We did the dishes, now where’s the revolution? (Danger Zone reprise)

(Follow-up to my most recent post about the Danger Zone...)

So… Today the court decided the partial eviction of the Rigaer was indeed illegal, and neither the owner of the house, or the police were in their right to violently clean those rooms out.

Poster about "dangerous goods" in the Rigaer Str.
Poster about “dangerous goods” in the Rigaer Str.

They now have to evict the premises, and give them back to the former users.

With help of the bailiff.

Here’s the link  and here a vid , where the senator tries again and again to duck the question: why did he evict the premises, if there was no document available to justify this eviction, nor for keeping a huge police force at the site for weeks?

I SO want a video of this: A bailiff, possibly with police support, kicking the security of the owner and the police supporting the owner out.

And in the mean time, Henkel, the senator responsible for the danger zone, still refuses to talk with the people from the neighborhood about the whole “your civil rights are suspended here” thing.

Possibly because by now he has A LOT to explain:

  • personal data of people searched in the danger zone ending up straight from the police files on nazi websites
  • the only person caught hot-handed burning cars down, turned out to be a Pegida activist, and a police informer
  • it was the testimony of this police informer on what’s going on inside the Rigaer house which was one of the basics on which the danger zone was installed -> hear-say around the neighborhood (yeahyeah, I know….) says when the guy was exposed as a police informer & kicked out of the scene some time ago, one of his last words was “I’ll get my revenge”…
  • now it turns out the eviction of part of the Rigaer was illegal. And this senator, who keeps referring to “respecting the legal state”, obviously had his own interpretation of “legal, illegal, scheißegal”.

Well… I wonder how he’ll make up for the destruction of the inventory of the pub, the kitchen for refugees, for the destruction of the inner house garden, and the weeks of in-house heavy surveillance of the people living there, including bluntly refusing visitors entering the house after 9 pm…

Of course, the article ended with a reference to the “riots” of last saturday. Something the senator keeps referring to too. Which I seemed to have completely missed out on, though I was present at the “scene of crime” for three hours…

And I do frikkin hope it’s the end of the political career of this “hawk”, and the end of the Danger Zone (hey, we can keep dreaming, can we?).

If you want to follow the party in the Rigaerstr: here’s a live blog from a local newspaper.

Yes, that’s quite a bit of confetti 🙂

Rant – First the dishes, then the revolution… right? (Report from the Danger Zone)

Gosh… our neighborhood made the national and even the international news. It seems last saturday we had the worst riot of the past five years, or started the Revolution-with-capital-R, depending on which media you’re reading. Woho. I witnessed the onset of world wide revolution?

Bad news though, for those cheering the revolution on, we’re still more busy doing our dishes.  I hate to disappoint people, but, I actually didn’t see much of this riot, or this revolution (again, depending on your point of view). And I joined the demo from almost the beginning, till it officially ended.

"Your Danger Zone Our `Kiez` (Borough)" Detail of a poster for the demonstration against the danger zone on Feb 6th 2016
“Your Danger Zone, Our `Kiez` (Borough)”
Detail of a poster for the demonstration against the danger zone on Feb 6th 2016

But well, I’m used to New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam, so maybe I’m just biased. A bit of fireworks, a fence of a building site brought down, and a huge police force of 1,800 cops including heavy material such as a water-cannon, a bulldozer and an armored vehicle, don’t constitute a riot in my humble opinion.

At the end, drunken party-goers mixed with the demo, and yes, bottles were flying. That’s when I left, the demo was over anyway. But a few flying bottles or stones don’t make a riot. Again, I’m used to New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam, where you bike back home avoiding the shattered glass of every bus stop in the neighborhood, holes of molten asphalt because of spontaneous self-combusting piles of garbage, a true layer of broken glass bottles, and yep, usually at least one burned out or turned-over police car. This mostly even doesn’t make the local paper…


But maybe I just missed out on the riot by leaving when the demo ended, or, if I read the police reports, in the “wrong” part of the demo… Bad timing again?

(short note to the vid on the right: they first show the “riots” – which mostly seem to consist of pushing & pulling, people getting arrested and other people wondering why and protesting this, then the actual demo before all this. Leave it to ruptly to edit creatively)

 But djeez, we made the international press? Sunday afternoon I was sitting with a few people in front of one of the house projects, when someone from one of the balconies shouted down: wow, we made the NATIONAL news. We were quite surprised.

Because. To be honest. We don’t really get it. What revolution? Well, actually.. what riot?

A bit of history & background

Of course, riots & angry crowds don’t just fall out of the sky.
There’s usually something which leads up to them.

The Danger Zone, officially.....
The Danger Zone, officially….. pretty big huh? Source (and read more, in german): http://daneben.blogsport.de/2015/11/30/analyse-des-gefahrengebiet-rigaer/

For more than one year, we’re up over our heads in the so-called “Danger zone” (officially installed in september 2015, but, see some of my other posts of july 2015, it actually was in effect beforehand) by the Berlin Senat for Inner Affairs. The danger zone means, basically, your civil rights are suspended, and you can be searched, or held without a reason, or premises can be raided, again, without a real suspicion of “criminal activity”. For people living in that area it feels like being in a state of siege with permanent controls, getting banned from the premises and even house and home searches. There is a huge police force constantly present in front of certain house projects, especially the so-called “Dorfplatz” (Village Square).
For more background and a bit of history: check this post of a local blogger from last february.

The weird thing about this danger zone phenomena is, is that it is supposed to make a neighborhood more safe. You know, service to the people and all that. Weirdly enough, the average inhabitant of the area doesn’t feel more safe by all those lovely uniforms. As some put it, they never were bothered by the squatters, heck, the house projects are a good defense against gentrification and rent raises. But they are thoroughly bothered by not just the fear of being selected for a search (which even happens to 9-year old kids), but the constant noise and search lights of the “occupying force”. Which is how many people now see those “protectors of the people”.

The Danger Zone, actually, according to a "Platzverweis" (police order to remove yourself) Source: https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/161947 - comment section
The Danger Zone, actually, according to a “Platzverweis” (police order to remove yourself) , slightly bigger… Source: https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/161947 – comment section

Though the actual zone is a few blocks away, the “overflow” is very notable in our part of the neighborhood. Mechanical mosquitoes (i.e. police helicopters) fly low and slow over our streets till deep in the night, causing even usually pretty relaxed people like me making bazooka noises. Friends visiting from other neighborhoods are astonished about the huge police presence everywhere. But. The human mind is capable of getting used to almost everything. Even vans full of riot cops driving around all the time, or the constant circling of surveillance helicopters. You shrug. You sigh. You just try to live your life. And again Pigface’s song “You get used to living in the warzone” plays on the jukebox in your head…

What it practically means… check out this vid, where even the mayor of this borough and other politicians tell us the Danger Zone and the suspension of civil rights, and of the rights of renters, is a frikking bad idea.

So yes, a lot of people are pretty pissed off by the whole situation. They want their streets, their “kiez” back.

But enough to start a revolution and declare the independence of the neighborhood? Or at least do that rioting thing? If so, it failed. Again, I didn’t see a riot…

The efficient use of force and the “State Mandate on Violence”

Hard working police officer (original picture from sometime in the 90s)
Hard working police officer
(original picture from sometime in the 90s)

What I saw was a police force 1,800 strong, who seemed to have no clue what they were doing. The bulky stuff such as water-cannon, bulldozer, armored vehicles and the whole arsenal of heavy equipment was parked somewhere on one of the bigger streets, & never left that parking spot. Most of those 1,800 cops were just outside the so-called riot-zone, sitting in their vans typing away on their smart phones.

I guess they missed out on the riot too…
The cops near the demo seemed utterly confused, or maybe got contradictory orders. Every now and then it seemed like they were trying to close off the demo on both sides, but then obviously got another order, and in single file flocked away trying to look semi-useful somewhere else. Or they went into the demo in turtle formation, only to come to the conclusion this meant they were surrounded quickly by people who just ignored & walked around them. Confusion a plenty, still no criminal caught hot-handed and another order followed. Maybe look for potential rioteers somewhere else? There was some use of pepperspray, and some uncoordinated charging maneuvers. Leading to a bit of panic in the small streets.
We were never really closed in. It was almost as if on purpose room was created to bring that one part of a fence of a building site down..

I was quite surprised we were allowed to walk through the danger zone.


So I do wonder. If even innocent demonstrations such as the Night-Dance-Demo are completely surrounded by cops. If a peaceful anti-nazi protest is met by the deployment of huge amounts of pepperspray and quite some hectic charging and arresting of people. If a sitting blockade protesting a prestige building project ends with one guy losing his eyesight because of the immense power blast released by a water-canon. How come 1,800 cops having some truly heavy equipment at their disposal couldn’t prevent a full-fledged riot washing over the neighborhood?

Maybe there was not much of a riot (or a revolution, yes, yes, I get it now)?

The only other options are that either the cops are completely incompetent, or (warning: conspiracy theory ahead) they wanted to have a riot, to next enforce more police surveillance in our “kiez”.

But.. they keep talking about riots all the time??

Yes, and I still wonder how I managed to miss seeing them. Or those 100s of cops getting seriously hurt.

What I DID see, were thousands of people filling one of the broadest avenues in Berlin over its full width, for miles. And yes, the demo sparkled in the orange street lights because of all those police helmets mixed in.
What I did see, were the neighbors along the route, who rolled banners down their balconies, put their speakers outside so we had some music, or (this has become tradition in the danger zone itself, everyday from 21.00 to 21:30, it is LOUD in the Rigaer str. ) hammered away on pots & pans.
What I saw was the older guy in an electric wheelchair, who (on the crosswalk!) blocked a police van.
What I saw were the owners of the evening shops and the small restaurants putting their thumbs up to us. (Utterly by the way, these shop-owners in the danger zone refuse to sell food to the ca. 300 cops constantly present in front of the most threatened house project, and even deny them access to their bathrooms).

Repression met with humor: poster for the "Rolling House Race" in May.
Repression met with humor: poster for the “Rolling House Race” in May.

Extreme-left activists? Sure. Especially the girl in a hippy skirt walking bare-footed. Or the people with their kids in a buggy. Or the 60+ couple in dungarees (yes.. dungarees).
Nothing of this in the press of course.

But the press was definitively right about the atmosphere. It was NOT pleasant. At all. It was very grim. People were scared. And they were angry. We’ve HAD it.


That whole danger zone thing

We’ve had it. Really. That whole danger zone thing really, really gets on your nerves.

After months of seeing cops in full riot gear on every street corner.
Of knowing you can be searched and your personal data taken without being a “suspect” when you go shopping or bring your pet to the vet.
When you want to distribute food, but realize you forgot your ID, so you decide to bike a big detour around the danger zone (at least I still have a choice, since I don’t live smackdown in the middle of that zone).

Dangerous Goods (poster in the Danger Zone).
Dangerous Goods (poster in the Danger Zone).

When sitting with a couple of friends in an empty parking spot results in a “warning” since you haven’t paid for that parking spot, you are not a car with license plate anyway, and this “warning” is being emphasized by a few vans of riot cops driving by and a helicopter starting to circle above your head. Yes, I get slightly pissed (though I just sigh, and go from the parking spot to the edge of the side-walk).
When you have to be afraid the pub you go to with your friends for a drink can be raided any minute, for no reason.
If when I collect more food, and realize I have to bike through at least three police lines with an utterly full backpack, I might be searched for “dangerous goods” (where I do have to admit, vegan porridge could be considered an explosive).

It influences the daily lives of every one in this neighborhood. And there’s the bigger picture. The things that do not have an impact on my own life, but which create a atmosphere of fear and anger. And very, very, unpleasant surprise.

Platzverweis. Some of the streets are south of the Frankfurter Allee...
Platzverweis. Some of the streets are south of the Frankfurter Allee… Source: https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/161947 – comment section

When a part of the Rigaer house project is evicted, supposedly to make room for refugees (but of course, with a “legal” renting contract, as if a random refugee could afford the “new” rents in this neighborhood), and these premises are secured by dozens of cops, who, because of the danger zone, are allowed to search anyone, including the people who legally live there, or can refuse visitors for the inhabitants after 9pm, since “it’s too late in the evening”.
When the personal data collected during the several thousands identity checks & searches since the installment of the danger zone. straight from the police files, ends up on a right-wing website (see also here).
When the Senator, responsible for Order and Regulations, is about to burst into joy, since finally they caught one of the arsonists red-handed, but it turns out to be a police-informer, and not an extreme “leftie” but an active member of the Pegida (the xenophobic right-wing movement in Germany). And the testimony of this arsonists a few years ago is one of the reasons the danger zone was installed.
When the day of the demonstration, on each and every corner at least 25 cops are standing, who keep a more than watchful eye on you, when you wait outside a bakery with a couple of other food-savers.
When our beloved senator in a press-release says, he won’t use a de-escalation-strategy, but it will be eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth, and just not starts exclaiming “this is war, baby”. And people decide not to go the demonstration, because they’re too scared.

You start to become grim.

Grim doesn’t mean violent

Strangely enough, graffiti is also considered a "violent action against goods".
Strangely enough, this graffiti is considered one of those “violent actions against goods”.

Let’s make clear: I hate arson. I don’t like burned-out cars. I don’t see how damaging one person’s private goods could benefit a political goal. I don’t get why you should get “personal” with a person you don’t even know. And though I don’t own a car, I’d be frikkin devastated if someone burned down my bike, on which I depend. I don’t understand how you can take the risk of collateral damage and accidentally burn something else down.
I don’t like hard words, or threats. I don’t identify with “hard-liners” (yes, I’m a bloody hippy after all). I cannot, in anyway, condone beating up a traffic cop, and next taking refuge in a house project. It not only goes against my principles to just bloody beat someone up, but running into a house project afterwards is just plain cowardly, and STUPID (again, just as most of the riot and/or violence stuff, I got this from the press or hear-say, so I might be biased and wrong about what actually happened or the background). But the subsequent invading of the house & confiscating dangerous goods such as fire-extinguishers or heating coal was completely out of proportion. And it wasn’t the first, nor the last time.

Maybe I’m just not pushed that far. And others are.  It somehow reminded me of that old dutch poster “stones are no arguments” which includes a poem, ending with “but maybe stones are our first uncertain words in the only language they seem to understand”. The language of violence.

A very sad conclusion indeed.

I hate violence. Or situations, where a crowd in small streets starts panicking. And yes, I was about to shit my pants in three colors too. Not so much for being arrested or beaten up (though I really rather not, thank you, especially since I usually AM that stupid innocent bystander), but for being trampled by a crowd panicking.

How can this end….

Somewhere I still hope, the Senator responsible for the whole situation will fall flat on his face. Even from official sides, it has been made clear, the whole Danger-Zone thing is a part of his personal campaign to get elected in the “Abgeordnetenhaus” (Parliament). (Edit 13.07.2016: he actually did fall on his face.. see my next post: turns out the partial eviction of the Rigaer was illegal, this should be bad for a politician who keeps shouting about how the “legal state” should be respected.)

But I suspect somehow, the whole uproar about those dozens of wounded officers, and the whole “riot, riot, riot” screaming by the press service of the police (nicely taken over by the press, they can’t afford to pay real journalists anymore) are needed to justify bringing 1,800 cops into the neighborhood. And the heavy equipment, which was uselessly stashed away in their parking spots (but how beautifully it shined in the street lights…).

And what I’m mostly afraid of, is it will get only worse. The call of reason “maybe we should, you know, try TALKING with each other” of the people in the neighborhood and even the local parliament (of which most parties are against the whole danger zone thing) won’t be heard anymore after one pic of another of a burned-down car, or that one orange-flaring piece of pyrotechnics on the streets (I just stepped over it…) every paper published. (Edit from 13.07.2016: by now, even the german Chancellor has something to say about it: TALK. Thereby “backstabbing” her fellow party member, the Berlin Senator, who refuses to talk…)

CactusAnd in the mean time, I have the feeling I’d better shut up about having taken part in the demo. Since I’m now considered to be rioteer. Someone who throws bottles and stones, or burns cars down. And where the reason *I* went to the demo (yes, scared shitless, but I won’t let myself be intimidated…), namely, to protest against this absurd danger zone where all your civil rights are suspended, and against the whole gentrification thing, is completely overshadowed by the picture of one bright orange rocket..

The slowest way to travel 6km

Every 21st June, there’s the “Fete de la Musique” in Berlin. But for years now, the “Nachttanzdemo (night dance demonstration) offers a different perspective on what music, and alternative culture means.

2016_Overig_Nachttanzdemo_2106_geelSuperficially, it seems to boils down to a lot of loud music, mostly techno, and crawl-dancing for four hours on a route that normally would take you max 20 minutes by foot. Like every year, I wonder why – musicwise – it is mostly the “rave-oriented” scene which is represented. Other sub-sub-sub-cultures need their “Freiraume” (free spaces) and are as affected by the Gema as the rave-scene..

The amount of people triples or even quadruples during the demo because nobody expects it to start on time; it is twice as long because of the cops in front and in the back; the “spätis” (evening shops) along the route are doing the best business of the month: and following the cop vans, there’s another crowd of “flaschensammler” (empty bottle collectors), just as happy as the “späti” people.. (oh, and of course lots of tourists grabbing their smartphones to document another example of local culture). At least the “Lauti” didn’t run out of gas and had to be pushed (prolly because the sound systems should be kept running).

We dance on the Traveplatz (lovelingly sometimes renamed to Raveplatz) in the “Südkiez” against gentrification. Against the weird phenomena, how an “interesting” neighborhood attracts new inhabitants, who next protest and call the cops for exactly that, what made this neighborhood interesting in the first place: the music, the life on the streets & in the parks and the little self-run shops and pubs. Against Order and Regulations, which causes pubs to close, parks fenced off, live music banned, dogs leashed, or makes it “necessary” to visit an alternative pub with 12 cops to make clear that pub should hang a price list of the drinks on the outside.

2016_Overig_Nachttanzdemo_2106We dance in the “Gefahrenzone”, the danger zone, where since january more than 1.000 people were controlled by the cops, “just because”. And again and again, house projects are invaded for, again “just because”. A good excuse is always to “protect the youth”. You know, there might be a 17 year old illegally drinking a beer without permission of his/her parents. That’s enough to be allowed to try to break into a pub, which already let the blinds down.

We dance over the Frankfurter Allee, and into Mainzerstraße, a street which used to be one block of squats, and next to a street where so-called investors try to chase the renters out by “renovating” or any other more or less legal way. The house of one of our regular guests of the foodsharing brunch is one of their latest targets, the people living there already organized themselves and will fight back, but the money and the resources are on the other side, and they’re very much aware of this. The first arrest takes place in the Mainzer. Why is unclear. Later on, I hear somebody was at the wrong place when a expensive car lost a bit of air in its tires. As if the person responsible for it would hang around..

We dance at the corner of the Boxi. Where more trouble starts, and the cops block the demo, but no one knows why. All we do is dance. There’s a fire show, and more people join the demo. By now, both sides of the demo are almost hermetically closed in by cops in full riot gear.

It’s unclear why.

But we dance on. The live singer on one of the trucks starts rapping her frustration about the arrests, and next, the identification numbers of the cops making those arrests. The atmosphere changes slightly and becomes more grim. But we dance on.

2016_Overig_Nachttanzdemo_2106_detailWe dance under a full moon over the Modernsohn Bridge, where a group of other alternative techno people just put a tent with drinks on the middle of the bridge to chill out, dance and look at that full moon. I pause to enjoy the sight, and hang to the side of the bridge, chatting with one of the “gabber” people of the bridge party people. We share a cigarette, and agree how beautiful the moon is. And though we might be on different ends of the spectrum of the alternative scene, we agree on the DIY mentality and the fun of spontaneous, unregulated things that just happen, because some people just had an idea, and made it come true.

We dance on towards the “Media Spree”, where the mainstream music industry established a bridge head. We dance to Gema-free music, and celebrate a culture, where sharing is more important than selling.

We dance because it’s our “Kiez”. To reclaim our streets. To celebrate our projects, our lifestyle.

yuppie-city_zwThis is our Kiez. We are our Kiez. I look around me. I see the people from the foodsharing. From the house projects. The urban gardeners. The free shop. The senior hooligans of the Traveplatz. The people from the silk screen printing workshop or the hacker spaces. The straight-edge people of the vegan lunchroom, before vegan became hip. The collective bike repair projects (happily throwing a racing bike between them on the rhythm). The semi-homeless people of the Boxi park. The bee-keepers of a trailer camp. The independent sound system in a self-built transporter bike. The people who care more about their dogs then about themselves. The jugglers and acrobats of the children’s circus.

I hear at least 12 different languages, and see every skin or hair color naturally or artistically possible. I watch a muscular, deeply tanned, punk with a skateboard, dance next to small, skinny, grey-haired metalhead who keeps trying to do air-guitars to techno beats. Both completely covered in the golden glitter thrown around by a tall guy with a braided goaty in a flowery mini-skirt. The fat-bellied elderly Traveplatz alcoholic cheering with some teenage refugee girls, offering his beer, which is politely refused. A peroxide-blond bearded guy trying to keep up with his crutches gets help from some southern-europe technoheads full of piercings and tribal tattoos. The queers, the freaks, the losers, the weirdo’s, the bald heads, the dreads, the hairy ones, the bare-footed and the big-booted, we’re all represented here.. Without us, the Kiez would not be the same, and rather dull.

And we dance on.

To show, you can evict the houses, push the renters out, ban the music, clean the parks out, remove the street art, kill the guerilla gardens, regulate the pubs.

But you can’t evict the ideas, the dreams, and the willingness to make them happen..



Rant – How to disturb a party (reprise)

It’s relatively quiet again in the neighborhood. That is, relatively. And only concerning the amount of cops. But holy shit, you got a pretty good idea how the people in Baltimore, or in the Schilderswijk in the Hague, Netherlands feel.

The opinion of people in the neighborhood about what happened last week varies: some distinguish between the “good” squatters of the Kreutziger, who are indeed, very constructive with all their DIY projects – also for the neighbors, such as the “Rent advice” and the “social support”, and the “bad” squatters of the Rigaer, who supposedly make a mess of everything, throw garbage on the streets or just leave empty bottles everywhere (“and I don’t get it, they all ride a bike, don’t they?). This even from leftish people. Strangely enough, some of the more “mainstream” people, for example a young born and raised Friedrichshainer, are far more positive: all cops are bastards, and long live the squatters – as long as they keep living here, and protest (and yes, are loud and make a mess), the rents wont rise that much. In other words “those squatters, they never did anything to me…” – thereby implying the cops do…

In general, the average neighbor is on the side of the squatters.

They’re part of the “Kiez”. Just like the elder citizens drinking their beers  in front of the late night shop until it closes, the spontaneous art made of disintegrating bikes, the guy refusing to tie his dog outside the supermarket since “that’s patronizing the dog”, the small pubs which are more or less extended living rooms, the senior hooligans in the park asking for cigarettes, the light technician projecting his light-effects on the walls of the house opposite the street, the fact that the only butcher around sells “bones for dogs” only, the begging punks at the metro station, the guerrilla knitting, the buskers, the small patches of squatted soil around many trees in the streets with benches or flower beds made out of left-over wood, the Roma guys making music and singing on their balcony, the carton boxes put on the streets with stuff “for free” everywhere & all the time, the dread-hippy giving his ouija-board an extra layer of varnish in front of his window, the notes “clean your dog’s shit, damned” getting endless responses with other notes taped under it..

What is NOT part of the Kiez are the uniformed semi-cop-traffic-wardens who only dare to walk around in groups of five, complaining about ghettoblasters or dogs-without-a-leash in the park, or the metro security who just outside the station starts pissing people off (a few days ago I walked passed them when a not completely sober and slightly worn-down fellow-neighbor shouted some stuff towards them about uniforms and too small genitals). or “new” neighbors who complain about a klezmeh-band playing in pub which exists here for more than 10 years – after which the klezmeh band picks up their instruments, and continues in the park, resulting in a nice get-to-gather-and-sing-and-dance at 2 in the morning…

Rant – Gentrification

ShitShitShitShitShit… one of the most “lively” and larger premises of Berlin, where many smaller and alternative initiatives found a home has been sold to an “investor group”. And everyone knows where that will end…

Even though it became more and more commercial, & tourist-oriented the last few years, unfortunately attracted also the not so nice side-effects of the party-scene, such as those really annoying dealers or the kiddies who can’t handle alcohol or other substances.

Still, there’s a lot of great stuff going on there, both music- as well as artwise, and it’s also the home of my acrobatics society, so this is REALLY bad news!
Parties, music and art do NOT go well with office buildings or (probably expensive) new housing, as many clubs in Berlin can unfortunately confirm…