Police repression in the belly of the beast
„We want to show that there is also resistance against Merkel and the Troika in the belly of the beast“, this was the comment of one of the protesters who took part in the “Blockupy Days of Action” on the 1st June in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. 15,000 were on the march. The day before more than 3,000 had participated in blockades of the European central bank headquarters and other institutions. These institutions are seen as symbolizing the power of the markets, the racist migration policy in Europe and the profit-driven textile industry which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of workers recently in Bangladesh.
„Blockupy“ is an alliance of different left-wing organisations, the Left Party (DIE LINKE), some trade union structures, Attac and other social movement groups which were set up last year to build resistance against the policies of austerity in Europe to Germany. In 2012 the city of Frankfurt/Main legally banned all protests, demonstrations and gatherings for the two days when the occupations and blockades were due to take place. Even demonstrations which had nothing to do with Blockupy were banned. This led to a wave of solidarity and thousands spontaneously flocked to Frankfurt to participate in the then only legal event – the mass demo on the last day of the days of action.
This year things were turned upside down by the police. The protest camp was tolerated and also protests and blockades on the May, 31st were allowed to take place take with relatively little police repression. The conservative-led federal state government and the police leadership had learned their lesson and had planned for a clampdown on the day of the mass demonstration.
Only 20 minutes after the demonstration had begun it was stopped by the police and the anti-capitalist contingent of far left groups at the head of the demo was kettled. The police gave the excuse of firecrackers and the covering of their faces by some demonstrators as a reason for their repressive actions. In reality it has become clear – and was even expressed by anonymous police officers to the press – that this crackdown was planned well in advance. One police officer told a SAV member: “Did you really think we would let you just march after the defeat you inflicted on us last year.”
1,000 demonstrators were kettled for several hours during which time they had no access to a toilet. Lawyers could not get to their clients and first aid helpers were not let into the kettled area to reach injured people of which there were up to 200. The rest of the demonstration could not move forward and remained nearby in solidarity with the ones encircled by the police. Only late in the evening, when many participants had already had gone off to catch their buses and trains to go home did the police let the kettled demonstrators go.
Despite this, the days of action were a success. Germany does not share the same economic and social problems as Greece, Spain, Portugal and other countries at the moment. This also means that consciousness is different and there are fewer mobilizations and struggles taking place. Given this background the Blockupy days of action mainly mobilised left-wing activists however they also play an important role in showing that there is also resisitence in Germany. Most impressive of all was the participation of 500 activists from Stuttgart who come from the movement against Stuttgart 21 (the planned new underground train station which led to mass protests for several years).
At the same time Germany’s relative economic stability is paid for by millions of low paid workers and worsening social conditions. Workers in the retail industry have begun to take strike action for better pay and against attacks by the employers.
Members of SAV (Sozialistische Alternative – CWI in Germany) participated in the days of action. So did the Left Party (DIE LINKE) and it’s youth organisations who had their own contingents in which SAV members participated. 350 attended a public meeting of DIE LINKE on the night of the first day with speakers from Greece, Portugal and Germany.
For many of the demonstrators the arbitrary police repression is further proof of the real nature of capitalism: democracy is granted as long as it does not threaten the profits of the banks and big corporations.