Hell’s Aftermath

Contrary to common belief, the sun is still rising over Hamburg

The G20 is over. The aftershock, not only of what happened inside the luxury chambers, but especially what happened outside the sealed-off area, might linger a bit longer.

In the mean time, there’s screaming all over the internet, the papers and among politicians. About the burned down cars, the smashed windows. Screaming of the mainstream, that “the left” should condemn the actions. Screaming from the “other left” how a few ruined the chances of many to make a point. Others screaming that bombs are far worse than a few burned out cars, so what the Hell is everyone screaming about.

And I sit here in my neighborhood, gnawing my knuckles.

Hell’s Bells

Nope, I was not in Hamburg. Every “fact” I mention here either comes from the news, the big bad internet, or (woohoo) hearsay and rumors.

Nope, I didn’t go there to protest. Though everything the G20 stands for is a reason to protest. Climate change, the kind of political and economical deals which are made there, it’s a lot of issues I care about. Not to mention the fact a part of the city was hermetically sealed of, because of “security reasons”, and basically, human rights were switched off inside that area. Something I can’t stand.

Deep waters

Already weeks before, it became clear the people in charge were not keen on a strategy of “de-escalation”. The police boss in charge is known to be a hard-liner, and it showed. A little tent camp of people gathering for protests became the focus point of both physical, and juristic, confrontations. Also on the non-authority side things happened which weren’t really signs of peaceful protest . The first expensive cars were burned down, for example.

I have to admit, though I hate violence, most definitively against people, but also against objects, my reaction to those actions was *shrug*, that’s what you get when organizing something like the G20 a few 100 meters from an alternative neighborhood. If you want peace & quiet to make your deals, grab yourself a luxury castle in Bavaria or something. Plenty of those available. Already organizing the event exactly at that spot, and next sealing it hermetically off the rest of the city, was seen as a provocation by many, and not just the “lefties”.

Both in the city itself and in the media, the voices became louder, and more and more polarized. Even creative and artful protests such as the “1000 Gestalten” couldn’t change that anymore. The tone was set. Quite a few people I know had something like “Going there? I don’t feel like getting beaten up”.

So yep, the first layer of skin on my knuckles was already slightly damaged before the G20 even started.

Pushed against Hell’s Walls

I thoroughly began gnawing my knuckles after seeing how the “Welcome to Hell” demo was forced against a wall, people scrambling up that wall while part of the demo was being blown apart by water cannons, pepper-sprayed, and randomly charged by the police.

Now, the first stories I’ve heard was that it was all about the “mask ban” here in Germany. Bit of background: this is a law, which makes it a crime to make yourself unidentifiable during a demonstration. As in, wearing a scarf, sunglasses or even a red clown’s nose. And a crime. Not some petty offense, but a crime. As in one, where you can go to prison for. The reason why you are wearing a scarf, be it to indeed plan something really really criminal, or because it’s, well, cold, are not important anymore.
Hiding your face is a crime, and you should, and will, be arrested for it. Worse, some cops even feel it’s their duty to arrest you because you are hiding your face, and will charge into a completely peaceful demonstration to grab that one person who, maybe even for a few minutes, put a scarf in front of his mouth. I’ve witnessed this more than once. And I think the use of that much force for something which, in my humble opinion, should not be considered a crime, is most definitively excessive. What happened at the beginning of the Welcome to Hell demo was excessive.

2,5 Million Shades of Black

However, maybe because of that often violent reaction of  “Daddy State”, it has become a sort of, well, statement, to DO hide your face. Especially the so-called “Black Block” likes to make that statement over and over again. And dress in black (nothing wrong with that). And, indeed, march almost looking alike in a dense block, closed in by banners. So they can’t get dispersed easily. And yes, it looks scary from a distance.

Now, there might be occasions where this serves a purpose. Especially in other countries. From the Black Block with its masked, uniformly looking people, people actually take action outside the demonstration and then dive back in for protection. You might or might not agree with the action (sometimes no more than spray-painting a wall), but the strategy is effective. And it’s not only useful, but even necessary, in more totalitarian states, where just taking part in a peaceful demonstration might endanger your life. So better hide your face, better hide in a group.

Black Block. Pic by 20 Protestwelle, [CC by 2.0]
But here in Germany? Excuses to all the Black Block people out there, but. It has become a statement. A demo is not complete with the Black Block marching up front, shouting slogans, and holding on firmly to those banners. Oh, it does have its uses as a “buffer” between the peaceful demonstrators and the police. But the whole densely packed, almost identical looking, group up front nowadays causes aversion even with people who would side with the “cause”. On the other hand, the whole “panicking” in the media about the Black Block is so utterly pathetic. If I’m really sarcastic: the Black Block has become a bit the Scouts of the left scene.  In short, it’s more than slightly overrated.

The videos of the Welcome to Hell demonstration also showed exactly the weak point of the Black Block. Because they stick together. And keep sticking together. While behind them, the demonstration was broken up, and the Black Block was slowly but steadily forced up against the wall.

Later (hearsay) I’ve heard rumors the police charges weren’t aimed so much at the “Black Block” but at the Kurdish people right behind them. I don’t know if it’s true. And I really have no clue why the (Berlin) police charged the Kurdish people. But it broke the front of the demonstration, and set the mood for the rest of the weekend. Even though the demonstration went on – peacefully – ahead after this.

Well, let’s be honest. No matter how disciplined you behave. No matter how non-pacifist and full of resistance and power you feel. No matter how much you shout, or sing songs to keep the spirit up.

Neuer Pferdemarkt I
Schanzenviertel. Pic by R. Anders [CC BY 2.0]
Daddy State has more resources than you. They have more vehicles, weaponry, gas, and can keep pouring in more forces. And will use those forces. Forces who might be individual human beings, but not in that situation. They have given away their individual responsibility, their conscience to a line of command.

Unless you are capable, and willing, to use the same amount of force as Daddy State, militarizing yourself is not a real option. The last thing anyone wants, is a full blown civil war in the middle of what is actually a peaceful demonstration. No individual in a demonstration wants that on their conscience. The only other option is indeed non-violent resistance.

And get beaten up, bruised by water cannons, poisoned by pepper-spray and so on. Indeed. It was not for nothing even in mainstream media the discussion about the excessive use of force started.

So, the skin on the back of my hand was slightly damaged, but at least something good came out of it, that discussion was long overdue.

Enter Hell

Gnawing away, I started reaching the bones of my knuckles, when I saw what was happening in the “Schanzeviertel”. And the not-so-immediate reaction of “the authorities”. I was shocked to see the images of cops with machine guns “securing the area” house by house, pointing their guns at people standing in the window.

Mit Pumpgun, Patronengürtel und Maschinenpistole an der Feldstraße
Special police forces in the Schanzenviertel. Yes, that’s a machine gun. Pic by T. Schröder [CC BY 2.0]

Why are my knuckles bleeding by now?

Because the neighborhood I live in isn’t that much different than the one in Hamburg. It’s a poor neighborhood with lots of people coming from different countries. Lots of strange artists and musicians. Weird little shops, “house projects” and quite a few DIY-initiatives. A bit of a free zone.

And our little neighborhood is subject to gentrification. Because, you know, those weirdos make an area lively. Pubs, clubs, shops and small initiatives pop up. Making it more interesting. So people want to move there. So investors come. Rents are raised, or houses are for sale instead of to let. And the newcomers start complaining about the mess, the garbage, the alcoholics, the homeless, the music on the streets and in the pubs, the graffiti, well, everything that comes with a lively neighborhood. So the people and the initiatives are forced to leave. Can’t afford the rent, pubs are closed.

And there’s protest against it. Just like in that neighborhood in Hamburg.

Occasionally, an expensive car is burned down. Or stones fly when “the authorities” are trying to take control. Just like in that neighborhood in Hamburg.

Dangerous goods

We had house searches where dangerous materials such as fire extinguishers were confiscated, just like in Hamburg when toilet brushes were confiscated. (if you ever wonder why people hold toilet brushes during demonstrations, it’s because they have been confiscated as “dangerous weapons” in the past).    We’ve had the “danger zone” with 300 riot cops stationed for months in front of a house project because there were lose “suspicions” there was some kind of link between that house and the burning of cars.

All this kinda stuff was also happening in that neighborhood in Hamburg. The good stuff as well as the bad stuff.

Would the G20 been held 200 meters from our neighborhood, the chances would have been huge the same things would have happened here.

After the demonstration and everything building up, tenses would have gone up here too. Now rumors say the whole car burning and shop smashing was a deliberate action, where only big supermarkets and rich man shops were a target, no small shop owners were attacked. I don’t know if this is true. And not that this makes it ok. But it wasn’t just a wrong way of anger management. Other sources, including a few of the shops being attacked, state it wasn’t the alternative scene doing the really bad stuff, but drunk partygoers. They even state the so-called black-block people tried to prevent damage to small shops (sorry, post is in German, but if you can read it, do… it’s one of the most sensible reactions, and from people directly facing the consequences.)

Also here, there would probably be rumors about molotov cocktails and sidewalk tiles lying on roofs. It is still strange with all those rumors and the authorities waiting for army equipment to go “secure” the neighborhood, not one molotov cocktails has been thrown, or a tile fell down. But who am I.

Something’s burning

There probably would have been improvised barricades here to. Ok, now I’m not a professional, but to be honest, those barricades looked not really effective. Bit of wood, a thin fence or two, maybe a piece of furniture. *Goes into grandma mode* In the old days of the squatting movement, barricades actually held. Sometimes for days. They consisted of for example long steel wire hammered in between the houses, were at least 3 meter high and firmly build in a short time. And only burned when the “enemy” started approaching. *grandma mode off*.

I’ve seen plenty of these “barricades” at May 1st too. When you watch a band in Kreuzberg, smell a bit of burning plastic, see the “barricade”, turn around and watch the band again, every now and then taking a step back to let the riot cops run free.

I’m not saying it’s ok to do this. Or burn cars. Or smash shops. Heck, I wouldn’t have liked to see my neighborhood turned into that kind of mess. Like a friend of mine once told people lightning up a garbage can on May 1st: “do you really have to mess up our neighborhood? If you’re so fixed on burning the rich, go burn the rich.” (which utterly btw, they actually did in Hamburg). The usual mess we have is fine, including the dog shit and the heaps of rotten garbage, but I just don’t like the smell of burned plastic, or the risk of collateral damage when cars are burned down.

Smoke over the water

Now, except the fact I wouldn’t like it when somebody burned my bike down (I kinda depend on it), and my general aversion to violence,  I don’t see why a few individuals would have to be “punished” for something which is a far bigger thing. I also have my doubts if it would really stop gentrification. If it would keep my rent low, well, I would probably secretly support it. But I don’t think it matters. They’ll just park their car somewhere else. Heck, I actually know of one of my friends, – no, without much money – who left the neighborhood because of multiple reasons, but one of them was being afraid of collateral damage of a car burning down beneath her window, the other one was witnessing a squat being evicted, and people being beat up shitless by the cops beneath that same window. So it might actually have the opposite effect.

So, no, the end doesn’t justify the means. Especially since I have sincere doubts if those means would make a difference.

However, the reaction of “Daddy State” was pretty frikkin scary. I was glued to my monitor. Reading every live report I could find.

G20 Summit in Hamburg
Pic by K. Friese [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
I could identify too much. Could imagine how it would be if uniformed cops in full riot gear would march into my street as if it was a war zone. Holding machine guns. Pointing them at windows.

I’d be scared out of my wits. And angry. Really really angry. Not with the people making the mess (honestly, though I do feel sorry for the owners of the damaged property, the actions itself I find mostly bloody frikkin stupid). But angry at the over-reaction of Daddy State.

Because, to be honest? Except for the so-called “political background” of the whole thing. I would really like to invite all the parties to an average New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam Zuid. No, nothing political about it. And yes, cars burned down & shops were plundered, so it was not just common goods. But the mess after that one night of “party’ is a multitude of what happened in Hamburg. Or even the worst May 1st in Berlin. And the solution there and then was to just let it burn out, clean up and repair (or not… some bus stops never ever got replaced) in the days & weeks after.

So the reaction of Daddy State was, again, excessive. Probably because it was political, and not just some random party night gone wild. Erdogan probably felt at home indeed.

And I gnawed my knuckles down to the bone.

Beyond Hell


The weekend is over. Wounds are licked. Streets are cleaned.

Humor kicks in. Yes, contrary to common belief, Germans do have a sense of humor. Like posting a picture of a street in the Schanzenviertel with people shopping, kids & musicians playing, and the caption “look at our neighborhood in Hamburg near Aleppo/Syria, it will never be the same!” Or a meme of “Je suis Auto”

Unfortunately, these are exceptions.

There’s a lot of confusion. A lot of accusations. From all sides.

There’s a lot of screaming. Pointing fingers. Condemning. On all sides.

The willingness of Daddy State to use this much excessive force scares me shitless. Especially the machine guns. It takes it all to a whole new level.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/ak-analyse-kritik-Zeitung-f%C3%BCr-linke-Debatte-und-Praxis-183921262475/But the worst is yet to come. Already in politics the discussion has moved from that excessive force to deeming what happened in the Schanzenviertel as a “terrorist action”. Putting burned down cars and plundered shops on the same level as killing dozens of people. Screaming for more “screening” of would-be activists. Of exchanging databases with other countries. Taking profiling, and therefore, being guilty until proven otherwise, to a whole new level.

And this means I’m now slowly running out of knuckles to chew on…



Blurp: Another level for my guardian angel

Boing. My guardian angel just gained enough experience points to level up again.

By utter coincidence and complete stupidity I managed to get in the middle of the action (again), watch riot cops charge into an otherwise very peaceful antifascist demonstration (again), wonder if I should do something heroic, see the streetlights reflect in helmet and clubs, decide against the heroic thing, and just shake my old head while the “riot” (which consisted of two small smoke-bombs thrown on the pavement from the demo, and lots of pushing and clubbing from the cops) went back & forth for my eyes.

And am completely unaffected by it. Physically (hence the xp for the guardian angel) as well as mentally. Only worried about the kids in the demo, or the people who were hit.

I just get very, very tired of this, it is so unnecessary. But I guess if they had let the demo walk peacefully to the end point, the tabloids would lack headliners tomorrow, and certain conservative politicians can’t scream for more police to control our neighborhood.

*sighs deeply again and congratulates guardian angel on another level*

Rant – Scary World – the Aftermath of a Successful Action

I guess it’s says a lot both about Germany and the opinion of the “general public”, if, when 6,000 people peacefully ignore “stay off the grass” and “no trespassing” signs, this gets more attention and people wondering about the costs of repairing the lawn, then the costs of human lives of Fortress Europe.
“Menschen sterben und ihr schweigt. Der Rasen ist kaputt und ihr schreit.”

(warning… long read ahead… just have to get this off my chest.. and yah, I’m secretly a hippie or an emo or something)

In one week, the lawn in front of Kanzleramt and Reichstag will look like nothing ever happened & there will be happy grilling with the family. The uproar will be forgotten. At the most, there will be some radical artists still congratulating each other in a back-office.

And people will still die trying to get to safety. And those who make it, will still be treated like criminals, be subject to racist attacks or be declared “illegal” and left to charity. And the EU will still be more concerned with how to make it as impossible as possible for people to reach Europe (or at least make sure they die outside of our sight), than with rescue or doing something against the reasons why people flee their homes.
Weapons will still be exported. Our consumer “needs” will still ruin the environment “over there”. Dictatorships and “regional conflicts” will still be condoned or even supported if this will benefit profit, create a false sense of security, or opposing the violation of human rights just might insult an “ally”.
And that’s just the “humanity” factor. Completing the picture with what happens to all the other species on this planet doesn’t make it any better.

It all feels so cynical. So futile. “Stop this world, I wanna get off”.. Close my eyes, & bury myself under the blankets / find distraction in music, parties & gigs… Just “blame the system” and live your own small life. Where there’s enough to cope with anyway, the day-to-day small-scale problems, from dealing with workstress or health problems to life-shattering events such as losing someone dear or something important. When being concerned about the large-scale issues seems like a luxury problem.

Everything you can do, from protesting, supporting those refugees that made it with food or clothing, or trying to live a lifestyle which does not burden the environment that badly, it all seems futile in the light of frikkin 50 million refugees worldwide, abandoning their homes, their lives, because they fear for their lives and those of their children or because their environment simply has become unlivable.
The pics of the refugees on the border between Turkey & Syria… or of the bodies of those who didn’t make it stashed in garbage bags in southern europe…

No, the “masses” won’t “rise”. The “99%” will at the most push another online petition or Like button. I’m no different. There won’t be a revolution, and as history taught us, if, most of those revolutions resulted in just another reinstating of the status quo. There only will be individuals banging their head frustrated against a wall, and be called “do-gooder” or “Mr Know-it-all” or “you think you’re so much better huh?”.

It’s so easy to see what’s wrong. And what is so hard to change.
Repeating myself, again, I guess.

  • Look at the amount of food which is thrown away, and of which “foodsavers” collect so little. It could feed so many.
  • Look at all the empty office buildings in this city.. which are not allowed to be squatted (anymore). It could house so many.
  • Look at the fact that in the giveaway shop, we often have to turn people down bringing stuff, since we simply don’t have the space. And the stuff that ends up at the giveaway shop is such a small part of what ends up as waste… Where one of my biggest confrontations was, walking towards the shop to do my shift, a few people walked past with huge Primark bags, the result of just one shopping spree, an amount we would have trouble finding room for. It could clothe so many.
  • Look at how “marginal” alternative house and other projects in fact are, though in this city relatively prominent. And how much effort it takes just to keep them going, fighting against burocrazy and “investors” & often losing… if we aren’t mostly busy fighting amongst each other. It could provide working & studying space for so many.
  • Look at how much media attention the hate & fear preachers of the ‘gida got, and how little people managed to keep the counterprotests going (I admit, after two months of freezing my ass off every monday, I got tired of it too..).

Still, “plus one” for today’s civil obedience. The fence falling because so many pushed. People bringing toy bulldozers and/or digging the graves with anything available, and if nothing, their hands. The human chain protecting the symbolic graveyard against the cops.

All you can do is live up to your conscience I guess…
(and I really should stop reading the comment section of online newspapers… )

Rant – NoBärgida – Xenophobes are scary people

Ok, definitively no fun, and secretly quite scary.. At the end of the protest against the Bärgida (the berlin Pegida spin-off) tonight we were left with so little people, the more violently minded of the other side felt secure enough in their numbers to actually break through the police lines and try to attack us (maybe we shouldn’t have sung they had a football-stadium ban…).

No fun at all when you see 20 of these broad-shouldered idiots storming towards you… and knowing on “our” side are elderly people, self-declared pacifists and in general, not that many people prepared for something like that.

If anyone still thinks the Pegida / Bärgida/ whatever-gida people are peaceful protesters, think again. As if the attacks on journalists a few weeks ago in Leipzig hadn’t made that clear.

And frikkin hell… this made clear to me again, how important it is to make a stand, be there and be loud… I’ll be there next monday, I’m afraid it’s necessary… I hope there will be more….

Blurp – NoBärgida (re-reprise…)

Luckily, Bärgida was really small (ca. 150), but the counterprotest numbers are dwindling too, down to ca. 500 today… I really hope we can keep it up as long as they keep it up.
The bad news is the other side is more and more openly fascist/racist, a group of right-wing hooligans made their presence clear, and they actually managed to march the few hundred meters they planned.

Well.. at least we’re still louder & my improvised sign survived the snow & made some people on our side smile (though I guess no german knows the double meaning of the (german!) word Glückskatze: multi-coloured cats bring luck according to (too ancient??) popular belief, humpf).

Short Rant – NoBärgida (reprise.. unfortunately)

Monday again…
Though Pegida is imploding, other “branches” seem to become even more willing to use violence (Leipzig), in Berlin last week, a group of hooligans joined the Bärgida, & also racist attacks against refugees & immigrants are increasing.
The now circulating call for mobilization for this monday’s Bärgida is trying to make the Berlin one the one that replaces the Dresden one.

I still think it is weird that politicians are willing to “listen” to the demands of the “Gidas”, when the counterprotests are that much bigger, and for example ignore the fact that the anti-TIPP protests two weeks ago with 50,000 people were much bigger than all the Gida marches together… So, who’s the frikkin “people” ??

Rant – NoBärgida – All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good people do nothing

January 2015 must be the month I find myself more often shocked than ever before.. and I’m not easily shocked… (sorry for the long read…. but if you care, please do take the trouble…)

Today another Bärgida (the Berlin “spin-off” of the Dresden Pegida) march was planned, so were the until now successful counter-protests.

Though there were not more Bärgida people as last week (luckily…), our side was a LOT smaller, only 1,000. Still, they didn’t manage to march their planned route. Good atmosphere on our side, line dancing to Kurdish music, sharing hot ginger tea, a cinema along the Bärgida-route made it obvious where it stood (see pic), pogojumping up and down and making up silly songs to ridicule the other side.


After the protest, one of the Bärgida people, an elderly man, came to the other side of the fence to talk to us, something which I can appreciate, talk is better than shouting.
However. The guy was obviously well-read, and possessed the brains to process that information. But the result: the amount of (contradictory!) conspiracy theories I heard within minutes was…. amazing. The only one missing was the climate change conspiracy. All the other ones you might have heard of were mentioned .

So absurd, I could almost laugh about it, if his conclusions weren’t so damned scary. His opinions about religion, specifically islam, unions (after someone asked him if he realized he was walking together with declared nazis, he countered with, yes, but your side has the unions…errr…) or immigrants was plain… wrong.

I will never forget the faces of two young, probably turkish, girls, who were listening behind his back and realizing, he was talking (what to do) about THEM. They were so shocked… Other people kept trying to give arguments against his world view, pointing out the holes in his logic, referring to history, but he kept going on on the same track. And the scary thing, if you would (could!) accept his assumptions, he sounded almost reasonable…

Well…though I had trouble believing my ears, I got deeply and profoundly shocked, when in the course of the discussion the guy actually started to deny the holocaust…. This is also when people went to the cops to report him (denying the holocaust is an offense in Germany). I’m not a friend of reporting anyway, and in a way, I didn’t think the guy should be “punished” for the fact he was trying to seeking the discussion. But this.. No. Simply NO.

Open discussion yes… but this kind of “rationality”, based upon what a friend of mine described as “anti-history”, this is indeed where the train of thought goes far off track, facts don’t matter, and no common ground can be found AT ALL. This is were indeed reason stops, and an almost sect-like belief starts. And I can throw my naivety of “maybe, with reason and logic, we can take away the fear which brings these people to such intolerant behaviour” out of the window.

It was scary. And yes, the holocaust denial, I knew there were people around with this view, but to actually hear it.. I thought I couldn’t be shocked easily, but I was….to the deepest of my soul. How can someone deny the systematic extermination of millions of people because of their beliefs, their ethnicity, their political views or being gay?

What scares me the most, is that this guy was not some nobrainer who just wants someone to tell him what to do or a flag to follow…He might even be one of the people who is actually doing a pretty good job convincing others, by making some basic – plainly wrong – assumptions, and very rationally, somehow coming to the strangest line of arguments and conclusions. And who is not willing to readjust this line of thought when people point out how far his assumptions, or his conclusions, are from reality or based upon “facts” which are again and again proven wrong.

I’m all in favor of constantly questioning your own beliefs and assumptions, this is one of the reasons I wanted to hear this guy’s reasoning, but we bumped in such a tangle of paranoia and out-of-context taken facts or views, I just couldn’t even grasp the basics of it, it was too far out of my league: scientology sounds logical compared to it.
A discussion with scientologists is not possible, if this guy is representative of the “brains” behind Pegida, neither is a discussion with Pegida and their spin-offs possible.
All that remains… is shouting, hoping to be louder than them, and blocking their marches… Unfortunately.

And just because of the shocked faces of the two girls hearing what the guy said, if the Bärgida will march next week… I will be there to counter them. And the week after that. And after that…. As I hope many people will…. Maybe, if you would have witnessed what I witnessed this evening, you would. I hope. I sincerely hope…

Because, as cited at the Srebenica exhibition in Sarajevo:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good people do nothing”

And though I do not consider myself one of the “good”… I can not just stand by and do nothing…

(another edit: djeez, I secretly am a frikkin hippie…unfortunately not one that shouts “let love win”, but “don’t let hate win”… shit…)