I understand that biketour started very early but very well on Saturday; successful blocking a Nazi protest in Berlin. The Nazi supporters had to cancel their march after many people, including biketour participants, turned up to campaign against them. Das war gut!
Mabesak & West Papua
Beth and I did not meet up with biketour until after 1pm in front of the Lush shop in Friedichstrauss. Here Mabesak, West Papuan activists and musicians joined us to tell us about the persecution and genocide they currently face due to the 44 year Indonesian occupation of their country. West Papua is home to many precious natural resources including the biggest gold mind in the world, Freeport.
Young and old people passing on the street stopped to join the welcoming atmosphere of the mini concert and there was swaying, clapping and reading as we were given information leaflets to learn about the situation there. For more information www.mambesak.nl www.freewestpapua.org. As we cycled off together fot the first time I felt an effervecent joy and excitement, to once again be on ecotopia biketour with the familiar sounds of laughter, bike bells or paniers bumping along and the general buzz of people getting to know each other.
Garden Stop and No One is Illegal Campaign
After a quick stop at Prinzesen Community Garden, an asthetically stunning project which is sadly potentially facing eviction, we arrived at an African refugee camp. We had dropped by spontaneously and so had to organise speaking with some of the people from the movement here, which took longer then expected. However people mingled contentedly with each other and with refugees staying there or had a snack; I soon came to remember being on biketour = insatiable hunger. We heard from a man from Mali and another from Ivory Coast about the impossibilities of trying to find work as a refugee in Europe. We had an interesting debate about issues around native language and how necessary this is to enable someone to work, especially since doing manual labour or harvesting in a country does not necessarily require such language proficiency. The hosts interstingly raised the point that Europeans can can go anywhere without speaking the language, including Africa, and usually easily find work. In my experience this rings true and it seemed to reinforce the point that racism and suspicion, bordering on fear, is still implanted in the minds of Europeans against people from outside Europe. They talked about their constant fear of deportation and how one boy recently committed suicide the night before the day he was due to be evicted. Their aim was to call for an end to deportation, the ability to work and support themselves in the country where they ended up, the end of the residenzpflicht, which is the obligation of residency within the region they are assigned to, which blocks their freedom of movement. German colonialism.
Following this we cycled to Kottbusser Tor (Kotti) where there is currently a solidarity protest with the situation in Turkey: Taksim Square and Gezi Park. This intersection is generally popular for protests of many kinds. The green, more left- and progressive-thinking mayor would be more willing to allow stationary protests to continue for longer periods of time with limited eviction threats. We met a German activist who squatted in the region, which was on the border to the Berlin wall, and is famous for the historical squats that took place there when the wall still stood, Tim and Samuel translated. We visited the current squats and saw the residents working in a communal garden.
No border crossing or transit route, dead end on the edge which is why this became an area commonnly squatted. 70s housing policies blocked building. Owners neglected housing as they wanted to sell to the state.
We had dinner at another squat and Kate and Tim did an introductory talk about biketours of the past and our own borders theme. One boy from the project did a presentation about maps and how they can be used as a form of hegemony and intentionally leave landmarks out or represent false information, such as country sizes. We looked at maps without the national borders, it was mind boggling. Mambesak spoke in more details about West Papua and their personal stories. Oridek and Sammy spoke emotively about how their father was assasinated by the Indonesian military for being an anthropologist and musician and encouraging tribes to celebrate Papuan culture and for collecting it. Since Indonesia are illegedly attempting to cause a cultural genocide and claim the land belongs to Indonesia and that the tribal peoples must assimilate they saw his dad Arnold as a great threat to this vision. There were tears in my eyes as Oridek described being angry at his father, as a youngster, for leaving him and lamenting how their life could have been so different had Arnold chosen another career but explained he was now proud of his dad’s bravery and wished to carry on the work he began. He described how he would wonder where his dad was as he watched other children being dropped at school by their dads. He explained that Papua is the second largest island in the world so we have to be suspicious of why most of us haven’t heard about it. Sammy commended the Ecotopia participants in their willingness to go such far distances for reasons both personal and collective. He said that although we are all from different places there are no borders between our humanity but we are one people, one world, one soul, one love like Bob Marley’s songs. He said his dad was assasinated but his spirit was alive in Bob Marley, Che Guvara and in us as we go pushing us on for Justice and Love. They thanked us and wished us a safe journey and a free life. People raised the roof with their applause and I could see in their faces that they were touched by the stories.
Finally, some of us went on to a party and others, myself included determined to pace ourselves, cycled to the sleeping place after a packed day of learning about border struggles near and far, from the past until the current times. It was 18km from the city centre in the dark and although I was exhausted and hardly knew people, I already felt the spirit of camaraderie and saw Sasha’s West Papaun flag he was gifted for his bike fluttering in the distance and giving me strength to go on.