UPDATE: on 31 July 2012 Frankfurt’s Lord Mayor (Oberbuergermeister) Peter Feldmann (SPD) granted cautious support to the aims of the Occupy Camp insofar as these were about initiating a dialogue about the financial system. This effectively amounts to granting a stay of execution on any eviction, pending the outcome of legal appeals against the decision of Public Order Councillor Frank to refuse renewal of the existing protest “license”. The Occupistas have sensibly announced a vigil for the Camp tonight, in case the security forces nevertheless attempt clearance.
The local media channel – Hessischer Rundfunk 1 – has helpfully produced this 360° portrait of the camp, for those who wish to visit it virtually.
Yesterday, 28 July, up to 600 people collected in central Frankfurt to demonstrate against the imminent eviction of the Occupy camp sited at the foot of the European Central Bank’s Eurotower. Despite stormy showers, they declared the opposition to the “European Union’s policy of impoverishment,” against the excesses of large international banks, and against speculation with food. But above all they stood up for the freedom of their own protest.
Speakers such as the leftist member of parliament Ulrich Wilken, Alexis Passadakis of Attac and Gregory Böckermann of the Ordensleuten für den Frieden, criticised the decision of Councillor for Public Order, Markus Frank (CDU), that it was no longer acceptable to renew the camp’s registration as a “legal” protest. Böckermann accused Frank of pursuing “racist agitation” when he described the presence of Roma families and other non-activists at the camp as a social problem. The camp was an important symbol of protest against “inhuman capitalism.” It is not for a city council, any more than anyone else, to determine who has and who has not the right to protest.
Councillor Frank said a week ago that the camp had to be scaled down by 31 July, otherwise it will be cleared by the police. As justification, the City Council pointed to “sanitary and social problems” in the camp, where they claimed there had increasingly gathered alcoholics and drug addicts as well as Roma and the homeless. There were “barely political activists” to be found. The protesters disagreed with this position and announced on Saturday, if necessary, to protest further without tents. However, the camp was a symbol of great significance.
For those who do not know Frankfurt, it is evident that Frank is firstly confounding two issues in order to bureaucratically delete the protest camp. The site of the camp on the Gallusanlage green space by Willy-Brandt Platz all but divides Frankfurt’s financial district from the Station-quarter, infamous as the principal red light district and a place where drug use is tolerated. The proximity, as we have noted before, is not accidental. During the late 80’s Frankfurt was known throughout Germany as suffering from a New York style public drug problem, with the green spaces of the financial district being a notable locale for open heroin use. And, like New York, a zero tolerance policy was introduced which amounted to corralling drug users in the station quarter. Yet already with the 2008 Crunch, increasing economic suffering was swelling the streets around the station, and users, as well as bankrupted bankers and the homeless, returned to these green spaces. This had nothing to do with the protest camp established 9 months ago. If anything, the protesters offered social support, legal advice, and purpose to those who wished to join the cause. But more than this, how can Frank argue that certain classes of people – and here the Roma seem to be singled out in the news media – are a priori incapable of participating in a protest? Frank’s second thesis of no little unoriginality seems to be that only white university students can qualify as proper protesters, and that if he can’t see person of a certain profile in the protest camp, it follows that there are “barely any political activists.”
Wilken, like other speakers addressed the new Frankfurt mayor directly. It was unacceptable that Peter Feldmann (SPD) should remain persistently silent, Wilken said. “With the planned eviction the City Council once again is unconstitutional as with its prohibition of protest during the Blockupy-days of action. I asked the Mayor to reassert the Constitution in Frankfurt,” said Wilken. Feldmann had to use his authority to extract these matters from Frank’s control and take these matters into his own hands. To the extent Feldmann has spoken, he has stated that if Occupy cannot be, it must take the opportunity to refound itself anew.