolition in the 90s. Now it stands as a huge art-space, with galleries and artists in residence, theatres, etc etc. Every inch of the 10 storey building is covered in graffiti and artwork, and the backyard operates as a childrens playground and cafe/bar space, in between the bombed out buses and planes that I guess are relics of the war?

For a detailed history and info about Tacheles and some amazing photos, check out the "history" section on their website, its really worth a look http://super.tacheles.de/cms/

Later that evening after passing through Karl Marx Platz (complete with a Marx and Engels statue, with Marx sitting rather like Santa Claus), I headed to Prenzlauerberg, which I had seen little of, but quickly realized was the hip gentrified neighbourhood of east Berlin. I had organized to meet with An Architektur, a collective of architects who produce bi-annually an architectural and spatial-based publication. A.A. has done some great studies on the spaces of detention centers on the periphery of Eastern Europe, and have held the camps for "Oppostional Architecture"



For some reports on the work of A.A., and probably the best blog online to date run by Nick Brown, check out Critical Spatial Practice


A.A. was also involved in Projekt Migration


The interview went well with A.A. and they were able to pass on some back issues (in English!) on the detention centers that I had been unable to obtain in the U.S.

Friday 1st May
Last day in Berlin! I'll be sad to say goodbye to Berlin, easily my favourite city I have ever visited.

Today was mostly dedicated to getting organized for travelling to and camping at the G8. Lots of food purchased, and some banner painting by the artfully skilled G and Rachel.

I took a ride down Karl Marx Allee, the main boulevard of East Berlin, dedicated to all the greatness of Communist rule. The boulevard is 10 lanes wide, with a large median strip down the middle. The Allee is lined with buildings and other monuments to Communism, though was largely unfinished. At the northern end was the giant Television tower, that I later learned had a revolving restaurant that used to fully revolve over the space of an hour, but was sped up to half an hour to reduce tourists hanging out, now thats German efficiency in practice. Two buildings, now used (and maybe previously) as a cafe and cinema still stand that are excellent examples of Cold-war communist-era architecture, hopefully I can find some photos online

From there I headed the short distance to Alexander Platz, a popular meeting area for Berliners that was also bombed out during the war, though the replacement architecture (ie: a massive shopping mall) is largely dissapointing to view. The Migration Caravan (http://thecaravan.org/) was passing through Berlin before the G8, and a subsequent Freedom of Movement march was held from Alex to the Brandenburg Tor

That night, after eating a pretty good vegan hot dog, I returned to the bar below K9 for a final Skip Bloc meeting. Later that evening we had a few problems getting back into K9, as it was a Friday night, and in the basement was a drum 'n bass show (oh how the Germans love their drum 'n bass). This meant the main entrance into K9 was locked, meaning we were stuck in the bar, or in the nightclub. After some very bad broken-English/German bartering, we were able to enter the nightclub for free and convince the 'security' to let us into the building so we could sleep, though this took over 2 hours. This resulted in a solid 1 hour sleep before setting off to the G8 the next morning...