Baki Youssoufou is founder of wesign.it, an online mobilization platform, and participant of the movement #nuitdebout (http://www.nuitdebout.fr/en), which emerged last week in France and launched a petition to gain support. He is sharing his experience as a participant, on his own behalf.
Why did you demonstrate last week-end and how did the idea of #nuitdebout come to life?
It all started with anger, the anger of a generation which does not feel heard anymore. A few hoped that the current French left government would tackle peoples’ problems, but they betrayed this hope.
The movement of #nuitdebout is a movement where everybody is speaking on his own name, and I would like to say here that I am talking on my own behalf and not on the name of the mobilization in France. Everybody can participate to this popular, pacifist and joyful citizens’ movement. The new labour law has been an excuse to demonstrate. The law doesn’t touch me on a personal level but I stand together with the unemployed and people living in precarious conditions, who are denouncing it.
I am also standing together with the country, which has deep social and political issues, and I consider this law is not enough to solve them. For example, the current violations of individual civil liberties on the name of security are revolting me. Each day, as a consequence of the state of emergency, people are being searched and controlled for nothing, only because of their skin colour. These searches have led to nothing and are mere humiliating practices.
To me, #nuitdebout is therefore the opportunity to talk about our own realities and the problems that are shocking us, every day. The search of dignity in our work, livelihood and life conditions underpins our action. We do not want to be suspected of anything anymore, just because we are black and we refuse to be looked down upon as dutiful workers, doing everything their boss is saying and unable to think and act by ourselves.
This is not a classic movement organized as a huge mobilization on a specific topic. Even if there is one specific topic (labour law) that brought about the movement and got people together, there is no particular demand. We just want to take back the public space, meet, share, discuss and rethink democracy. We want to develop our own narrative, a positive narrative, built on each people individual skills, and without having the media telling our story.
How did you organize? Did this fall into place naturally?
I can say that the movement is both very organized and very spontaneous. Everything is being organized on site depending on the needs of the moment, and each participant chooses the contribution he or she wants to make, according to their own skills. Everybody is efficient because everybody does what he knows or wants to do. The movement is organized in general assemblies or working groups where communication is flowing.
The spirit of mutual kindness is key in that process. The government, on the contrary, is not listening at all, and does not show any kindness, though we see that it is only in that spirit that people manage to speak to one another, to give their opinion and to take time for decisions. This way of organizing is unusual, and even if established political or civil society experts try to shape the discussions, they do not manage. Citizens disagree that other forces are declaring the movement their own and want to take their lives in their own hands. So, sometimes, people that stay and exchange for 5 minutes, end up staying 2 hours because they feel heard and useful.
Other movements, like the ones of the Indinados in Spain or Syriza in Greece, look like yours. Did you get inspiration from those, or was the movement organized spontaneously?
Of course, we get inspiration from any protest that happened in Europe and in the world. Our generation has a unique opportunity to know, in real time, what is happening around them, even if the media is not revealing the information. Citizens use the free online tools to organize, to try and understand what is happening in their country, in their neighbourhood, in their village, and to solve their own problems, without expecting anything from politicians.
From this point of view, these movements are similar: everyone that gets indignant today do not trust politicians and decide to organize themselves to make a change. They are often ignored by politicians until the day they come into power like in Spain. The spirit of solidarity is common to all these movements. To be part of it enables us to denounce but most of all to build something new: the movement is self-financed and organized by volunteers.
On the political level, I do not know what’s going to happen, because our movement did not start in the same context than in other countries. Every country is different and people themselves have different reasons to get out on the streets. It is not possible to say that this one is like the movements in Greece or Spain. It is a movement in France, organized in many cities with their own contexts as well.
We are just saying: we are here and we are determined to stay. We are women and men who want to participate to the public life. Citizens should therefore be enabled to organize, even without preparation or fixed structure. What I find very interesting is to share my skills and knowledge so that this demonstration is a success.
To do this, we actually aren’t occupying the space. It is a shared space: people are coming and going, and participate to the discussions. Those who decide to stay all night long respect all the rules, and if the government refuses to let us meet together, we’ll find other spaces to organize.
How do you come to decisions and find common ground?
We are taking decisions together on the organisation of the movement. We take as much time as possible to find consensus and agree on rules and processes to organize ourselves. If there is no consensus, which is very rare, we organize a vote. But, once again, all decisions are taken in a spirit of mutual kindness, and no opinion is neglected because a decision is taken.
We enable others, who can’t be there, to participate to the debates. New technologies such as livestreaming allow us to take into account those who can’t be there physically. This is important, otherwise the debate would only be in the hands of those who have the time to come participate and give their opinion.
However, we are not taking decisions on specific demands. Those who are against the labour law have their demands, and they can defend them themselves, but those are not the demands of the movement. As a movement, we are simply saying that we want to live in dignity, regardless of our social, cultural or religious backgrounds.
Will this movement last?
On a personal level, I do not know what this movement will become but I hope that it will go beyond what it is now, reach more people and show that we can take our lives in our hands and exist. Whatever if we are white, black, North African, Asian… French or not, we should all be respected and taken into consideration.
In this country, the politicians governing us take a look at the polls and invite “experts” for advice who are supposed to know realities of people. But all of them don’t meet people in factories, schools, in neighbourhoods’, on farms… and this way of doing politics cannot last because it doesn’t respect us. We have therefore no choice but to find ourselves other ways of organizing and doing. Among citizens, we can experiment more and we can easily accept if an idea doesn’t work, without punishing, judging, or pointing everything as a failure.
This is not possible to act this way in traditional political parties who are not open enough to debates, are judging, and believe to know everything about the problems people face. In the movement, we are honest to each other. We have the right not to know, but instead, the right to be able to know. This is in that kind of spirit that the movement is growing and we are launching a petition, translated in many languages, to enable everybody that can’t be at #nuitdebout, to participate and stand together with the movement.
The petition is available in the following languages: