Berlin – April 27th, 1997
The night before, the television weather forecast for Germany showed a straight line running across the map, just below Berlin. It was predicted to rain to the south & be sunny to the north, + strong winds were to blow from the south. So we went to sleep with our fingers crossed! We rolled into Berlin in our Big Pink Bus at 9am. The day was sunny & warm… gorgeous… a very good sign! When we pulled into the kerb to park beside the square at the “Memory” church in central Berlin, we could see police vehicles parked everywhere. We wondered, but no one complained about us being in a no stopping zone & I took that as another good sign. Later, I found we had a permit to park there all day… a friendly, welcoming sign from the city! And, it turned out that the police were there because of another demo that had been scheduled to take place an hour before us.
Appropriately enough, perhaps, it was being held to publicize the plight of a human political prisoner. The down side of the other event was that the radio news that morning had reported the likelihood of rioting in the exact place we were to gather (because of the other demo) & we thought this would keep many parents from bringing their kids downtown. Probably that was the case, but we’ll never know. In any event, like the weather, everything turned out fine.
The site in central Berlin is quite an amazing place, in a way reminiscent of the way Ground Zero in Hiroshima has been redeveloped, though not on such a grand scale. The centrepiece is the tall edifice of a bombed out>church, complete with bullet holes in the stonework and great holes blown out by bombs. It has a sense of timelessness about it, like a still frame from an old movie. Beside it stands a new church that casts lovely peaceful blue light through a circle of stained glass windows. Around and about the square, Saturday crowds mill… the serene sounds of wooden flutes from the Andes and the drone of Hari Krishnas drifting through at one end, and the music of old time organ grinders at the other….
The BANNER event was scheduled to begin at noon. As we walked away towards the Hard Rock Cafe, where we were to hold a press conference, a crew began erecting the stage for the event. I wondered, with all the police around & the dire prediction of rioting to come, how the place would look upon our return. As things turned out, all was well. The press conference was attended by several tv crews, including one from Reuters which would carry the story throughout Europe and another from Pro7 TV which has already done a major Corky documentary & will broadcast this update, also throughout Europe, while we are still touring. Radio & newspaper reporters were there too. The ambience of the Hard Rock Cafe was great (John Lennon liked it too) as was the food & coffee, and the questions of the journalists were pertinent and friendly. A highlight of the conference was the presentation of an oak sculpture to a 12 year old boy named Haroom Chaudhary. Haroom has been hard at work, writing many appeals to Sea World and generally trying his best to help Corky from his home in Frankfurt, ever since he saw>a story about her on German television a year ago. Haroom knows every detail of Corky’s story & those of other captives as well. He has never seen an orca, though he dearly wants to, and refuses to see one in a tank.
As we walked back into the square we could see the police were gone and the scene looked relaxed. We could see the GREAT BANNER TO FREE CORKY! stretching along the street well before we came to the square, with lots of kids holding it up by hand or with poles. It was a wonderful feeling to walk along it, especially after the unfriendly reception by San Diego last year, and to have such a warm feeling associated with the BANNER. We arrived smiling. In the square itself, parts of the BANNER were draped around a church tower, others were strung between trees, and formed a surround to the stage. Clumps of kids in FREE CORKY! t-shirts were visible everywhere, boxes of bright red FREE CORKY! caps were being emptied, a couple of kids walked about trying to control a big colourful bunch of balloons that would fly off for Corky, leaflets were being handed out to passers by. The scene was festive and alive with the FREE CORKY! spirit of a beautiful summery day. It all felt GREAT. Eventually, when as much of the BANNER as could be handled had been strung up or laid down, we made some short speeches, and then we were entertained by the kids. They were GREAT. A theatre group performed a play in which Corky made it out of her tank back to her family in the ocean (they took the trainer with them), the band played, the dancers danced and the singers sang, new pieces of the BANNER were made. Amazingly, most of the media people stayed for hours, I think enjoying the scene as much as we did. It was so great, for all of us, I think, to walk around the stretches of the GREAT BANNER, always seeing new pieces from different places around the world. The whole thing is so inspirational to everyone who sees it. Stop at any point and share the dream of freedom and the kind heart of a child. At one point, someone (an artist) pleaded to be allowed to buy part of the BANNER to hang on the wall of his home… he offered 400 marks for a couple of meters… but of course the offer was turned down (how could you explain that to the kids?). At the end of the afternoon we rolled up the BANNER, loaded it onto the bus & climbed back on board, tired but happy, knowing the GREAT BANNER TO FREE CORKY! had made a GREAT start on its long journey through Europe.
That night, the BANNER story made prime time news on German tv, and was featured in newpapers that are widely read in Germany. At least one radio station carried the story throughout the day. So the event was a success from the media side as well.
GREAT GOING, VIER PFOTEN… Martina, Niki, & all your crew… THANK YOU!!!!!
cheers, & all best wishes to you all,