As debate spilled over into a shouting match in the Hessian State Parliament concerning the effective ban of Blockupy protests this 16-19 May in Frankfurt am Main, the administrative decision that effected this ban has come to light. The key finding being that:
The blockade action cannot be assessed as peaceful. To make blockades and hinder traffic with the goal of closing down the entire financial district and the everyday life of the metropolis, has to be defined as violence.1Decision of the Administrative Clerk, p.12, emphasis added.
The decision continues:
Furthermore, in order that “European legal obligations” be guaranteed, the European Central Bank “must be functional, especially in times of financial crisis around the clock”. This includes things like “the operation of large-value payment system TARGET2”.2Ibid.
So in effect, a civil disobedience directed against the Eurozone’s financial authorities cannot take place because the obligation of the Frankfurt government to support the operation of the Euro-system overrides the right of European protesters to assemble and demonstrate against that very operation. Yet as Rosa Luxemburg once said, Freedom is always the freedom of the one who thinks differently (Freiheit ist immer Freiheit der Andersdenkenden).
During yesterday’s (9 May) debate in the Hessian State Parliament, State Interior Minister Boris Rhein lent his support to the Frankfurt authorities , claiming that he was in receipt of police “information” which proved that violence was to be expected. Unsurprisingly the nature of this “information” was not forthcoming, though given that the definition of “violence” is now considered as wide as UK Powys Police’s definition of “internal terrorist” (effectively anyone who demonstrates), his argument, even if accepted, rests on the shakiest logical foundations.
Rhein’s position would benefit from a little Byzantine background. A known CDU career politician and outrider on the right, Rhein was this year parachuted into the candidacy for the supposed dead-cert CDU position as Mayor of Frankfurt. In fact, despite a huge media campaign, the populace revolted against the man and his policies and installed Peter Feldman, an unknown whose experience was limited to organising residents’ committees in the highrise landscape of Frankfurt’s outer Bonames district, a man who stood on an unashamed socialist ticket. As if to echo this change in the political consciousness, when Left Party (Die Linke) delegate to the Hessian State Parliament, Willi Van Ooyen, began a passionate defence of Blockupy in Wiesbaden, an unidentified CDU member shouted “Oh, Marx would be very proud of you!”. Van Ooyen calmly responded: “I would like to think so, yes”.
Rhein’s support for the “Government of Frankfurt” is itself controversial. Frankfurt is currently ruled by a CDU-Greens coalition with a titular SPD mayor. When Frankfurt councillor Markus Frank approved the ban of Blockupy actions, however, he conveniently omitted to inform his coalition partners in the Green Party, who yesterday cried foul and signed a resolution of opposition (see yesterday’s blogpost infra). One should be careful with such protestations from the Bo-Bos, however. In neighbouring North-Rhine Westphalia where there are upcoming elections, the Green Party’s leaders have stated yesterday evening that the Greens “are no longer a party of protest“.
Yet it is not simply temporal laws which the Frankfurt authorities are bringing to bear against Blockupy. Indeed, spiritual laws have also been cited as the reason for banning a proposed “rave” for young demonstrators during the weekend. The weekend 16-19 May is Ascension Weekend (Himmelsfahrt) and the Church requires that public peace reign on these solemn days; in particular, there is a general ban on dancing.
Those who know Southern Germany’s peculiarities may well be aware that the Tanzverbot (Dance-ban) on holy days has been a major bone of contention for years, with young people reeling (pun intended) at the idea that non-Christians should be required to modify their behaviour, and cease to have fun, on days such as Good Friday. This is no idle anachronism; nightclubs have been shut down, licences withdrawn, even in parts of Frankfurt devoted solely to industrial warehousing. A number of cases have been brought to state constitutional courts which have approved particular dances, and demonstration dances have taken place with varying success. The lack of final legal clarity on this issue has allowed the authorities to add another legal debate to the various weapons arrayed against Blockupy.
So will Order reign in this German city? To return to Rosa once again:
‘Order reigns in Berlin!’ You stupid henchmen! Your ‘order’ is built on sand.
- 1Decision of the Administrative Clerk, p.12, emphasis added.