A man held a guitar and sang into a microphone held by a woman while walking slowly next to a moving white Volkswagan minivan next to him. Speakers on top of the van amplified the man’s Brazilian songs. Behind the ensemble was a band of people beating on crushed tin cans, lids, empty plastic fuel containers and half-full water bottles.

They beat their hearts out for hours, sweating and dancing and marching with some 40,000 people during the opening ceremonies of the fifth annual World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Wednesday.

The crowd took over the streets without warning, cars had nowhere to go and the faint sound of car horns disappeared in the background. The march began on opposite ends of the city centre, where we all met to chant slogans in Portuguese, English, French, you name it. Poor, rich, new and experienced activists from all over of the world came together to show solidarity with their comrades abroad.

Though people represented all sorts of social movements — from the landless workers to anti-war — it was clear there was a common goal: to network and organize a global resistance.

“I think it’s the best way to represent a global resistance to a global system. Companies in the North and the IMF, World Bank know they can do whatever they want — but there are people all over the world resisting,“ said Carolina Iacovino, part of a delegation of Quebecois. She’s staying at the youth camp, with thousands of others.

Mayong Aguja, a Member of Parliament in the Phillipines, hopes that these efforts to converge will inspire more youth to speak out against injustice.

“When social movements become silent and complacent, then we have a big problem. We’re doing this more for our children — the coming generations — than for ourselves,“ he said.

And many children led the percussion groups through the streets — groups that work to keep children off the streets in Brazil. Kids dressed as clowns, with painted faces, walked on stilts. Others walked alongside their parents, holding hollow pineapples filled with juice.

Brazilian activists made up much of the march. A huge group represented the Brazilian Jewish community in Porto Alegre and waved banners that read “Two people, two states.“ A delegation from the Amazonias state held brightly spray-painted banners, groups from the people’s health movement and from the United Socialist Workers’ Party chanted and sang and danced.

One Brazilian woman said the WSF was a big moment to celebrate and make the world aware of people’s struggles and of Brazil’s struggles.

Priyadarshi Ekta Parishad from India said he saw the forum as a mirror of hope that shows people from different parts of the world are struggling for human rights. He was concerned with landless workers.

“I hope it gives the message to the world that if we don’t have land, we don’t have dignity or cultural identity,“ said Parishad, who’s part of Etka Parishad, an organization that works toward community-based governance.

The WSF was born in 2001, as a counter to the World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, where the world’s richest people gather to talk about policies that favour the bottom line.

“The international governments organized this business conference, but they don’t talk about better conditions for most of the world,“ said François Iselin, a Swiss from the Asbestos Victims Association.

Porto Alegre was chosen to host the WSF, as it’s a model city in the South, with its participatory budget. And the city means happy port! It’s on a lake — where the forum events are located.

Participants spent much time outside, day and night, exploring the city, meeting people and dancing to the Spanish rhythms of Manu Chao and others, at the late-night concert. They were representing the movements from their countries, to show that social movements are still alive and kicking, to show that “another world is possible,“ as the WSF motto says.

“We want another world and it is possible. It’s possible because we are here to express our solidarity. I travelled 20,000 km to be here,“ said Parishad.