Hamburg - when (almost) everybody is wrong
My best friend’s brother had a brand-new baby girl on Tuesday. She’s quite pink but everybody is very proud of her. The brother is a teacher in Hamburg and his partner and baby are in a hospital in the city.
Yesterday I talked to my friend and she told me how terrified her brother was. Hamburg expected 100.000 protesters. Which is a lot, causes traffic jams and is a general nuisance.
It also expected about 8000 violent instigators, hooligans, extremists and so on.
In the run-up to G20 business in the richer parts of town had been marked as belonging to, well, rich people. All of this is nothing new. We have that every year in Berlin. Cars are set on fire, windows need to be barricaded, there will be water throwers.
Try navigating that with a newborn.
The hospital released both mother and baby a day early to get them out of the city because they expected a very real possibility that the hospital might be attacked and I sat in my kitchen on the other side of Germany wondering what the fuck that says not only about my the world but also a movement I have always felt very connected to.
But ultimately… I mean, heck, I have lived in Leipzig and spent a good deal of time in Connewitz, I come from the deep and very neo-Nazi east… I am not surprised.
And then there is the other side of the story. Hundred thousands of people who care about this world and this planet and what’s happening to it and our future. A tidal wave of worry but also of hope.
Setting up their tents in parks, areas that have been given to them by the city of Hamburg - their right to do so, to come together and protest, bolstered and protected by the German constitution AND a legally binding decision by a judge just the day before.
And then there is the chief of Hamburg police, a man even my conservative friends in the city call an absolute hardliner… Twisting the legal decision to his liking, as a member of the executive branch looking for loopholes in a legally binding decision to interpret it to his liking.
A man that many have accused of provoking the violence by rigorously responding to the slightest provocations from the black block in the March to Hell demonstration, basically doing what the violent protesters wanted: Instigating violence and drawing every other peaceful protester down the drain with them.
They didn’t even need to bring in their own instigators. Holy shit, this is Germany. We have a long-standing tradition of violent left-wing protests. We have the 1st of May and this is HAMBURG. St. Pauli is a rallying cry for everyone looking for an excuse to set a car on fire.
All they needed to do was to declare the black block as the black block and let everything unravel from there. We even have a word for a mass of hooded demonstrators ready for violence. There is a reason your are not allowed to cover your face at demonstration because that is the ONE determining characteristics from dividing the peaceful protesters from the Hooligans. And everybody accusing me of dragging a football term into this. Look at them and tell me the difference. I dare you!
Do any of them care for the protests? To any of them care for G20 or what these people decide up there?
A friend of mine is a member of the police emergency personnel, a branch from the standard police that is trained for those exact situations (and football games, because Germany). He is also a few political meters left of me. What we call a “linke Zecke” here in Germany. He cares.
He cares that idiots attack them and then run into the masses, using peaceful demonstrators as human shields. He also cares that an asshole in a plush chair plays Russian roulette with his men’s health by waging his own cute little war.
The new baby’s father cares because more than half of his students are not of German heritage, spanning the globe in their mother tongues and skin colors.
But people that invade the perceived “rich” quarters to vandalize whole streets, setting cars on fire and respond to pleas of “People live here!” which “Shut the FUCK up!”
They don’t care. they just want an excuse to brutalize others and there is no difference if you call that left-wing or right-wing terrorism. It’s terrorism.
And people like the police chief, who so blatantly disregards a law he swore to uphold? Does he care for anything but his own personal power and pride? Does he even CARE for the people who now have no car anymore, no business or who can’t go to a hospital because everything is blocked and emergency services are busy taking care of the victims on both sides of the violence he provoked days in advance?
What does HE care for?
There are situations that you cannot win, caught between a rock and a hard place and the pride and disregard of men who don’t see you as worth caring for. Police power, terrorists. Doesn’t matter.
I just saw the pictures a friend sent from by-streets in Hamburg. Not the main streets. Not the protest route but remote, peaceful by-streets, far from the protest, littered with burning cars. Family cars, not expensive ones. Just family cars. Trash cans kicked onto streets and set on fire.
People standing by in absolute disbelief.
Yet still, people stand up and go there. They protest the unfairness of a world order that disadvantages people too poor to even come to Hamburg and protest in their own name.
Yet still, the people of Hamburg sweep their streets and replace their windows and go on with stubborn northern determination.
And yet, a man walks through the crowds with a shield saying “Leave me alone, I’m just going to the supermarket.”
And yet, the first thing I hear from everybody around me, no matter which camp they belong to is “this is not democracy” and “what do you need?”
And yet, humanity prevails. Even if it sometimes is by just surviving.