Freedom Not Fear Walk – A Personal Experience
Freedom Not Fear
Freedom not Fear. Svoboda místo strachu. Freiheit statt angst. Слобода уместо страха. La liberté pas la peur. In all languages, in many countries, throughout the whole of Europe, a popular event was held in order to point out the importance of freedom in our modern, digitized world.
Brussel is called the Capital of Europe (well also, according to Wikipedia, a Comic city, which seems to be not very far from truth). Therefore, most of the events related to the Freedom not Fear, took place there.
One might say that yes – we had a conference. A boring conference in a center, where people spoke for hours and hours. However, this was not the case. Freedom not Fear was a popular event, with various movements participating. Most of them remain deeply interested in the topics. They did not only come from Brussels or Belgium; the participation was international. And there were not only speeches and presentations. We had several workshops as well. And what were the workshops about? Surveillance.
Yes, surveillance is one of the major topics these days. It all started with the revelations of Edward Snowden. Even the opening speech of Freedom not Fear here in Brussels was dedicated mostly to the current state of surveillance. In order to show everyone that we are being constantly watched pretty much everywhere (my personal impression from the keynote speech was that your existence might be safe only when you are 100 metres underground and isolated from the rest of the world) we organized an event called “The Surveillance Walk”.
During the Saturday afternoon we simply had a walk throughout the European quarter of Brussels. A normal walk one might say. A demonstration, perhaps someone could make this conclusion. But this was no protest; no placards were displayed and no slogans or political proclamations were made. It was just a small happening and a bit of sightseeing: The European Parliament building, Berlaymont, the British Embassy, the German Embassy and in the end, the embassy of the one and only – United States of America.
I must say that since I’ve arrived in Brussels, I have always wanted to take a nice walk through some of the parts of the town. So perhaps this event was a good opportunity. But our presence drew some attention. Sitting in front of the British representation to the European Union building for longer than… two minutes resulted in one police car arriving. Staying there for a bit longer… and a police van arrived. It was a nice non-verbal communication. We were watched by the police for the rest of the walk–which pretty much proved the point of the surveillance walk.
Our nice sightseeing tour ended in front of the American Embassy. Some of us decided to hand letters against the current surveillance programs, to the embassy staff. However, suddenly the letterbox “was closed”. The security asked us not to take pictures of the building nor of them for “security reasons”. Then a mysterious guy appeared, talking about “playing games” and stuff. While we were wondering who was he was and what was he doing, he asked us to leave “or else”. The else meant that he will be taking pictures of us (without our consent of course). Again a nice thing to see during a … surveillance walk. In order not to escalate the situation, we decided to leave the place.
Back at the venue, the program of the conference continued.
During Sunday, there was a lot of interesting sessions and presentations about the current threats to privacy. I visited several of these and two of them especially came to my attention: The speech made by one of the Polish activists about drones and their usage in recent years in Europe and the Net Neutrality session – how is this issue being dealt with inside of the European Commission.
Even if both of these events were very interesting, I have to admit that dealing with legal proposals of the Commission especially after lunch was a very hard task. And as I realized later, I was not the only one fighting to stay awake, first of all attentive, and then sleeps.
Most conferences end on a Sunday. But Freedom not Fear is a different kind of an event. On the Monday, most of the visitors to our event had a chance to see the European Parliament building. But it was not only a tourist trip. There were meetings with various members and functionaries of the European Parliament (for example Jan Philipp Albrecht, Josef Weidenholzer, Paul Nemitz, Thomas Zerdick and Claude Morales). As it is with most of the events inside of the parliament, it is mostly impossible to see all the events. I participated at the roundtable with Josef Weidenholzer, member of the Social Democrats group in the Parliament.
There is a data protection reform file …
Text and featured image CC BY-SA by
Office of Amelia Andersdotter,
Hi. My name is Jan Loužek, I currently live in Brussels and work with Amelia Andersdotter, MEP as an intern. I am very active person,when it comes to the internet; aside of the privacy-related activities and other Pirate agenda I also participate in Wikipedia and Wikimedia-related projects. I’ve co-organized the Wiki Loves Monuments contest in the Czech Republic. My hobbies are: photography, history and linguistics. I am not a member of a political party.