Ikemba, a new member of First of May Anarchist Alliance is now training in Germany with a professional soccer club. Here is his report from anti-fascist protests in Frankfurt earlier this past March against a new racist, right-wing formation – PEGIDA – Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamazation of the West.
When the incident of Michael Brown being slain at the hands of the individuals who are supposedly protecting and serving the masses occurred in August I was in Germany, pursuing a professional soccer career. I felt miserable that I was in Germany and I couldn’t find a way in which I could support individuals who were just as enraged as me through direct action. I was happy, enjoying Germany and new experiences, while things in the United States were occurring, that I felt, I needed to be a part of. Eventually, I made my way back to the United States and I quickly began attending protests against police violence. I felt I needed to be involved, although I am often annoyed with the sheer symbolism of protesting rather than there actually being demands made. With that being said, I was content with the militancy that was taking place in Ferguson. I ended up driving down to Ferguson the day after the announcement of the “no indictment” of officer Darren Wilson. I was eager to be involved in protesting, that I felt, would be militant in a way that not many protest in the United States are.
In order to continue my soccer career, I had to make a tough decision to move back to Germany. However, before I left I made a promise to myself that I would not go anywhere in the world without being politically active in some way, shape, or form. While back in the states I met another soccer player who was from Germany, he told me that his brother was heavily involved with ANTIFA movements and that the right wing – neo-nazi, fascists – were gaining a significant following. In my head I knew that’s where I could get involved and decided that moving back to Germany wouldn’t hinder me politically.
The week I got to Germany I ended up meeting a girl who started talking to me about PEGIDA. I had no idea what PEGIDA was, until a bit of googling took place. PEGIDA – Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamazation of the West – aka neo-nazi fascists. She told me that every Monday PEGIDA goes out in Frankfurt and demonstrates. Therefore, every Monday anti-PEGIDA – consisting of an array of people – demonstrates in order to disrupt PEGIDA’s demonstration.
When I walked up from the underground train station in Frankfurt I was quite surprised with the number of people. There were probably slightly less than 1,000 people who were opposing PEGIDA, while there were only 30-50 PEGIDA members demonstrating (reports say that the first Anti-PEGIDA demo attracted 16,000 people). I immediately saw ANTIFA and black and red flags flying in the middle of the crowed, I was very pleased to see this. Police fatigued in full riot gear – helmets, shields, clubs, mace, pistols, everything separates each group demonstrating. I look at it as the police protecting Nazis; therefore, the police are no better than the Nazis themselves. Realistically they are allowing fascism to be promoted.
This first demonstration was interesting for me to see. Much different from any protest or demonstration I have attended in the United States. I was fascinated. It was like a large party near Zeil strasse (a big shopping area). People were smashing beers, there were people walking around with shots or handing out hot drinks, and there was loud music bumping. It was welcoming and everyone was having a good time, it seemed. Most importantly, the reason why everyone was gathered did not get lost. Music was used instrumentally, as well as the booze that probably makes those who indulge a bit more rowdy. The music was turned louder and louder every time the Nazis got on a microphone and tried to portray their message. You were unable to hear what they were trying to say because the music muffled their words so much; therefore, effectively disrupting their message from being spread. Anti-PEGIDA demonstrators also had their microphone that was connected to loud speakers. They would also respond with their own messages speaking loudly over the Nazis when they tried to speak. This would lead to demonstrators beginning to chant “Nazi’s raus!” which means “Nazis out!” as they held up their middle fingers. It was great to see people of all ages were participating in these actions. However, when speaking of demographics, I was surprised to not see many Muslims protesting. I would argue that majority of the demonstrators were white, 20-30 years of age, and German. There were of course Muslims in attendance; I simply figured there would have been more.
I noticed several people that were dressed in all black and had sunglasses and a bandana or something that was covering their face. The closer I paid attention I noticed that these individuals were throwing eggs at police and the PEGIDA demonstrators. I saw a couple bottles here and there hurled over the first line of police also. Throughout all of this, the police didn’t even really attempt to disrupt this or have it come to a halt. I did hear the police announce something on a loud speaker of some sort though. I asked my friend who speaks a bit of German what they said; he responded that they said demonstrators should stop throwing objects. From this demonstration, that I considered peaceful, I was also pleased to see that Anti-PEGIDA demonstrators seemed to have a fair level of discontent with the police as well as with PEGIDA. The dissent towards the police was significant.
I noticed many interesting new tactics that I had not come across at other protests. Another that I did not discuss above, which I found to be useful, was how demonstrators used their banners. I noticed how they implemented the use of these banners when I saw some young protestors, probably 15-18 years of age, holding a banner that said “Stop Police Violence – Solidarity with Ferguson”. They strategically held the banner right in front of the police who were observing the demonstrators from behind. This had two purposes: it sent a message to the police while successfully impeding their view in order for their comrades to successfully demonstrate in whatever way they wanted. Whether it is peacefully or “violently” (throwing objects at police and Nazis). This to me showed solidarity between demonstrators. Some may be for peaceful protest and some may be for a more militant approach. But either way they are for the same cause, and the peaceful protestors, rather then condemning militant protestors, aided in their actions. As an anarchist, I think that diversity of tactics is of significant importance in successfully creating a mass movement, and in the long run, a successful revolution led by the people. At that point, that was one the first times I noticed what I would consider true solidarity amongst activists. This allowed for the diversity of tactics to take place. Obviously on a micro level, but tactics were diverse, nonetheless.
As the Nazis left, the demonstrators dispersed. However, a group of maybe 50 people began to march yelling a chant that had ANTIFA amongst some other lyrics while holding a banner that read, “PEGIDA will not work! For unlimited solidarity against racism!”
I was eager to attend another demonstration. The following week I unfortunately couldn’t make it. But two weeks from the first one I attended, I went back. Everything this week was the same as the last. The only difference that I really noticed was that the PEGIDA demonstrators group had slightly grown while the ANTIFA side had slightly dwindled.
This time around, I had nothing to do after and decided to hang around for a bit longer afterwards. At the end of the demonstration PEGIDA swiftly move to the underground train with police protection. ANTIFA is on the other side and can access the same underground train from another entrance. As people see PEGIDA leaving, Anti-PEGIDA quickly attempted to get to where they are going before the police block it off. I meandered my way over to the train station, due to it being where I needed to go and because that’s where everyone seemed to be gathering. I noticed tension rising. People were yelling at the police. The bit of German that I can understand helped me understand that they were calling the police fascist pigs and other things along the lines of that. I ended up, unintentionally but happily, right where the most agitated demonstrators were. They were nose to nose with the police, aggressively yelling at them. It seemed as though there might have been some scuffles breaking out between police and ANTIFA.
I noticed a gate closing between police and protestors and then I saw the crowd kind of getting pushed back. A couple people came out of the crowd, holding their faces. I thought they tear gassed the area so I backed up a bit. This is when I think things got quite a bit more hectic.
We were standing right where everyone just got maced, which was below street level but one stair case flight above where the police were blocking us from going. There was a significant number of police and they seemed to move in large groups. They were everywhere. So they were still on the street level above us as well. There was quite a bit of commotion at this point. From body language people seemed to be yelling at a few police that ended up by themselves, questioning why they were maced. I was happy to see police surrounded and not comfortable, just how they make me feel every time I encounter them.
Not long after the first people got maced, maybe 30 seconds to 1 minute, I heard all of our comrades above us yelling “Achtung! Achtung!” which its literal translation is Warning – essentially telling us watch out. Luckily this language is used on the soccer pitch as well, so I knew what it meant. I immediately turned around and saw a number of police officers quickly coming down the stairs from behind all of the protestors – with their helmets on, masks down, shields up and batons out. They were ready and meant business. Me, being from the United States, quickly said to myself that I should get out of there quickly. So I got my friends attention and told him we should back up a bit. We quickly scurried up half of the stairs to maintain a bit of distance and observe. I then realized that the demonstrators had power, and were able to fight back and show the state that they meant business just as much as the police did. The protestors did not wavier and had no fear of the police, it seemed that the police had more fear of the people then the other way around. As I have always said, “there are more of us then there are them, we should use this to our advantage”, these demonstrators indeed used their numbers to their advantage.
I noticed that the people had power when I saw police in fear of their life rather than the people fearing them. A man who was maced began to argue with the police and a crowed was soon attracted to this altercation. There were at least ten activists surrounding the police and they were yelling at them in an aggressive manner. Keep in mind that no violence took place until the two police began swinging their batons aimlessly at the individuals surrounding them. Even when this happened only one person kicked towards the police. Due to my lack of German, I couldn’t understand what they were yelling, but it seemed as though one was yelling for them to hit him again. More activist became drawn to this and they began encroaching on the police, breaking barriers that us Americans could never break with our law enforcement in the States. The police never drew their lethal weapons, in fact, they started moving backwards, and they eventually started running from the crowed that chased them out of the area we were occupying.
I have seen pictures and film of demonstrators squaring off with the police, however, I have never seen it in action. I simply cannot fathom how 5 police officers in L.A. cannot apprehend one man harmlessly, to the point where they rob someone of their life. While these police are in a situation where they are possibly in danger and they simply retreat. Either they are under direct orders to not ever use their firearm unless one is pointed at them, or life is more valued here. Either way, there is a resounding difference in the number of lives that have been taken at the hands of the police in Germany versus the United States. According to globalresearch.ca, United States cops kill at 100 times the rate of other western capitalist countries. In 2011 there was a reported 404 homicides committed by the United States police – however, as many know, these are only the number of reported murders – therefore, this number is likely manipulated for the interest of the elite in order to refrain from the legitimacy crises at hand. According to KilledByPolice there was likely over 1,000 lives that cease to exist due to those who supposedly protect and serve us. In the same year, there were a grand total of six individuals killed by the police in Germany. This is in a country where one is unable to neglect that it also has white supremacist undertones and large amounts of oppressed minorities. Although Germany is much smaller than cop killer amerikkka, according to studies conducted by globalresearch.ca, the United States police were 40 times more likely to kill than German police in 2011.
So what is it with U.S. police and their fetish with murdering and ripping away lives from loved ones too soon? The United States has created this image, and fooled everyone that resides within its borders, that it is the freest country in the world. But are we free when protesting is considered petty terrorism to our government? When we are savages when black rage is expressed in any manner? Are we free when the state is legally lynching us? Of course not, and due to global capitalism, realistically no one is “free”. However, the United States seems to have mastered its state repression, to the point that the individuals vehemently argue that their nation is the best even though it incarcerates and kills more of its civilians than any other developed core country. As citizens of the U.S. our state doesn’t simply repress us. The state has ideologically raped its citizens since birth so that if there is any form of dissent we are also repressed by mainstream society.
What I gathered from demonstrating here, and witnessing police in action, is that repressive state apparatuses in Germany do not rule with such vicious violence as promptly. The German state’s monopoly over the “legitimate” use of violence still exists; however, it doesn’t as frequently include lethal force unlike in the United States. Ideally, worldwide the statement that ‘Arbeiter Zeitung’ made on the 11th of March in 1885 is still relevant today: “The community will soon have to decide whether to be or not to be; either the police must be and the community can not be, or the community must be and the police cannot be; one only of the two is possible.”
Agitate. Educate. Organize. Working class solidarity world wide, all power to the people!