Stonewall against Refugees – Residents Force City of Munich

Munich citizens and refugees cheer as the hard journey finds an end.
Refugees arriving at Munich Central Station.

More then one year ago the city of Munich presented itself to the world as a harbor for stranded refugees. Angela Merkel asked Hungarian and Austrian politicians to let through asylum seekers desperately looking forward to a better future. Those who fled were warmly welcomed by Munich citizens. One year later though in November Munich citizen’s once again show how they like refugees to be treated. Six neighboring parties filed a law suit against the city of Munich forcing a ‚noise-protection-wall‘ to be built to protect themselves from refugees that are supposed to move in next door.

Wall against refugee shelter in Munich
Construction worker looks through one of the holes in the wall.

The first snow has fallen in Munich. Refugee Struggle for Freedom activists were evicted on November 5th. A picture shows up on Munich regional newspapers: A wall. Snow is falling in front of it. Angry neighbors have forced the city to build a wall between them and a future refugee shelter. The neighbors pretend that this is just a ‘noise protection wall’. The wall is four meters of height, built out of metal cages with filled with small stones. The last pieces still have to be put together. Small holes are left to look through. Between the next houses and future refugee shelter there is an old train track covered up by bushes und trees. Whilst documenting the wall two camera teams showed up. Their interview partner: One of the six neighbors filing the law suit. Stefan Reich, judge at the  Landesgericht – state’s supreme court. Explaining widely that this has nothing to do with racism and that he just wants that it stays as peaceful as it is when ‚they‘ arrive. 

The housing units are almost finished. First unaccompanied minor refugees are supposed to move in this week. The wall has been hit by spraypainting. One can hardly read what it says. Construction workers have covered it with euro-pallets. 

Eviction of hunger strike refugee camp at Sendlinger Tor in Munich
The wall was hit by spraypainters. The Graffito was hidden by the construction workers.

 According to pictures published by newspaper Abendzeitung the Graffito says: ‘RASSISMUS PUR’. In the area around the future wall racist and far-right stickers of the Identitarian movement can be found. They start at the bus stop and lead into the neighborhood. 

Civil courage is needed to prevent that the already worldwide in newspapers reported about racist incident stays unanswered. Munich activists have filed an online petition against the wall.

Advertisements

Non-Citizen Protest at Sendlinger Tor in Munich

Following protests in the years of 2013 at Rindermarkt and 2014 at Sendlinger Tor (24mmjournalim reported), [and many other actions] non-citizens have gathered once again at Sendlinger Tor to protest against the situation for people asking for asylum in Germany. Approximately  70 refugees are protesting in downtown Munich right now. Munich’s far-right has shown up several times at the protest camp, held rallies and pegida has marched past the camp.

Protest Camp and Goals
sendltor-refugeestrike__13160910
“We are human beeings!”

Six pavillions, pallettes, an info-table, food, water, sleeping mats and bags. As one gets off the Tramway at Sendlinger Tor in the city center of Munich the protest camp can easily be spotted. Right next to the fountain, non-citizens try to deliver a message. “We are human beeings!” – as Adeel (one of movement’s speakers) also loudly stated at the spontaneous demonstration on Tuesday September 13th – gallery below. The camp  emerged out of a demonstration on September 7th – Thomas Bergmann reported. On the 7th day at Sendlinger Tor, Refugee Struggle for Freedom published a statement:

“Wir sind hier um Bleiberecht zu erlangen, in der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung zu sein, um mit Politiker*innen zu sprechen, Verbündete zu bekommen, sodass wir als große Masse auftreten können, um so die Asylgesetze zu verändern. …”

“We are here to gain the right to stay, to be in public perception, to talk to politicians, gain supporters, so we can rise to change asylum laws …” [roughly translated]

-Refugee Struggle for Freedom

Life at Sendlinger Tor
sendltor-refugeestrike__7160909
Pavillions are set up in the middle of the night.

Non-citizens and supporters of the movement work together to make Sendlinger Tor a place to hold a camp. Pavillions were set up in the middle of the first night. Food is delivered on a regular basis – cooked close to the camp. Supporters stay over night to help in case help is needed.  The – right now – turned off fountain has evolved to a place where people hang out, make music and hold meetings to discuss how protest should go on. “In general the situation is ok”, Adeel told me. Still goods are needed. Even on Saturday night – 24mmjournalism stayed to watch the situation and understand what spending the night at Sendlinger Tor means – there were still people without sleeping bags and mats. Some protestors sleep on the bare ground – only wrapped in banners and clothing. In case you want to support and find out what goods are needed right now – ask at the info-table in front of the camp. As there were heavy rainfalls during the time of the protest the camp has been made safe against bad weather. Further impressions from the camp at  night:

Munich’s far-right scene reacts
sendltor-refugeestrike__10160910
Michael Stürzenberger with ‘cameraman’ / DieFreiheit activist.

As expected Munich’s far-right and neonazi scene has reacted. On Saturday September 10th Michael Stürzenberger (failed local politician, Die Freiheit, pi-news) showed up and started filming in the middle of the camp with his “cameraman”. In a video published to his YouTube channel Stürzenberger states that he wanted to report as an unbiased journalist and got attacked by left-extremists as he wandered through the camp. Non-citizens and supporters seem to have reacted and expelled him from the demonstration. Also an article by him showed up on PI-News. The comments section of the article makes one shudder. Openly some users ask to do a “drive by and warmly remove the camp” – following words about molotov-cocktails. Those words seem especially dangerous, as refugee housings have been set on fire through the past year all over Germany. Below a collection of the worst, most racist and filled with hatred comments:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lukas Bals that has been in media reports recently for causing trouble at the AfD election party, as well as Robert Andreasch’s talk at the Eine-Welt-Haus, was also spotted close to the camp according to eyewhitnesses. A gardener watering the plants poured water over sleeping bags as reported by Refugee Struggle for Freedom on Twitter:

 On Monday night after the local PEGIDA branch marched 13 well-known participants of the racist rally showed up a Sendlinger Tor. Amongst them: Rolf H. known for violent attacks on journalists and Heinz Meyer, leader of the regional PEGIDA movement. On the next day convicted neonazi terrorist Karl-Heinz Statzberger and hooligan Petra K. showed up and handed out flyers with the headline “Asylflut Stoppen!”. The flyers are printed by neonazi-party “Der III. Weg”- Statzberger and K. are both affiliated with the party.

After all it can be mentioned: Racist resentments can be noticed on site – people walking by shake their heads and cuss at refugees. Neonazis show up at the rally and hand out flyers and far-right “journalists” walk through the camp to write articles which are later commented with call-ups for acts of violence and murder.

UPDATE

By now neo-nazis have gathered close to the camp  at Sendlinger Tor during heavy rainfalls. Local PEGIDA leader Heinz Meyer joined their protest. Gallery:

One day later PEGIDA marched passed the camp and will again on September 26.

The Struggle Continues

Although this all does not look like a good prospect, activists of Refugee Struggle for Freedom say they will not stop to fight until they gain the rights of basic human beings in Germany. Until their voices will be heard. This could clearly be felt at the spontaneous demonstration that was held on Tuesday night, as well as the demonstration through inner city Munich held some days later. Picture gallery:

The protest will continue – at least until Semptember 30th. The city has permitted the camp until that day. 24mmjournalism will continue to report about the protest and update this article

Demonstration in solidarity with refugees in Munich – bystanders provoke with hitler salute

Yesterday approximately 500 people gathered on Munich Odeonsplatz to demonstrate for refugees, and against the fortification of asylum laws that took effect as off yesterday. In the beginning several speeches where held – then the demonstration walked through inner-city Munich, also past Rindermarkt and Sendlinger Tor where refugee hunger strikes where held during the last years. Munich police forces walked up close to the demonstration from the beginning on. This tactic – “to prevent violence” – has not been used at PEGIDA during the whole last year – even though this would prevent attacks on journalists as they have been happening. The police officers kept watching the pro refugee demonstration which led to them missing a Hitler salute by a bystander next to the Marienplatz. As the same thing happened for a second time at Sendlinger Tor I was able to document this criminal offence. Beside these provocations the demonstration stayed peaceful.

My impressions:

PEGIDA Munich marches – board-member suspect in terror investigation – freedom of press restricted

Yesterday local newspaper Münchner Merkur published an article – with picture taken by me – reporting PEGIDA board-member and co-founder of PEGIDA Munich e.V. Heinz M. is suspect in a counter-terrorism investigation. Last night between 200 and 300 had come to demonstrate against the “islamisation” of Munich and refugees. Amongst PEGIDA demonstrators once again was the convicted neo-nazi terrorist Thomas Schatt, with him Ramazan S. – known from the turkish ultranationalist demonstration – and Petra K. that has attacked counter demonstrators before.

As the demonstration started police tried to keep pressphotographers out of the PEGIDA cage – to “not provoke” PEGIDA members. After some discussion and 15 minutes later colleagues and me were guided in, accompanied by police. Due to this fact I was not able to document the terror suspect Heinz M. that held a speech first also commenting on the investigations against him. As colleagues and I were standing by the crowd of racists, Thomas Schatt, Ramazan S. and Petra K. followed by some eager PEGIDA members kept walking up to us, getting very close, shouting at us and trying to convince police to kick us out of the PEGIDA cage. After some argueing police pushed back the pesterers. PEGIDA then started its march through the inner city of Munich – chanting: “Wir sind das Volk!”

The march through the city stayed relatively calm.

Back at Odeonsplatz absurd things happened:
As twittered by local politician Dominik Krause, a colleague got reported to police for supposedly hurting terror suspect Heinz M. by triggering his flash.

For weeks the situation for photographers at PEGIDA has been getting worse. Not being able to document from inside the cage how convicted neonazis stand in front of the historically charged Feldhernnhalle. Being attacked by PEGIDA members with flags and police telling to “not provoke” by taking pictures. Is this the end to freedom of press in Munich? Is it not possible for photographers to take pictures without being harassed and reported to police for triggering a flash due to the darkness?
My small set of pictures for last night:

Available as usual on Demotix – http://www.demotix.com/news/8726714/pegida-rally-munich-board-member-under-scrutiny

Protests against 25 Years of German Unity Ceremony – “Freedom” in Frankfurt

On the 3rd of October 2015 the unification of Eastern- and Western-Germany had 25th anniversary. This year the city of Frankfurt hosted a “citizens’ fair” at the riversides of the Main and in the inner city. A ceremony was held many politicians – as for example chancellor Merkel – attended. The motto of the day was “Grenzen überwinden!” [“Overcome borders!”]. Leftwing political groups mobilized against the citizens’ fair, as in their opinion there is no reason to celebrate Germany – especially as long as refugees are dying on their way to Europe and border fences exist. Equally their motto was “Grenzen Überwinden – Deutschland abschaffen!” [Overcome borders – abolish Germany!] – but talking about European borders:  http://grenzenueberwinden.de/

As announced protest on the 3rd of October was de-central and colorful.
(On the 2nd of October there was a demonstration in Frankfurt colleagues covered: http://www.beobachternews.de/2015/10/03/lautstarke-vorabenddemo/)

The citizens’ fair started off with speeches by politicians, inhabitants and members of the church. Then politicians arrived at the Alte Oper where the first protest action therefore took place. My colleagues and I wanted to cover the arriving politicians – so we had to go through a security check. As twittered we got bracelets saying “Freiheit” [“Freedom”] after we had to throw away our water and got scanned.

Inside the “Freedom-bracelet” area police would not let us pass after 30 meters. A very unfriendly press representative then came up to us, shouted at us for not being accredited and being ten minutes late for the on-site accreditation. So the day of “Freedom” started. We got kicked out of the “High-security-area”.

ffmtdde15_10032015_2

At the same time single groups of people where controlled for “looking like lefties” and from the video data of the demonstration the night before. Police forces had portrait pictures of every participant of the demonstration on their smartphones and banned those from the citizens’ fair. This continued all day.

Just then first creative protestors arrived. A group clothed in fur coat and military uniforms holding up signs asking for an expansion of Germany, higher border fences and less taxes for the rich marched towards the “high-security-area” playing “The Internationale” in german. Riot police forces immediately walked up to them and kept them from getting closer. Impressions of the group:

Minutes later protestors with pink umbrellas, a transparent saying “Nie wieder Deutschland!” arrived at the Alte Oper and threw confetti and flyers at people trying to get to the security area closer to the politicians. Riot police immediately stepped up to keep them from getting closer:

The next protest action was supposed to take place at the river Main. Protestors spilled bad smelling fluid in front of the information booth of the police Frankfurt and handed out flyers explaining the reasons for protest against the citizens’ fair. Riot police surrounded about 40 activists and took them in custody after one hour of standing around.

Meanwhile at the Rossmarkt police kept controlling people that “look like lefties”. My colleagues and me got held back and checked on. Right next to the area the government set up tents  explaining their work and also hosting a ceremony – that was later loudly disturbed – two young men of whom one was only sixteen years old were handcuffed by police forces and got searched:

I talked to the men, the reason was once again they looked suspicious and were not happy about police controlling them.

Minutes later in the tent of the Bundesrat a loud, colorful and creative action started. Activists entered a tent – a ceremony was held in – and got pushed out just minutes later by riot police forces. Impressions:

Amongst the “BFE” – Hesse riot police – officers was one carrying a “less lethal” weapon: http://www.heckler-koch.com/de/produkte/militaer/40-mm-systeme/hk169/hk169/produktbeschreibung.html
I have seen officers of the BFE Hesse carrying this for several times – officers got very aggressive as soon as I tried to document the weapon before. At the G7 I was told for example: “If you take a picture now your freedom of press ends here.” [roughly translated]. At W-OW in Frankfurt a colleague was pushed over by officers as he was taking a picture of the multifunctional weapon.

Just half an hour later protestors wrapped themselves in plastic and attached posters to themselves. As police pushed them away they used duck tape that was printed on to show their protest:

During the late after noon two more “attacks” with smelly fluid were conducted. One on the information booth of the police Frankfurt again and one on the tent of the federal government. The tent had to be closed for an hour and the carpet had to be exchanged.

Parallel to all of this the party “Die Partei” held a demonstration that stayed completely calm and two concerts.

All in all protest was peaceful – just Frankfurt police forces showed how “Freedom” looks like: Scanning demonstrators and supplying all officers with portraits and banning them from a fair for intentionally all citizens, filming journalists just because they missed to accredit, officers with body cameras and snipers on roofs.

All pictures available for licensure as usual.

Refugees await in camp at the German-Austrian border to cross over

On Sunday a colleague and me visited the Austrian-German border near the town of Freilassing to document the situation of refugees here. As we arrived at the train-station of Freilassing – the first station after the Austrian-German border we found it almost completely empty. Some volunteers were waiting, prepared for the next refugees to arrive. Some policemen were searching a group of 5 young refugees that managed to cross the border and end up at the train-station. The border is walking distance from the train station – so we hiked there. From quite a distance we were able to see police controls similar as we experienced at the G7 summit last summer. Policemen and women were stopping trucks, looking into busses and controlling “suspicious” drivers. On the other side of the bridge the humanitarian situation seemed critical to me. Refugees await to cross the bridge. People sleep on the floor and in tents. Volunteers try to make the situation easier for refugees, hand out food, clothing and help with translations. Children played hockey when we were there while the Austrian military watches. Every now and then when another group is controlled by German police forces, movement starts and people gather on the bridge to be let through. Compared to pictures I have seen from a week ago the situation already got better – but still people are sleeping on the floor in horrible sanitarian conditions just because the German government decided to reinstate border controls and stop the train services to and from Austria.

My impressions from yesterday afternoon in Freilassing:

You can find an excerpt on GettyImages for licensure and the full story on Demotix.

Accepted refugees & homeless housed in old concentration camp Dachau buildings

Located approximately a 10 minute walk from the main entrance of the memorial site of the old nazi concentration camp Dachau lays a building that is often forgotten – but used to be part of concentration camp Dachau. In the so called “plantation” inmates of Dachau where forced to grow herbs and vegetables that were later sold to citizens of the village. Inmates where randomly shot as they “tried to flee”. Himmler himself had large interest in the plantation. For more information: https://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/vicinity_plantation.html


In 2015 the city of Dachau decided to use the old concentration camp buildings to house accepted refugees and homeless. Yesterday after work, I went there to document the controversial housing area and talk to people there.

A little excerpt from what I experienced – that made me leave quite in a mood:

Driving to the “plantation” you pass the memorial site of concentration camp Dachau. One passes by old watchtowers and the wall with rusted bob-wire on top. The area around the concentration camp makes me depressed and reminds me off our duty to prevent anything like the holocaust from happening again. Just after the wall ends on the right hand side you see the “plantation”.
I parked my car and started walking around to look at the buildings. As I approached the front door of the housing area I saw children running around – besides from that a group of 3-4 people were standing in front of the old office buildings. SS soldiers used this area for “office-duties”. As I wanted to take a picture of the situation a woman stepped up to me to let me know that she does not want her children to be photographed. So I asked the group standing by the front door if there were any refugees amongst them, how they experience the housing and just some small talk to get into contact.
All inhabitants denied that the area is home to asylum seeker – “just” homeless people. Then one of the homeless made a comment I still can not believe. We were talking about why it could be possibly interesting to document the area and why I find it controversial to house refugees in an area historically charged like this. He then stated: (roughly translated)

“… well I don’t see the problem. They should house refugees in the old concentration camp. Nobody is going to lock the door. There is so much empty space in there. They don’t have to be afraid – the ovens don’t work anymore…”

as he saw my shocked view he added

“…just kidding…”

So this was very devastating to me and I left off because I got quite angry and did not want to start a conflict.

After all there was no possibility for me to speak to refugees actually housed here, but I took pictures of the housing area:

For more information about refugees housed in the old KZ building, read this article: http://www.deutschlandradiokultur.de/fluechtlinge-in-dachau-wer-im-glashaus-sitzt.2165.de.html?dram:article_id=327852