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in solidarity with the people of turkey!

it’s been horrifying to read messages from my friends in istanbul about civil war-like circumstances- and i’m still worried that i haven’t heard back from some people since their last messages around 11pm CET [EDIT: they are safe, unlike these people].

this german TV report with english subtitles is the best video i could find so far. the reporter on the ground, who has been to afghanistan, lebanon, libya and many more crisis zones before, says, clearly moved, that he “has never seen anything like this before”.

the news coming out of istanbul appear way too horrible to be true, but I’m afraid they aren’t. it seems that it wasn’t just plain water in the water cannons (more evidence), people were deliberately fired at with tear gas capsules and rubber bullets, police even shot water and tear gas into the lobbies of neighboring hotels (and hospitals! and private homes!) that offered shelter, they are denying access of medical personnel to the injured and arresting everyone coming out of the hotels, 3G and other signals are jammed, reporters denied access to the scene and even reports of journalists beaten, mass arrests. among the hundreds of injured were many children under 10 years old, elderly people who were having a picknick, and also the head of the german green party.

by the way, as a friend of mine pointed out, tear gas is considered a chemical weapon and if this were an ‘official war’, its use would be prohibited. what about that, obama?

this is another good information source on what’s happening, as is this one. and this is a well-kept multi-lingual ticker. here you can sign the avaaz petition.

(by the way, the situation in brazil doesn’t seem much better.. [EDIT: good explanation of the protests])

i know, we’re talking about sovereign nations, but we must not let our political leaders/representatives get away with ignoring this situation we need immediate international reactions from the most official authorities, especially since erdogan doesn’t seem to take democratic displays of public opinion seriously. i’m not an expert on what kinds of pressure could be exerted, but those responsible should be held accountable for violations of universal human rights.

in berlin, there are solidarity demonstrations at 12:00 at breitscheidplatz and 15:00 at kottbusser tor [EDIT: on sunday, june 16]. taksim is everywhere. big thanks to yusuf beyazit, who has been an invaluable information resource for this post.

a week after the #occupy protest started in berlin, there was another march today! it wasn’t unregistered, so it wasn’t a march, but just a bunch of individuals who all just happened to go for a walk around the same time. 🙂 on the way we passed a tourist bus, where some girls were chanting out the window “we – are – the 99%!” we met another group of people at brandenburger tor and then went over to the reichstagswiese. probably around 1000 people were there, and we held an asamblea and working groups. there was a great spirit in the air, and i met some really interesting people today.

we still do not have a camp in berlin, because tents are not tolerated anywhere. quite unbelievable considering the “sympathy” all kinds of politicians (including our chancellor) expressed in the press. mr. lammert, please allow this camp!

but even without tents, people have been meeting every day at 3pm at the reichstag, and held an asamblea at 5pm. on sunday (2nd protest day) the asamblea found a very creative way to deal with the problem that the berlin police does not accept public gatherings without a leader (or a leader-less movement). after the cop announced over the human mic that there needs to be a leader, it was suggested that everybody registers a demonstration, so everybody is a leader. facing a mountain of paperwork from 300 registrations, the police seemed to tolerate the meeting.

another very creative solution was found on friday, when the police threatened to fine everybody for breaking the assembly law. thanks to the awesome livestream, a viewer from hamburg helped out by telling them (via chat?) that if people stand 6 meters apart from each other, it is not an assembly according to the law. brilliant! what a great case of the internet allowing information to be shared in meaningful way! of course, with the human mic, the asamblea could still communicate with each other and it even drew a bunch of attention from the tourists!

i’d like to share another story from a dear friend of mine. he was also there last saturday and got carried away by the police. well, after the cop kneeled on his head and twisted his arm to get him to stand up (yeah i know, weird logic..). well, he wasn’t arrested, but taken away from the center and released further to the side of the area. when the cop let him go, he put the visor of this helmet up and said: “my name is <his full name>, and i am sorry.” really great to see that this guy still tried to be a human being. and i certainly didn’t want to overgeneralize the police behavior in my account of the first night, i’m sure most of them do their jobs without any malice, but there are some that really need some anger management courses. anyway, they should realize that they too are the 99%! i can’t wait until the first one takes a seat on the side of the movement.

my thoughts on the current situation:

i think we need more structure in the asamblea. moderators and a speaker list would make it fairer and more effective. currently it’s hard for people with lower voices or that are a little shy to get to speak. and yes, not enough women get to speak. a suggestion: a 2-3 people moderator team: 1-2 people keeping a list of people raising their hands and one person to show whose turn it is.

the movement needs to grow. we need to be the 99%. the crowd today was much more diverse (with even more “rather conservatively” clothed people today), but we should also grow in size. to do this, i think the “agreement” that organizations should not be very visible should also extend to the antifa (who stayed peaceful during this movement as far as i know). the movement needs to speak to a large group of people, and too many media images from the black block won’t be helpful (when they just started chanting today, that’s where most of the cameras ran to).

we need to think about a plan for the winter. we have to continue the asamblea and the working groups. and have weekly walks (‘spaziergänge’). and ideally some form of a publicly visible camp-like demonstration.

as i write this post, i am witnessing the longest occupation so far via livestream: about 25 people are still at the reichstag, and it seems like they are tolerated by the police. awesome, even without tents, i think we can call this an occupation camp now. 🙂

asamblea tomorrow at 5pm, working groups from 3pm. next march, october 29. join us!!

[EDIT: ’asamblea worldwide’ has become the unofficial protest song in berlin since SAT, english translation of the lyrics in description]

i shot this picture yesterday during the peaceful and inspiring assamblea in front of the reichstag, which boasts in huge letters: “dem deutschen volke” (for the german people).

what started as a highly inspiring day, with 10,000 berliners joining the (rather quickly organized) demonstration in solidarity with people worldwide, quickly turned ugly in the evening when the police violently interrupted the peaceful assamblea pictured above.

the assamblea (using the human mic technique learned from the #occupywallstreet movement) identified two working groups to plan for shelter and food for the camp, which were given an hour to discuss and report back to everybody. meanwhile, two tents and a beach shelter were set up onsite in the fashion of the acampada movement, as the nightly temperatures in berlin make necessary. groups of 15-20 policemen then entered the sitting crowd and went after the tents and camping mats (another good video), destroying them in the process.

the police then retreated, and the assamblea continued to discuss how to deal with the situation. it was announced that the reason behind police operation was that our presence was tolerated, but the tents were not (thx for making it clear after using force!). two tents were set up again, and then it was announced that those would be tolerated for now. then the food arrived and was distributed, hope soared that this was the beginning of a meaningful movement – so much solidarity was in the air. unfortunately, the police then moved in and took away the food of the protesters, without explaining their reasons for doing so.

the next police attack started after it was dark– using flood lights to heighten the unreal atmosphere. multiple groups of 15-20 policemen (usually 2-3 operating at the same time) would forcefully push themselves into the group of sitting demonstrators, and pull out anything that would help keep them warm: sleeping bags, (rescue) blankets, even simply the cardboard on which they sat. that’s when i witnessed brutal police violence against peaceful citizens: one person being brutally punched in the face, and two rows in front of me people were being peppersprayed for no apparent reason. i didn’t witness it myself, but heard that even batons were used to clear the way.

the problem was, that it was not clear to anybody, what the mission of this offensive was, not even giving people the chance to comply and heightening the perceived level of aggression. the fact that multiple groups were operating at the same time made it hard for the photographers to document what was going on, and since i haven’t yet found a good picture showing anything (one from the use of pepperspray in the afternoon), the police tactic to avoid being pictured seems to have worked out. other reports even say that some journalists were not allowed on the premises.

in the end, the police cleared the area with force, again pretty (unneccesarily) rough, people being punched and kicked, cops kneeling on young women, and the released people being shoved to the ground again. videos here and here.

afterwards, people weren’t even allowed to stand where the police initially suggested it would be OK for them, but were threatened so they move to brandenburger tor. about 100 people arrived there, and were swiflty surrounded by police again, who started arresting people that did not leave those premises. this was the end of the day for me.

so much on what happened from my perspective, now some thoughts:
as in new york, it seems that the mainstream media is not giving this much coverage in the beginning. the intellectual capacity of the author of a report in the “former newsmagazine” was especially disappointing, and i’m not going to link there. most reports pigeonholed the demonstration as an anti-bank protest, which is not very accurate. jacob jung made a great post on why it was more than that. [EDIT: also great in german: jule’s video, and i think this guy’s fundamental critique of money creation is spot on] i think the lesson from the various demonstrations around the world this year is that the protest needs to be sustained. just one ‘day of action’ will not show the urgency of the issue, and not get the attention that is needed. so, if this is going to become a real movement, these kinds of demonstrations need to continue and the need to be productive.

i’m still split on the issue whether this has to be in front of the symbolic reichstag building to show the hypocrisy in our political system that will not let citizens assemble in front of the national legislative assembly; or whether this confrontation with the police takes too much time that could better be spent discussing the reasons for their engagement in the movement or finding a way out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into. i’m slightly leaning towards the latter though.

the most ironic fact of the day was that the police was behaving illegally themselves on two accounts: 1. they were not wearing ID badges as they are legally obliged to do now in berlin, 2. police are not allowed to film a demonstration without proper reason. these were the same people that (sometimes even literally) kicked peaceful demonstrators out of the square in front of a symbolic building whose lit up façade reads “dem deutschen volke”. after all, it’s a constitutional basic right to assemble freely and demonstrate, and a demonstration needs to be within sight/earshot of those that the message should reach. this “bannmeile”, which stems from a law from 1920, is absolutely ridiculous. happy to see that the pirate party is going to ask the right questions, although i doubt that much will come of it.

what a sad day for a democracy that once wrote ‘freedom of assembly’ into its constitution. chapeau to the demonstrators who kept it peaceful on their side till the end.

[EDIT: i want to make clear that most policemen did their jobs more or less without malice against their fellow citizens. i don’t want to give them all a bad reputation. it’s just sad that those offenders will probably not see any consequences!]

[UPDATE: on sunday, there were around 400 people on the lawn in front of the reichstag again, discussing in an assamblea. it was not a ‘versammlung’ however, since those must have a leader (‘versammlungsleiter’) and need to be registered. it seems like people will continue this throughout the week, at 3pm infos usually via alex11.org or facebook, livestream via castortv]

[UPDATE: two more great reports in english by victoria and flourlumps]

best comment on the police brutality incidents at the #occupywallst protests in new york, glad to hear a major media outlet call this one out. because this does happen every day, in the US but also in other “democratic” societies.

remember the berlin cop that kicked the head of a demonstrator lying on the ground in 2010? or the guy with his bike at the freiheit statt angst demo 2009, who was first punched by a cop, wrestled to the ground, arrested and charged with assault on a cop – because he was asking for the identification number of another cop. or what happened to the older retired guy bleeding out of his eyes in stuttgart last year?

last year, amnesty international reported on 15 detailed cases of police brutality in germany, some of which even ended in death. like oury jalloh, who burned to death in a prison cell in dessau, with his hands and feet tied to a flame-retardant bed, and none of the cops on duty were held responsible. in a society we’d like to call democratic or free, this simply cannot stand. if the “western governments” want to differentiate themselves from the totalitarian regimes we love to criticize/bomb for oppressing their people, they better start cleaning up their act at home.

it’s sad that an initially peaceful protest will only be newsworthy through police brutality or riots. the real news is, that there is a scent of change in the air during these crisis-ridden times. people realize that the systems are not working anymore, taking it to the streets and protesting their governments (essentially for failing them). and this change is happening bottom-up, with brave individuals at the forefront. in closing, one more great comment from o’donnell on “tony boloney”: