Right to a pleasant shopping experience trumps right to demonstrate

The Paulskirche in Frankfurt stands in the shadow of the banking district

The Blockupy Alliance have indicated their intention to appeal the decision of the Frankfurt Administrative Court yesterday in which but for two exceptions the total ban on protest declared by the Frankfurt authorities for 16–19 May was upheld.

“If you read the court’s decisions, you will notice that the court only relies on the assertions and danger forecasts of the city and the police. The significance of the fundamental right to free assembly is not valued – in contrast to the fundamental rights of the freedom of profession and property”, says Martin Behrsing from Blockupy.

Frankfurt’s well-known newspaper the Frankfurter Rundschau even went so far as to express disbelief that the right to a pleasant shopping experience and a quiet coffee were being used as the basis to overturn the German Constitution. It should not be surprised, however. The Frankfurt authorities’ belief that consumerism is a right, and that “violence” covers any attempt to restrict the flow of capital, is part of a global trend in which capital as such is being granted rights analagous to those fought for by humans.

Readers of this blog will be aware of Ferrando’s discussion of the Abaclat Legacy, in which an arbitral tribunal held that the rights of bond investors were to be treated as peremptory norms of international law. Securities agreements are themselves just one example of how the legal structures and customs of finance-friendly jurisdictions are raised to a lex mercatoria before insinuating themselves across jurisdictions in every part of th globe. Likewise, the EU has its own concept of free movement of capital – literally a right of refuge from social demands such as democratically determined taxation regimes. Indeed, the most egregious example of this trend has been the recognition of capital’s right to self-determination, that is, the right to install its own technocratic governments in Greece and Italy when humans made “inappropriate” choices. Naturally this movement must be seen in the long arc of material history – not least taking into account the eternal personality capital may obtain qua corporation, and thereby allowing it to type into properly personal rights such as the right to property – but recent lurches towards a fuller mode of directly authoritarian capitalism have required greater audacity.

Against this background “…the court has stopped the attempt to prevent any kind of democratic protest in Frankfurt and to revoke the fundamental right to free assembly”, Roland Suess from Blockupy said. “However, we not only want to protest at the demonstration on Saturday, we want to present our critique of the policies of impoverishment across Europe to the public where it is visible, with diverse actions and a fantastic programme.” The ban affects numerous rallies, gatherings, assemblies, and pickets with an extensive artistic and political programme that includes more than 70 panel discussions, workshops, readings, exhibitions and concerts – for instance with the German singer-songwriter Konstantin Wecker.

The court also confirmed the eviction of the Occupy camp decreed by the city for the duration of the action days. The Blockupy alliance again calls on all people from Frankfurt to join the camp on Tuesday evening and to support the passive resistance of the Occupy activists against a possible eviction by the police. Christoph Kleine from Blockupy says: “And we call on all participants of the protest to join the rally of the Committee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy on Thursday at 12pm at Paulsplatz for the fundamental right to freedom of assembly.” Paulsplatz is the traditional site of protest in Frankfurt am Main because it connects the town hall on the Roemerberg to the Paulskirche. It is this church which is perhaps one of the most significant sites in German democratic history for it was here that the first publicly freely elected assembly sat during the days of the 1848 revolutions. It was thus here that the newly constituted Federal Republic returned in 1949 to locate for itself a symbol of democracy and constitutionality in Germany after the dark years of authoritarianism. The choice of Paulsplatz as a site of protest against pre-emptory bans on protest as such is as apt as it is shockingly necessary.

This morning (15 May) the next instance court, based in Kassel in northern Hesse, acknowledged that it had received an application for appeal from at least one affected party: Die Linke in Frankfurt. In the meantime the police have closed off much of the open spaces in and around the banking district centred on Willy-Brandt Platz and have formed a ring around the Occupy camp there. The Occupy movement, who had said they were willing to negotiate with the authorities for a temporary suspension of their protest, have now stated that in the face of authoritarian and unconstitutional measures by the Frankfurt governors, they will passively resist all attempts to move them.

UPDATE 17:10 CET: The head of Hesse’s police union has meanwhile indirectly criticised the Frankfurt authorities’ handling of the Blockupy court cases. Heini Schmitt, based in Darmstadt, said that “we would have very much welcomed it if the Administrative Court had allowed a total ban to remain in place”. The subtext of this being that the generality of the restriction of the right to demonstrate, which the Frankfurt court has done its best to maintain while allowing certain special exceptions, has now led to a scenario in which the polcie forces must deal with a patchwork of different rules and permissions being in place across Frankfurt. Schmitt implied that this makes policing far more complicated and claims for constitutional wrongdoing far more likely, than if the total ban had remained in place.

As if to emphasise the complexity of the operation, the police are making clear that there will be 5,000 officers in place in Frankfurt, policing up to 40,000 demonstrators from across Europe, of whom they claim up to 2,000 are “ready for violence”. It is unclear whether they count such bloodthirsty militants as the Marburg Humanist Society or the Young Greens Frankfurt Branch among that latter number.

 

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