They call themselves “Alex”. Since two weeks, dozens of people gather on Mariannenplatz in Berlin to initiate the German counterpart of the occupation movement in France, called #NuitDebout. This spontaneous rally emanated from French and German nationals, supporters of the French movement or people who are just curious, they want to take the stage and build a bridge over the Rhine. Meet the participants, to understand their motivation and their expectations.
21:30, Saturday 9 April, it is getting dark on Mariannenplatz. The debates within the thematic groups are just over with but most people stay on. Clustered in small groups, standing, they continue the discussion that was initiated earlier: how to organize and keep the movement alive? How to extend the discussion to other social groups and throughout Europe? These French, German or Spanish citizens are assembled here for the first time and decided to call themselves “Alex”. They explain the reason for their presence to the meeting and recount the importance of building a movement in Berlin.
“We would like to be on the Place de la République [in Paris] too!”
Depending on the sources, there are between 15000 and 50000 French nationals living in Berlin. Tonight, most participants are between 25 and 35 years old and express their “interest in French politics”, their desire to get involved, even from far away.
They came to “stir things up”, “make proposals and be constructive” or simply to discuss with their peers. For Arthur, it is necessary to “discuss before acting: discussions are missing in my daily life, with my friends, and in the society in general”.
The debates, which first took place within thematic groups (ideology, communication, art, linguistic, labor, media), carry on informally. Here, the conversation focuses on the future of the movement, there, on how to open the debate as widely as possible. In the next group, they dream of a direct democracy and a bit further away, of a more sustainable way of life.
If most desires fall in line with those from the French #NuitDebout, one goal is specific to Berlin: make it a European movement.
Extend the movement to Europe
“It must become a European movement, because the economic crisis and precarious labor conditions are not just French: they concern everyone”, claims Abdel. A German supporter of the gathering reminds the crowd that the so-called “Hartz IV” labor laws implemented in 2000 in Germany have seriously degraded the living conditions for many Germans. These laws aimed at increasing the flexibility of the labor market. As a result, 7.5 million Germans work for 450 euros a month (the infamous “Minijobs”). Isa, another German participant, wishes for a “European solidarity”, not only to beat the labor laws but also to change the political and economical situation in Europe.
For the two students who came especially from Leipzig, another important question is “how to transpose the French protest” to German and European soil. Indeed, one of the challenges will be to find solutions at the European level that can answer to problems and situations, which might greatly differ at the local scale.
“I came out of curiosity”
The members of the “Art” group assert that their interest lies not only in the content but also in the movement itself. “This movement emanates from the occupy protests”, says Nathalie, who is “curious to see how it will evolve, as, although being new, it is build on 5 years of experiences of Occupy”.
Generate an internal dialogue, circulate persons through the groups, propose alternatives to the labour laws, make the movement viral: whatever the initial motivations, all discussions revolve around the future of the movement. In addition to the regular bi-weekly gatherings, a common action is planned on the 1st May, the very symbolic labour day, both in France and in Germany. Let’s bet that Berlin might be able to provide a new viewpoint to the #NuitDebout movement.