Code Rood: Postcards from Blockadia

[‘Code Rood, Port of Amsterdam, 24 June 2016.’ Photo: Sumugan Sivanesan]

Code Red (22-25 June 2017) was a climate camp and mass action bringing together a number of autonomous groups in the Port of Amsterdam, the second largest coal port in Europe. Organisers estimate around 300 people attended the camp, with over 200 people taking part in the action, occupying the OBA port.

The first night of the camp was marked by an opening panel, ‘Climate Justice Now: Examining Inequalities and New Futures.’ Put together by the ‘Intersectional Block,’ the panel featured representatives from the University of Colour (Phoenix, Talissa), the refugee collective We Are Here (Osman) and from the Trade Unions (Arwen), who considered positions that might be overlooked by the climate justice movement.

While there were certainly points of disagreement (eg Arwen: ‘we’re all indigenous people in the end’) the discussion circulated around ideas about the kinds of people who did not feel comfortable in the movement or who were otherwise not represented. My notes collect quotes about structural white supremacy, the lack of consultation with indigenous people and Phoenix’s quip: ‘Colonialism is perpetual war.’

Indeed, I was curious about a critique of how European anti-racism often played out as a form of cultural supremacy. I think this alludes to particularly Dutch tensions around having a very liberal public culture, regardless of ongoing issues of racist traditions, (eg Schwarz Piet), structural racism and the legacies of colonialism.

It would be worth thinking further abut how issues of race, climate change and colonialism interact and are enfolded into the movement, such as how POCs feel targeted or are otherwise subject to different treatment by authorities. Indeed, would it be possible for a group of migrants to negotiate with authorities?

Overall, I believe the action was considered a success. Police liaisons had emphasised de-escalation and there was indeed a minimal police presence at the port. Out of the group that entered the port, thirteen people from two different groups were arrested. One group of eight activists had crawled through the conveyor belt connecting the coal port with the power plant where they were allegedly attacked by security dogs. Another group of five people decided to stay in the coal terminal after the other activists had left, breaking a prior to agreed upon action consensus. I heard the term ‘repressive tolerance’ often used in conjunction with these police arrests, to describe a situation where the Dutch authorities remain at a distance up to a (prior agreed upon) point. Once this marker is crossed they snap into (fierce) action.

This prompts me to think further about counts as a success in such actions? Is it better to produce a well organised and carefully planned action or to actually cause an unpredictable disturbance that momentarily disrupts the flow of carbon capital?

More images here

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