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Irish Times: Left makes G8 summit a political activity holiday

EXTRACT: About 15 people have come from Shell to Sea, the network calling for the proposed Corrib gas terminal and pipeline to be constructed offshore.

Derek Scallyin Heiligendamm,
Published: Jun 06, 2007

GERMANY: The G8 summit is a five-star event for eight people and their entourage. For the 80,000 opponents, protesters and critics who have descended on Rostock, it’s a camp-out.

Depending on your disposition, visiting one of the camps will either awaken your inner idealist or stoke your inner cynic.

All walks of left life tread the provisional woodchip paths of this tent city: punks carrying beer, eco-lesbians peeling beetroots and ageing 1968 student revolutionaries regaling young Attac recruits with tales of struggle.

Makeshift posters bombard arrivals: “Anti-sexist contact and awareness group: this way”; “Barbecue for resistance”; “Progressive repression practised in the name of freedom”.

Tucked in at the back, beside the gay and lesbian camp that is offering yoga and wrestling workshops and a musicals sing-a-long, is the Irish camp.

About 15 people have come from Shell to Sea, the network calling for the proposed Corrib gas terminal and pipeline to be constructed offshore.

For them the G8 protest movement is a chance to make contacts and aid a long-term process and a larger movement to change how the world works.

“People are realistic and know that only so much can be achieved through individual action,” says Cormac, one of the Irish group.

“But there is a legitimacy for us, as members of the first world, to getting a more favourable deal and a redistribution of wealth for the 60 per cent who aren’t in a position to fight for themselves.”

The group was caught up in Sunday’s riot in Rostock between masked stone-throwers and police that left over 1,000 people injured. They are scathing about the German police and their “de-escalation strategy”.

“They’ve been psyched up for trouble,” says Cormac. “We were walking down a street chatting when one policeman grabbed one of our women, choking her, and dragged her up against a wall demanding in German that she remove her neck scarf.”

The camp is a world away from the current German media discussion, after the Rostock riot, about whether peaceful protesters should distance themselves from the violent Black Bloc. “That’s all a set-up by the government aided by the mainstream media,” says one Black Bloc activist from Scotland, who declines to be named.

“First they have plants inside the scene to start trouble so the police can crack down, then they use that to divide the left-wing scene.”

Many in the camp say they accept stone- and bottle-throwing as part of legitimate resistance against police provocation, a desperate way of making themselves heard.

The vast, peaceful majority say they are here to celebrate Europe’s lively left-wing scene as much as protest against the G8.

“We’re here not because we’ve got anything to say but because it’s so easy to say nothing,” said Julio, 22, from Osnabr’ck.

Shell to Sea activists say the modest turnout of Irish activists is down to the country’s cultural consumerism and activism apathy.

“People are working longer hours for material distractions,” says Cormac. “It’s a campaign that’s sometimes disheartening but the rewards are there even if they are few and far between.”

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