BerlinBSNDemonstrations

#B2908 – Berlin’s big demo weekend

For weeks, an alliance of Holocaust deniers, Corona deniers, Reich citizens, neo-Nazis, right-wing parties and various conspiracy ideologists have been calling for “Storming of Berlin" on. There were no major riots, but there were enough ugly scenes. We were there all weekend with several colleagues to observe what was happening. 

Four weeks notice

The first major demonstration of this alliance took place on August 01st, 2020. Free reporting was hardly possible. The police were on site with far too few forces. She did not intervene when 17.000 people marched through the city without minimum distance and masks and did not adhere to any other requirements. 

Already Since August 04th there has been a camp within sight of the Bundestag. The campers had announced that they would stay “until Merkel gives up.” It was said several times that the camp had been evacuated. But it just moved from one side of the street to the other. It still stands there today. 

The narrative of this scene is that the state is weak and that you simply have to take what you are supposedly entitled to. This can be anything from a camping area to the government. They were encouraged by the fact that they were able to camp here for weeks and that this was not stopped by the district, the city, the Senate or the Bundestag. When a demonstration against the camp took place last Wednesday, the police quickly arrived with around forty officers and ensured that the camp was not disturbed any further. 

The ban

On Thursday evening, Interior Minister Andreas Geisel banned all “Anti Corona“Demonstrations for the weekend. The scenes from four weeks ago should not be repeated. He also wouldn't tolerate camping in advance. As expected, the ban was overturned. 

But the ban caused right-wing chats to boil over with threats. Initially, there was a threat that people would arrive and storm the Bundestag even if the ban was in place. Police officers who get in the way should “murdered," "slashed"Or"lynched on the street" become. counter-demonstrators and the “Antifa Nazis" should "directly to Dachau." According to some protesters, the extermination camps were jointly run by the "Antifa, Jews, Hitler and the Americans“ built to be there “gto murder Germans. "

The weekend 

From Friday, thousands of demonstrators arrived in Berlin. On Saturday, large areas in central Berlin were cordoned off. From the Victory Column over the Brandenburg Gate to Friedrichstrasse, then further north to Torstrasse, was the main area of ​​the event. But the police had cordoned off the streets for several hundred meters in all directions. There were also various subdivisions in this area. For example, the Reichstag meadow and parts of the banks of the Spree were closed. There were two major events: a local one, on the approximately 1,5 kilometer long route through the Tiergarten between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, and the demonstration, which was supposed to lead in an arc from Torstrasse across Alexanderplatz to the other event. 

Orange: events, blue: controlled area

The entry area for the demonstration stretched in an L shape up to the Brandenburg Gate. The passage was blocked by the police. There were several scuffles and occasional bottle throwing until the police withdrew from the gate. The demonstrators celebrated this as their first victory. If you looked at the picture of the entire area again, the police simply let them walk from A to B in the previously cordoned off area. It is difficult to say whether this was a sophisticated plan to give the demonstrators the power to act. But it is a very popular tactic to predetermine an area in which such games are allowed. If the demonstrators are not successful in the area, they try somewhere else. If they have these successes that don't bring them anything, they feel satisfied for a few hours and the rest of the population has peace. 

Nevertheless, this made the situation on site uncomfortable for journalists. These are generally seen as the enemy in demonstrator circles and are too... well, what exactly? Most of the time, the demonstrators themselves don’t really know. But when in doubt, they are harassed and threatened. As a victim of this (verbal) attack, it is difficult to assess how real the danger is. Of our team, only Wieland Giebel remained on site. He was already unimpressed forty years ago, when the British intelligence service questioned him for days. His bar for mental stress is on another level. 

But the situation remained surprisingly manageable. He was insulted but not prevented from working.

Cancellation of the demonstration

At the starting point of the demonstration it became clear that this time the police were pushing for compliance with the requirements. Since the distance was obviously not maintained, the police required that mouth and nose protection be worn. It was obvious that this requirement would not be successful in a demonstration against exactly such measures. The police were on site at this point alone with more than a hundred people. Above all, there were four water cannons available - you don't see these very often anymore, even in Berlin. After some negotiations with the organizer, it was clear that the demonstration would not take place. The people in the entrance area were asked to leave, which they did not do. 

In the press area, information from various sources was exchanged and dissatisfaction with the ever-increasing number of fake journalists was widespread. People simply print one themselvespress pass“And we don’t deny being biased on site. But here too the police checked more closely than usual and did not shy away from individual of these "journalists“to arrest.

Fuad Musa is arrested after being approached by right-wing protesters and arguing with them

Here too, the situation seemed heated, individual bottles (some empty and made of plastic) were thrown, but there was no major uprising. The shops along the street were also not attacked. Uninvolved tourists were irritated, but were able to leave the area without any major problems.

A smaller group of journalists present made their way through the demonstrators to Friedrichstrasse train station. “But stick to the truth!" and "LYING PRESS“Commented some demonstrators. However, nothing more happened in this case. This didn't change on the way to Reichstagswiese either. There was once again a large stage in front of the steps of the Parliament building. A few hundred people in front of it. 

Some time later, the stairs of the Reichstag building appeared to be unsecured, even though right-wing extremists had announced several times that the building would be stormed. A rumor spread among the demonstrators that US President Donald Trump was in the US embassy and had offered them to take over the federal government and would immediately support them with the US army as soon as they passed the door of the Reichstag building. All the few hundred had to do was get past the barrier and run up the stairs. It immediately became clear that this storming of the Bundestag was not well thought out. At this point, the door was only guarded from the outside by three police officers with two helmets. And these three energetic police officers were enough to keep hundreds of people at the door under control until reinforcements arrived. You could see how the narrative of the weak state collapsed within seconds. Additional police forces immediately arrived and cleared the stairs using massive amounts of pepper spray. The right-wing extremist attackers defended themselves against the police with punches, kicks and pepper spray. But five minutes after they wanted to storm the Bundestag, they were crawling at the feet of the police officers, coughing and gasping for air. 


An ugly scene for sure. But if, given this balance of power, the three police officers managed to keep the upper hand for a short time until their colleagues were able to solve everything, then it is obvious who had the authority to act in this case. As a result of this scene, the meadow in front of the Reichstag building was completely cleared. At times there was no access for journalists - the reasons for this are unclear. On the other side, the meadow was also visibly empty. 

There were tens of thousands of people on the Street of July 17th. Here you were definitely harassed and annoyed as soon as you wore a mask. We were also harassed and kicked by a participant. On the other hand, the clear message from a single police officer was enough to permanently resolve the situation. There were quite a few Attacks on colleagues, which are collected here, among other things.

Here too, looking back, the impression was that the demonstrators were all waiting for someone else to do more. They just wanted nothing more than to annoy and harass themselves.

In front of the Russian and US embassies, demonstrators demanded an end to the Second World War, a peace treaty and a sovereign federal government elected by the people. Desperate tourists tried to understand these demands, then turned away. But in front of the Russian Embassy the situation became more and more tense. Individual bottles flew, there were scuffles that turned into smaller fights. The police began to grab all the alleged ringleaders from the crowd and then cleared the area. This took well over an hour, but had the desired result.

Towards the evening the rows emptied. The streets were relatively clear. The Unter den Linden restaurants were full and made good sales from the demonstrators. Isolated groups were there with their posters until the early hours of the morning. But the long night as we used to know it on May 1st in Berlin didn't happen. 

Sunday

A number of events were also registered on Sunday. But it immediately became clear that only a fraction of the previous day's demonstrators came. An event was supposed to take place around the Victory Column, but it was canceled. Not least because the police had no registration. The planned star speaker, a nephew of the late US President John F. Kennedy, wanted to speak through a megaphone. According to the organizer, after a few sentences he was threatened with arrest, so he left immediately. Police began clearing the area, which took less than an hour. The few remaining went to the Brandenburg Gate to organize another spontaneous demonstration. And again they stayed in the area that had been marked out and secured since Friday. And again they were able to celebrate it as their success. The events continued until Sunday afternoon, but with the best will in the world there is nothing worth reporting.

summary

Did the police fail? Did the right-wingers have the city under control? We think: no. There were some scenes that required explanation, such as the weeks of camping and the poor security of the Bundestag. But the bottom line is that people stayed in the area that was designated for them. The city was not dismantled and the residents were not lynched. All's well that ends well?

Hardly likely. On the other hand, the demonstrators have played their biggest trump card: fear of them. For those affected, it doesn't matter how great the actual danger was or how high the probability of being attacked by individual neo-Nazis was. Countless people all over Berlin didn't dare go out because they didn't feel adequately protected. Countless journalists didn't report for the same reasons. Countless crimes, such as threats and insults, will remain unpunished because the perpetrators could not be identified or because the crimes cannot be adequately proven in court. 

This is unworthy of a democracy with a state monopoly on violence and is not one of the things that “a democracy has to endure.” The criminals must be at the lower end of the monopoly on violence. The fact that major riots were prevented is good, but it is not enough. 

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