March for Freedom Pt. III
We are back in Germany. Still no freedom in sight, although we all can now paint the word in eight languages. We’ve had a sexism workshop without men, one or two young boys going crazy, plenty of useless meetings, some useful demonstrations. Some people from a lager outside Saabrücken joined us. The place is called Lembach. It’s an emergency shelter (“Zast”) but many people live here for ten years or more.
Maybe the German officials think, refugees feel more comfortable in a place that looks like a war zone. The buildings look very much like the Macrorayon district in Kabul, Soviet buildings that hardly survived 20 years of bombardment by Jihadis.
Except for the immigration office, which is also on the compound, all buildings in the Lembach lager are falling apart. Often three families share one apartment. The three-floor barracks have no showers. The staircases have no windows and you see the naked bricks.
I usually say, our struggle is for equal rights, not for equal toilets. In Lembach, it’s about everything. Families in the Lager have many kids and few alternatives. The German police crash apartments in the middle of the night and deport families back to places like Kosovo, where they have to live on dumpsters. The refugees here live in pure terror. Don’t tell me this is peace.
Even though they have little children, even though they are under constant supervision, many refugees joined our delegation who drove out from Saarbrücken and came with us to the city to demonstrate for their rights. Just like our friends from the Roma prison near Strasbourg, they risk everything for demanding very little.
The kids from Lembach enjoyed visiting our camp in a public park. Our demos are well rehearsed; our marching band, our dancers, our outfits convince people before they even know what we demand. Refugees join the march slowly but steadily. The ones that are still here will probably stay till the end. Still our march is about 46% refugees to 54% supporters – not counting the logistics team.
Our most important propaganda organs are not multilingual flyers (always hurts me to think of the costs to finances and forests), but convinced refugees. The demos in the small towns, the thumbs up from open windows, the dancing grandmothers, the surprised people in the lagers, even the awkward provincial journalists motivate our marchers. It’s no use begging our friends in Berlin to round up anyone they can find in the park and drive them to our show. If we make a good march, people will come by themselves.
I’m not so happy with the mentality behind our action. One refugee asked me, why we take so much trouble to march by foot. I don’t know myself, but I feel the daily practice improving our communication. But the people in the lagers usually have other problems. The most frequent questions are: “How do I get out of here?” “How do I get a work permit?” Long walks in the fields are nice, but there are no people near Lembach to pressure the authorities and document their crimes.
In Germany I feel more tension between the citizens and our group. For one, this is because so many student activists joined our group. Our most important contribution to the welfare of the German worker is to shout “No nation, no border.” While we imagine refugees to be global society’s most oppressed revolutionary section, we are worlds apart from the realities of our own neighbors.
The outskirts of Saarbrücken, former mining towns, are shabbier than anything I’ve seen in East Germany. The only buildings showing any sign of investment are brothels. Businesses like “Balkan Exotic” or “FKK 214” have a steady flow of customers from France, where prostitution is semi-illegal and minimum wages are high. Just like I at 28 for the first time see the slums of my own country, some of our refugee friends never saw the bad sides of their countries unless their cars broke down.
Of course these poor Germans will say: “Why should we care about them, if they don’t care about us.” Supporters, knowing the guts of German society, should feel responsible not to increase the division between Germans and refugees. Most of our refugee friends want to live peacefully with their neighbors, even if they are greasy hooligans. Refugees are not our tools. If we are serious about inciting revolutions, we have to tell people what’s in it for them. If all we can offer is sex under trees and vegan food, we’re not a movement, but a circus.
I saw a strange scene in a village near Saarbrücken. Our march group shouted a Taksim slogan when passing a Turkish family in a driveway. Next to them was a sleazy German pub called “Oskar’s”. The Turkish people clapped. A huge, tattooed German in the door of the pub asked what we were shouting. The Turkish dad said, overjoyed: “Those are my brothers!” Then someone out of the dark pub yelled something like: “We don’t understand what you’re saying!” The big German turned around reflexively to hush him up. At least they don’t want their neighbors to think they’re racists. But what do I know about Turkish workers and German bikers?
The internal discourse in the German supporter group is always: “Oh, the next village is a real Nazi nest!” “We bought some peppers pray, in case Nazis attack.” “Those guys drinking beer a hundred meters from our camp looked really strange, better organize a security shift, in case they’re Nazis!” “That granny who stared really weird and dropped her garden shovel when we walked past was probably a Nazi.”
So far, the only attacks on our movement with deadly weapons came from refugees or from other Ausländers. But then the hobby psychologists of our movement are always ready to attest some sort of trauma or mental blackout. I’m not really interested why someone becomes a Nazi or a killer or a capitalist, by accident, by purpose, whatever. I can’t judge anyone, because I’m worse. I want the campaign to be effective. I want that the people who take part don’t feel like they’re wasting their time – me included…
The German police are relaxed. I did not see riot cops at any of our demos, only regular officers. Our march is accompanied by two cars, like in France. There was a small discussion, because the German police stopped our march at every intersection to let the traffic through. In France they did it the other way around: They blocked traffic to let the march pass. I guess it’s just the method they’re taught at police school. Not surprising that Germans value traffic rules over civil rights.
After some arguing, the responsible officer gave in. Now the cops block traffic for us. Still, I think it’s not useful to play power games with the police, like do we walk on the sidewalk or on the traffic lane. We are not pubescent boys discovering the veins in their biceps, but a self-confident movement with a righteous cause. Therefore our sympathizers forgive small breaches of etiquette.
In Völklingen, our stop after Saarbrücken, we happened to walk past a “clearing house” for unaccompanied minors. Because international law forbids deportation of kids without their parents – not together with their parents – Germany puts them in special foster homes. The one in Völklingen is run by the Protestant charity organization Diakonie, a Frankenstein monster of state, church and private business. A few of us went over and talked to the kids. The rest shouted slogans from the other side of the street. The employees were friendly, even though the single police guy on site tried to hush us away. A giant, who said he was the gardener but looked like the bouncer of a rock club, came out and gave us veggie patties.
It calms me that we are gaining routine. Our group reacts more intelligently to stressful situations than a random gathering. Also there’s respect within the group. So far nothing has been stolen. There is no regular vandalism against toilets or tents. No trash stays on the floor when we move camp. People pack their things quickly. Food is always ready and people eat what is served. So even if the march can be tedious, I think we will have a small but very dynamic group in the end.