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Planning Protests in a Disused School: Clowns Rub Shoulders with Anarchists in Anti-G-8 Headquarters

By Ulrike Demmer, Gunther Latsch and

While the world's leaders will be staying at a swanky Heiligendamm hotel during the G-8 summit, anti-globalization protesters are using a rundown former school in Rostock as their headquarters. But while they agree that "Another World Is Possible," their opinions differ on just about everything else.

The anti-G-8 press office. The groups are headquartered in a disused school in Rostock.
www.gordonweltes.com

The anti-G-8 press office. The groups are headquartered in a disused school in Rostock.

If the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm is famous in Germany for being the "white city by the sea," then the Rostock district of Evershagen, located just 20 kilometers away, is its gray counterpart. Despite some recent colorful renovation work, the neighborhood consists mainly of drab concrete Communist-era apartment blocks.

A decrepit school building from the old East German days stands right in the heart of this concrete sprawl, directly on the four-lane Bertolt-Brecht-Strasse. Numerous banners hang from the facade, the walls are spray-painted with slogans like "Resistance Rocks" and "Nazis Suck," and the red-and-black flag of anarchy flies on the roof. In the fenced-in schoolyard, a group of longhaired young people are trying to piece together some kind of means of transportation from a huge pile of scrap bicycle parts.

Locals still refer to the building, which is situated next to a shopping mall, as the Ehm Welk School. In actual fact, the structure should have been demolished a long time ago -- a company had already been hired to tear it down.

But the G-8 summit in nearby Heiligendamm gave the crumbling old school a brief reprieve from the wrecking ball. Now the building has become the command center for the resistance. Since March, a mixed bag of G-8 opponents have been preparing their headquarters for the protest against global capitalism -- collecting discarded furniture and other reusable refuse in Saturday "subbotniks," as volunteer labor brigades were called back in East Germany.

The old school building serves a number of functions. It's an organizational office, a communal kitchen, a party zone and massive crash pad all rolled into one. But first and foremost it's an alternative media center. During the summit, there are plans to transform it into a studio, with live Internet TV broadcasts every night at 9:00 pm.

The school in Evershagen can be seen as a microcosm of the anti-globalization movement. If the building had a doorbell with a nameplate, there would have to be room for hundreds of first names and dozens of cryptic abbreviations.

Groups range from the "Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army," with its colorful rubber noses, to relatively established anti-globalization movements like Attac, to radical far-left anarchists. In the building's 55 rooms, a myriad of different strategies for forms of action are debated. With so many divergent approaches under one roof, organizers have decided to call the school the "Convergence Center" -- a place to meet and find common ground.

Not surprisingly, the common slogan they have managed to agree on, and which is plastered across the building's walls, sounds decidedly vague: "Another World Is Possible." But how different do they want the world to be? These critics of globalization come from extremely diverse backgrounds and have very different agendas. Some want to spark a revolution and change the system, while others advocate reforming development policies or improving climate protection. Virtually every point of view is represented here.

The only problem is that -- with the exception of the revolution -- all of this has already made its way onto the agenda of the leaders of the eight industrialized nations meeting in Heiligendamm.

Clever summit planning has managed to rob many critics of their issues -- leaving them only with a sense of outrage. Many protestors are driven by a feeling of powerlessness and the conviction that they are on the right side, following in the tradition of Genoa, Seattle and Gleneagles. They are against the G-8 and everything that it stands for politically.

And they want to make this protest visible. In the battle for media coverage, the protestors intend to steal the summit show -- or at least part of it -- from Merkel, Bush and their cronies.

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