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To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

She Shows Me

She shows me the piece of metal on the string around her neck.  It’s the inside of a lock she broke open on one of her many squat actions.  Her nose crinkles as she tells me how she got it.  “Look, here, and here,” she points out the marks a crowbar left on the door frame two years earlier.  And on the wall, stenciled spraypaint demanding: “Make Capitalism History.”  This too has a story. : when Bono inserted himself at the head of the antiglobalization movement under the slogan “Make Poverty History,” local anarchists went out into the night to cover the walls with their response.

We’re taking a tour of Groningen’s former squats, a dozen of which my new friend helped to occupy.  Her forest-colored eyes flare as she talks of battles with goons sent by an owner to clear the squatters out, in more militant days removed by only an intractable year or two, a glass wall of history for me to peer through.

The day is long and the city is under our feet.  We abandon ourselves like children on an empty playground, walk through rainshowers, help ourselves to free chocolate and wine from a supermarket, and sit on a park bench laughing at the sad, dripping festival tents and their failed gaiety.  Often we’re so close our arms brush, and I bite my tongue and hold back my sighs with all my strength.

Travelling and living are hard, lonely things.

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