Police in Strasbourg: “You want to break us? We will break you.”

police state

Thursday, April 2, 2009—After an albeit chaotic day of semi-organized and related spontaneous actions against the NATO Summit meeting and the massive display of repressive force on the part of multinational police squad, over 300 activists were arrested on April 2nd and the early hours of the 3rd.  After a multi-faceted and colorful rally that began at the camp towards the city centre, the forces of authority (despite their visual absence at the beginning) continued their repressive and provocative actions they have been displaying since the camp was first setup (On Friday evening, at least two helicopters hovered over the camp, and the police for the last few hours have been lobbing a steady stream of shock grenades over the camp residents from both the north and the south)

Indeed, the massive display of force does not end with the booming echoes of police might (booms that, despite their intensity, fail to damper the spirits of the large convergence of activists from around Europe and the world).  The police, in their never ending assault on the already heavily-battered freedom of expression in Sarkozy’s France, have continued to display their contempt for the legal boundaries of detention.


The protest slowly shrank in size, after some groups expressed their dissatisfaction with the actions of certain protestors.  After swarming the remaining demonstrators in a forest just outside the camp—with the help of their ever-ready military helicopters and massive network of informers, undercover cops posing as protesters, and brutal, riot-prepared “Robocops”—the forces of order arrested everyone they saw, whether or not they were suspected of illegal activity.


One camp journalist was silly enough not to have the necessary press credentials—granted, incidentally, only to “journalists” from the mainstream media who courageously stay close to the police while hunting for even more sensationalist images of “randaliers.”  The police took him into custody, along with others who failed to evade the Strasbourg police’s massive net.  He continues: 


“After handcuffing us—some of us quite brutally—they sat us down on the ground.  One person heard officers yelling in joy ‘We fucked the bastards good!’ After one protester complained that the cuffs were impacting on an injured hand, the officer responded by saying, ‘Then you should have stayed at home, dickhead.’  At this point, one particularly proud officer rendered in short the entire strategy of the police against the anti-Capitalist mobilization to one protestor: ‘You wanted to break us?  We will break you.’  The group of already exhausted protestors—one aged sixteen—were herded into an overfilled bus. With what seemed to be purposeful halting stops, the bus passengers were made to feel like to merchandise for delivery.  After one protestor fainted due to heat exhaustion, only then—after 15 minutes in the bus—did the police choose to turn on the air conditioning and open the sunroof. As we were taken off the bus, there were hundreds of officers standing around on the roof and at the entrance, smiling and photographing the first arrivals to the holding center.    We were put into a room, where we were asked for our identification.  Over the course of the next few hours, the police released the minors and almost all of the women.  The group that was left, about 30 mostly French protestors but also others, spent the next 5 hours waiting to be processed.  Occasionally, an anonymous person would approach the window and snapped a photograph of us. After four hours had passed, the authorities were legally entitled to either charge us or let us go.  The atmosphere was, overall, jovial. People shared tips on how to avoid capture and with the legal situation in France, played games and shared anecdotes, helping one another feel, as one person put it, ‘like human beings and not cattle.’


The group began to protest in the room as the four hour limit came and went. Confronting the police, they were told that the supervisor was on his way to make a decision. Finally, after more than an hour of protesting and chanting, the group was taken to be processed. We were fingerprinted, photographed, shown the charges we were accused of, and then placed in cells.  Some were let go and others were kept overnight—there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as how things were being organized. Those placed in holding cells were stripped searched, which, according to one member of the amazing legal team that represented us, is illegal for the type of crime we were accused of.


They put us in cells that ranged in size, but the one I was in was about 5 feet by 5 feet, with no mattress or blanket. When I came in, there were already four people in the cell. Eventually, they moved one and the four of us were left to spend the night together, sharing a hard wooden surface that was supposed to have a mattress and meant for one person.  The air system was on full blast, and we took turns sharing the untidy floor. In the morning, after more than 6 hours in the cell and 5 hours in the waiting room, they gave us our “breakfast”—two thin cookies and one small cup of water.  When we asked for more, they laughed away our request.  Another person told me that around 11 AM, someone came around asking if people wanted lunch.  Of course, everyone requested to be fed, but it never came. So, for the unlucky people who spent almost 24 hours in the cell before they were released, all they could survive on was one cup of water and two cookies.”


Indeed, given the information that we exchanged in the cell over the course of the night and the friendships that were struck up, it is no surprise that some in France’s anti-Capitalist community shout “Incarcerate! Incarcerate! Your prisons will become our university!”