I just came from shoplifting at Aldi and was on my way to check the dumpsters on Kottbusser Damm, when I saw two cop cars at the intersection just south of the bridge across the canal.
Two or three young Germans were watching from a few steps’ distance. By the buttons, hair and earrings, I read them as Antifas. A girl in her late teens, carrying a baby boy in front, wearing a long, flowery skirt, stood by the car. An older man in a business shirt, probably a local shopkeeper, was talking to the oldest policeman.
I asked the Antifas what was going on. They told me the shopkeeper accused the woman of stealing and had followed her on the subway, trying to search her handbag. She didn’t let him, so he had called the police. As the Antifas watched on, they murmured something about prejudice, reflexively, as if adding an obligatory gendering suffix.
These cops weren’t the firm-jawed thugs they usually send against us at demos. The man who interrogated the suspect looked like the type who’d pull his kids in a bike trailer. Two younger officers joined the gaggle: a boy with thick-rimmed glasses and a tall girl who looked like she grew up near a forest.
The oldest officer questioned the girl, while his colleague searched her bags in vain and looked at her passport. Trying to find a language any of the bystanders could translate, the cop asked her if she spoke any Turkish. The shopkeeper laughed demonstratively.
“Romanians and Turks are not the same people!”
“I know, but some people in the Southeastern Europe also speak Turkish”, the officer grouched back.
The girl explained in patchy but fluent German that she had just been begging with her friend, but that they had not been stealing. The friend must have deserted in the meantime. The shopkeeper demanded that she tell him were the friend was. The young police woman then told her that they had her on camera doing “zap zarap”, but the Romanian girl reaffirmed her innocence.
A younger man with an Arabic accent explained one of the Antifa bystanders that this was not the first time, and that they had offered to let the woman go without calling the police, if she returned the goods. The Antifa guy replied that the shopkeeper had followed the woman onto the train and physically forced her to get off, and that the accusers were acting on prejudice.
Still, the scene was relaxed. In this diverse atmosphere, nobody dared make any particularly stupid remarks. The police couldn’t do anything without evidence and the Antifas were eager for the German cops to drop their civil facade. Whether to call all cops “bastards” or “assholes” is eagerly debated in the emancipatory left scene. Subjectively, they’re fascists. Objectively, they’re proletarians, but those we like more as theoretical dicators than as people.
While I pondered the relationship of police to capital, an older woman, probably the shopkeeper’s wife, warmly asked the suspected thief to please not show up at their shop again and to tell her friend to do the same. The shopkeeper thanked the police for showing up and apologized for the inconvenience. “I wouldn’t have bothered you, but these young folks,” he referred to the Antifas, “feared that, since I’m an immigrant, I might turn violent against this other immigrant, and therefore it was better to call you.”
With this final swipe, the gathering disbanded. I wanted to advise the woman to steal at supermarket chains instead of owner-managed shops. No self-loathing Penny employee would chase you down the block, even if you moved out stuff by the shopping cart. But I said nothing, since I feared she might feel offended if I gave her shoplifting tips.