Friday 13 June 1997, 18.30 h.
(Back home for an hour, to eat dinner and get ready for the evening debate)
Long live my bicycle! The street that I used at 13.00 was now blocked by a big gate and 2 policemen. Getting around that is no problem with a bicycle. The city is now closing up, the heads of states are nearly here. I must say that the atmosphere in the city is still very calm and good humoured, also among the police. That I could still cycle on the road right next to the Dutch Bank by 13.00 even, surprised me. The road was closed for cars but trams and cyclists cycling over the tram tracks were still getting through. The press village seems quite ready now. For a long time I was wondering how they were going to build the press village for thousands of journalists in this very small park just opposite the Dutch Bank. Last week found out: the prefab buildings have completely surrounded the park, it is not even visible any more!
Over lunch I got my pictures to the 1 hour service. Some of the photographs look great. I gave them to the Internet team with the first few lines of this diary but no scanner! Working low budget has it's consequences but I am sure they will somehow get it organised. I slipped in a picture of the Internet team itself getting ready, hoping that it might motivate them even more to get the pictures on the Internet!
This afternoon I spent between 2 workshops. One was on strategies against the EU in the Nordic countries and the other one about biotechnology.
The strategies workshop was very useful. It is a great boost for me to know that they all started as a very small group, mostly
10-12 people. It is nice to know that such a small number can build a broad movement and get the public debate off the ground.
A representative from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark was there. The most interesting things that I picked up were:
- the Finnish tactic to organise a combined left and right wing alliance against the EU. Apparently this really confused politicians. I must say I am not quite convinced that it might work here in The Netherlands but I like to think it through when my brains are less congested
- how the anti EU movement was funded. I am always interested in that because the forces against us have enormous amounts of cash and other resources and we are always in a situation where we have to call a friend and explain to her that we desperately need to borrow her scanner for a few days. I liked the clear cut answers given to that, although there were some differences between countries. Initial funds from parties and social movements with some spare cash, then push for political support to get a referendum, then make government pay money to both yes and no groups. Piece of cake!
I was talking to Mirjam from our Feminist group, as we were walking to the next workshop, moving from the Women's House to the Trade Union museum. Our workshops for Monday are not yet finalised and we are getting a little nervous. We still need a few chairpersons and also someone to replace a speaker on women's poverty. We are not even sure if Biljana from Croatia has managed to get to Amsterdam. Too few people with too many tasks! But our mood is excellent. I am encouraging Mirjam and Marietta to also write pieces of diary for Internet.
At 16.00 the workshop on biotechnology started. Thomas Schweiger spoke of the organisation Global 2000. I felt like a student again, scribbling like mad in my notebook. Everything seemed so crucial, important and terrible. The EU Directive on patenting genes (life) will be voted on next week and again in July by members of the European Parliament. By the time Thomas finished talking, we all rushed to sign the petition and get postcards to send to the members of the European parliament. If I see any Europarliamentarian I will ask her/him immediately to attend that dinner discussion on 2 July. How could they possibly vote yes. For me the patenting issue is one of the clearest examples of how big industry uses it's money and clout to get what they want through the European Union structures. I am getting really angry when I hear this.
Anyway, time to get things back in perspective: food first
Saturday 14 June 1997 19.45
Back from the Demonstration with sore feet! And still the women's party to go to tonight. Will I survive?
My first impression of the Marches/demo was that it was so impressive. All these different languages, all these different banners WOW. Really European wide. Those speaking many languages definitely had the advantage. I had to call my sister at one point so she could explain to the Italian communists not to break up our feminist group with their group. The lesbian women walking a bit at the end were nearly cut off from the rest. Big mistake! But they understood my sister's broken Italian and it was OK. They waited for us to get passed them. The atmosphere was really good although most of us waited for hours on the Dam square before we finally started walking at about 15.15 h.
Our group of women, most of them dressed in white, was about 100. I saw a lot of friends, even my Parisian friend from the Beijing women's train I was in in 1995. Two of my colleagues from the Women' Global Network for Reproductive Rights were there as well, great. There were a lot of banners as well. The word feminist was really noticed because I heard several comments from bystanders 'Oh these are the feminists, yes, look'. A radio reporter also told me we looked very different in the March with our white banners and clothes and all the colourful balloons. I just checked the 19.30 Dutch TV news but I did not see us yet. Let's wait for the 20.00 H News (public channel).
What moved me most were Gine's two daughters of 4 and 6. Tirelessly, they blew up our balloons and tied them to the lampposts. They instructed their father and mother what was to be written on the balloons. Gine wanted to write 'grrl power without spice' but the daughters insisted it should be 'women want to earn more money' and 'women want more work'. MORE WORK ????. The priorities of girls these days seem to be different! I hope that the pictures that I took of them will come out nicely. They were so enthusiastic that they wanted to take the last 10 balloons home and talk about what they had done at school on Monday. It is a nice thought that 2 little girls somewhere in a school will make the future generation of feminists enthusiastic with their stories!
The balloons were a great idea. I think we distributed about 2000 balloons to women, with feltpens and thread to tie the balloons. I have nearly lost my voice explaining the idea to women. 'You write your idea or message on the balloon, then tie it to a lamppost or a bridge so they will still see our messages even if the March is long gone', and this in French, German, Spanish, English and whatever. The big advantage is that you can really organise this as most people are just waiting to start the march and are bored anyway. Most women kept their balloons during the march so our little group looked really festive. We even gave one to a police woman and tied another one to a police van. Nice that they are now also demonstrating for a feminist Europe!
The overwhelming colour in the March was red, followed by black. I saw organisations I wouldn't have believed still existed. The bolshevik youth group from Germany?!?! Every type of communist, socialist and anarchist was there, I think. On the news, they keep saying we were 50.000. Last week, the Dutch organising committee's best guess was 15 to 20.000, that was when people were getting a bit pessimistic. But we reached the figure of 20.000 already around 13.00 h at the Dam square, many more came later. That would make it utterly unique. So big and so European. I personally saw people from Greece, Spain, Finland, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Kurds from Germany and Turkish and Moroccan people from The Netherlands and of course our 4 women friends from Zimbabwe.
Just seen the 20.00 h. news. Emphasis on the 150 German Autonomen who threw stones at the police at one point. Shots on TV
included the Euro flagpoles that were demolished by them and the car that was turned upside down. Pity that they always gets more
attention in the press than the 49.850 peaceful demonstrators. Apparently, Italians who arrived by train were kept at the train
station by the police and they arrested 150 of them when they demolished the train. But the footage of the rest of the march and
the little interviews with people in between, looked good. The official delegations will have to spend a few more WORDS on the
social Europe now, says the cynic in me.
Time for the women's party.