“Gefahrenzone”: brief summary of events in Hamburg | dec 21 – jan 7

in the wake of a demonstration announced for 21 dec 2013 by rote flora and groups from the right to the city network in hamburg, local media ramped up reporting about expected violence for days. on 20 dec 2013 there was an attack on a police station in st. pauli that was immediately incorporated into the prevailing paranoia (though even three weeks later it’s not clear who the attackers were). the demonstration was announced to defend rote flora, to support the tenants of the evacuated esso houses on reeperbahn and to demand a right to stay for the lampedusa group of refugees that has been in st. pauli since spring 2013. needless to say that the media did not pick up the reasons for the demonstration in the first place but focussed on potential clashes.

* then on saturday 21 dec 2013 10.000 people gathered for the demonstration in the schanzenviertel on schulterblatt, the street adjacent to the rote flora. there were two sections in the demonstration, an anarchist block and a “colour” block of right to the city groups, each with a speaker car. when the demonstration started at 15:09 h, police immediately stopped it. the stopping was later blamed to attacks on the police before the start, however video footage showed that this was not the case (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvQGQhxfDhc). there is evidence that the police had intended from the beginning not to let the demonstration start at all (for example, police forces were concentrated in the starting point, there was hardly any police along the announced route). what followed was a polizeikessel (closing in) of thousands of protesters by police over two hours when the police blocked all exit streets of the schanzenviertel. this was accompanied by attacks of special forces into the protesters (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu1kM3IEinU#t=12) and by the use of water cannons and tear gas. for all of us who were in the midst of this situation it quite resembled the pictures from taksim square last summer. later people moved out of the kessel into st. pauli to build barricades and smash shop fronts. the right to the city speaker car eventually managed to move through and around police lines next to the esso häuser and make a spontaneous demonstration there for 90 minutes.
here’s a 27-min-video about the demonstration by utopie TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaaVbF22d7w

* in the days since the 21 dec there’s been an intense debate about the clashes. local media supported mostly the view of police and law & order politicians that only the protesters were to blame. however, there were at least some voices critical of the police among left-wing politicians. the right to the city network issued a statement condemning the police escalation strategy.

* on sunday, 29 dec 2013 the police of hamburg issued a press release which stated that the same police station (the so-called davidwache on reeperbahn) had been attacked a second time the night before, with one policeman heavily injured. the local media immediately picked up the story and attributed the attack to left activists/anarchists though this had not explicitly been stated in the press release. policemen set up a solidarity page on facebook that gained more than 50.000 likes. leaders of a police union rushed in and publicly demanded the permission to use guns and tasers in future conflicts. nobody questioned the press release though even after days police did not come up with any evidence (like videos from surveillance cameras or passers-by). an analysis on the media reception of the press release can be found here (in german): http://datenjournalist.de/die-presse-im-gefahrengebiet/

* on 3 jan 2014 the police issued the implementation of a danger zone (gefahrengebiet) in four inner city quarters, thereby criminalising 80.000 people. the danger zone – taking effect on 4 jan 2013, 6 AM – is unique to hamburg, no other cities or federal states have it in this scope. introduced in 2005 it gives police the right to control any person independent of any evidence, ask for ID card and search pockets and bags for objects, to expel people for a certain time from the danger zone (to issue a “platzverweis”) or to order residents not to leave their homes, if the police sees a reason that a person would present a danger to the zone. the whole measure is set up without any judicial permission, the police in this case assumes judicial power itself. there’s been a debate whether the danger zone concept is a breach of the constitution but with no effect so far.

* on 5 jan 2014 lawyer andreas beuth issued eye witness reports that the alleged second attack on the police station had never taken place in the way the police had stated it had had happened. in the days following further evidence from witnesses came to light, and eventually the police backed down step by step from their version. now it looks like the “attack” had been a routine incident between drunken reeperbahn visitors and police, something that happens regularly in this area. nevertheless that means that the police has invented an incident in order to restrict basic rights for 80.000 inhabitants – something that is unparalleld in today’s germany so far. media have only reluctantly picked up this development.

* since the implementation of the danger zone there has been lots of spontaneous protest actions each night. there was a tv news report in which police produced a toilet brush from the trousers of a passer-by with the effect that the toilet brush has become the symbol of resistance throughout the danger zone (for pictures see for example http://www.ndr.de/ratgeber/netzwelt/kreativprotest137.html). yesterday, on 9 jan police announced that the danger zone would be reduced to smaller “danger islands” (gefahreninseln) around three police stations. however, taken together these gefahreninseln still comprise a significant area in st. pauli and altona (each with a diameter of more than a kilometer). so the situation is far from being resolved and protests will continue.

emailes by nbo january 8 2014