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Two Days in a Forbidden City

Frankfurt, Germany.

It almost seemed as if the City of Frankfurt, Hessian Police and, after all, any court up to the Federal Constitutional Court (in German: Bundesverfassungsgericht, BverfG) went paranoid and hysterical all together and at once. What seems quite obviously as escalating scare tactics for justifying the prohibition of the Blockupy days of action against the crisis regime of the European Union, is in its absurdity hard to top. Yet, those massive constrictions of constitutional right had to be explained towards the public somehow. Creative expression of opinions far from predictable well-ordered  marches can be oh so threatening. Far more awkward state paranoia is merely possible. Shame on you, Frankfurt!

Frankfurt Blocks itself

And so Frankfurt got into this self-decreed state of emergency for several days: Complete closure of the financial district. Several tram lines running with restricted service, several subway stations closed. Furthermore, Frankfurt citizens are instructed not to leave any waste containers or bulky waste in free accessible areas at their doorsteps from Thursday till Monday. The Frankfurt University closes two of its campuses: Campus Bockenheim and Campus Westend. Bankers are advised by policy only to wear casual clothes. Many of them are working at home office, some are even said to have taken refuge in Mannheim (which is is about 90 km / 56 miles from Frankfurt).

Photo by Jens Volle. 

Parents are suggested to better keep their children at home and not to take them to kindergarten if it is located in the city centre. More than half of the many ritzy stores are barricaded with chipboard. Finding a simple still accessible ATM might take you ages. Explanatory statements varying between “We cannot completely exclude violent riots during the next days”, “there is a big event in the city centre” and “there is a construction site”, even if there actually isn’t any.

“Hey hey, Our Kettle is Much Nicer”

Already days before the Blockupy events more than 400 activists got a letter by the police declaring Frankfurt City as an exclusion zone for them. At least that did not withstand at court. But before we got on our way from Stuttgart, we heard from police checks along the motorways around the city and apparently randomly spoken police bans. Several buses from Berlin with anticipated activists had to turn around and were forced to drive back just a few kilometres before they reached their destination. Still we reached Frankfurt unmolested Friday morning, after already a few hundred activists got arrested there – at the end of the weekend, it is said to be around 1430 protesters who got into police detention.

Photo by Jens Volle. 

Even so there are many small blockades and spontaneous demonstrations by the remaining protesters. These get regularly and very quickly kettled by police. But just as quickly the protesters might form another kettle around the police themselves and another one inside the police kettle whilst chanting “hey hey, our kettle is much nicer” (http://ea-frankfurt.org/blockupy-pressemitteilungen-und-berichte-zu-den-blockupy-aktionstagen).  Apart from that, police convoys are driving around during the whole day, stopping in long rows from time to time and driving on after realising that there aren’t any protesters to get kettled.

Also, they obviously cannot refrain from some show driving of their water canons. An online Newspaper reports at some time usage of these, but I haven’t read any confirmation about it apart from that. In the students-house at Campus Bockenheim, where during daytime political discussions had taken place, it seems as if the situation could finally escalate when police surrounds almost the whole campus with their cars. But it’s just sabre-rattling: Apart from some identity checks on the street nothing else happens.

30 000 Demonstrators Against European Crisis Flood Frankfurt City 

At the mass rally on Saturday, which generously did not get prohibited, round 30 000 demonstrators get together, after all. Diversely coloured blocs, from autonomous antifa over the network association Attac, up to labour unions and political parties, all of them depicting the broad basis of the resistance against the European crisis politics. Many hundred Stuttgart21 opponents – a useless speculative real estate and railway project, from which only the 1% benefits – are also there. Hard to miss with their yellow signs and flags. Some of them tell me that the unjustified prohibitions just assured them even more to come to Frankfurt on that day.

Photo by Jens Volle. 

For five hours we are marching through the city. Followed by police cars in the parallel streets, police standing at almost every turn of the street we are walking and in front of diverse office tower blocks we are passing, dressed in full gear with grim faces. It is very hot today, especially whilst wearing helmets. Those who got identified by the police as the black bloc are surrounded by a moving police kettle during the whole rally. A police troop runs into the group repeatedly, someone lights firecrackers, but still everyone keeps quite calm. Then later, totally exhausted after this rally marathon, we are lying on the lawn next to the German Bank tower blocks, watching a group of demonstrators dancing and chanting with some Hare-Krishna monks. A nice place here for a protest camp, I think to myself.

Julia Von Staden is a sociologist and journalist, blogger and activist. 

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