In 2012 the city of Frankfurt banned all actions, demos and even cultural events like concerts of the blockupy coalition that wanted to organize protests against austerity and capitalism in the financial heart of Europe: Frankfurt. In the end one demo was allowed after courts overruled the city of Frankfurt and could take place. In the months after the 2012 days of action several courts decided that the ban on most of the actions were unlawful. The wave of bans was a new weapon of the state against its own people that never was been used before on this large scale.
This year Blockupy Frankfurt started with a succesful first day of action on Friday May 31. More than two thousand people protested against austerity and capitalism with blockades at the European Central Bank (ECB), Deutsche Bank and actions against several other targets like for instance Frankfurt airport where deportations of refugees are being carried out. We finished the first day with a spontanious demonstration with more than 500 people to the Turkish consulate in Frankfurt in solidarity with our comrades in Turkey.
At June 1, we planned to march with thousands of people to the ECB in a big demonstration. In the weeks before there where several court cases because the regulatory authorities for gatherings of the city of Frankfurt was not willing to allow the route of the demonstration. All court cases where won by the Blockupy coalition and thus we thought we would march to ECB headquarters in Frankfurt.
At 11:00am people started to arrive at the starting point of the demonstration at Baseler Platz. A colourful mass of about 15.000 people from all over Europe. We started our march peacefully, only 2 or 3 little smoke-bombs with yellow and red smoke went off, but they were really harmless. After we marched about 200 meters suddenly cops in full riot gear started to escort the front of the demo on both sides. It was the beginning of the end of the demo which would never arrive at the ECB.
After 500 meters riot cops attacked the demo behind the first 3 lines and blocked the rest of the demo shortly before the demo would arrive at the part of the route that the city of Frankfurt had try to ban, but lost at the courts so there was no legal basis for them to block the demo. Immediately after that cops also came into the demo behind the first 1000 demonstrators of the anti-capitalistic block. This group was completley kettled now between several hundred cops and two high buildings. During their attack on the demonstration cops injured several people with clubs, punches, kicks and pepperspray.
It was the beginning of a long stand-off between the kettle, the cops and thousands of people behind the kettle. Again and again cops attacked the group behind the kettle and tried to push the thousands of people away from the kettle but they did not really succeed. Actually it was impossible to succeed because several thousand people didn’t even start with their march and were still at Baseler Platz as the cops started their attack.
Again and again people from the soundtruck asked the cops to retreat and to let us march which was allowed by the court. Negotiations between the organisers and the cops started. The cops said that people were masked (which is forbidden on demonstrations in Germany) with sunglasses and umbrellas. It was a sunny day, so that’s why a lot of people were wearing sunglasses and the day before it was raining all day and the weatherforecast said possible rainfall later in the day. There were maybe 10 people wearing the usual masks of the so called black bloc but that can’t be a reason to stop a demo of 15.000 people. Even not in Germany. Well at least we thought so. The only big group of people who was wearing masks were cops (pic).
At the front of the demo one of the people who was attacked by the cops was a journalist (pic). He was attacked with pepperspray and had severe breathing problems but it took about an hour before the cops were willing to let an ambulance take him to hospital. Because many of the journalists were in front of the demo taking pictures of the front banner as the cops attacked, more of them were injured. Soon the first 3 lines of the demo in front of the kettle were reinforced with 1000 others so the cops were now kettled as well.
At one point there seemed to be an agreement between the organizers and the cops. If all people would take off their masks, the demo could continue. The very few that were masked took their masks off. But the demo did not continue. Later we heard that it seemed that the minestery of interior did not approve the deal. At that moment we were kettled for about an hour. Again and again cops attacked the people behind the kettle with clubs and pepperspray. We could see it very well. We also heard the screaming of the people who got attacked.
Two of us were tweeting live from the kettle (read live tweets from saturday June 1, 2013 in English at https://twitter.com/enough14 or in German at https://twitter.com/Anon_Victory) and learned its not easy to stand in a chain to stay a compact and organised group and send live tweets from the kettle. Meanwhile negotiations were continuing but the cops simply didn’t want an agreement. The only thing they wanted was inacceptable: All people in the kettle had to go through a port one by one and would be searched and identified. There was a meeting of delegates of all different groups in the kettle and ofcourse they refused to accept. First: Why should we allow to be searched and identified just for taking part in a demonstration. Second: The demonstration would not take place after that anyway because it would take hours for the cops to do that with more than 1000 people in the kettle.
The atmosphere was still great in the kettle. People shouting slogans and sometimes even dancing. But still.. we were in a kind of open air prison without toilets, food and water. Activists build a provisional toilet for women with a banner to gave them at least some privacy. After a couple of hours and cops still didn’t provide anything, people who where working in the theater on the left side of the kettle started to give us bottles of water and food which was transported in buckets which were fixed on long cables (pic). Later they also provided toiletpaper and threw colourfull balloons out of the window. Much later cops provided two portable toilets for more than 1000 people. But that was all: no water or food from the cops.
After about 4 or 5 hours cops announced that they the part of the demo that was kettled would not be allowed to march again. The others could march on the route that the city of Frankfurt had proposed in the first place, far away from the ECB. But the thousands of people in front of the kettle and those behind the kettle vowed to stay where they are as long as the cops kettled the activists in between. A great sign of solidarity between all protesters. It wasn’t easy to stay in solidarity. Again and again cops attacked people inside the kettle but also in front of the kettle and behind it (pic). Always the same procedure: clubs, kicks, punches and pepperspray and a couple of times they grabbed activists out and arrested them. Cop violence also against old men and women and sometimes even small children. The youngest who got peppersprayed was two years old.
In this video you can see how cops are trying to push people back behind the kettle but these people had nowhere to go as thousands of people where standing behind them. The violent attack by cops risking a mass panic and therefore a stampede was ruthless and completly irresponsile.
Video of attacks against people behind the kettle (Castor TV)
After about 6 hours I had to go out of the chain of our compact and organised group. After the long day of action on Friday (We started on Friday at 5:00am in the morning and finished at 11:30pm in the night) I had become problems with my back and after hours of standing still in the kettle my back problems returned. V. came with me after we decided it was not good to be alone in this situation and with J. from our group who was also at the side of the street we were with the 3 of us.
From this point we had a much better view and could also see whats going on in front of the kettle and behind it. We observed how an old lady (about 65 years old) asked cops to let her out of the kettle but the cops did not allow her. We saw how a man who was about 50 years old discussed with cops and also asked cops to let him out. But they refused again. Not the typical black bloc activists. Actually the people inside the kettle were wearing black, blue, purple and clothes in all other colours you can imagine.
Cops now announced that they would start to grab people out of the kettle to search and identify them one by one. At the front of the kettle German and Italian members of parliament formed a line between the cops and the kettle to deescalate as it was clear that the people inside would not go voluntarily because they insisted on their right to demonstrate as ruled by the courts. But the cops didn’t care about the immunity of the members of parliament who were there as parlamentary observers. They were the first ones who where grabbed out of the kettle (pic and video).
Video: Line of members of parliament between cops and kettle
Now the cops attacked the front of the kettle again and again and even more heavy. The people inside the kettle were chained with their arms and were resisting but they were calm at the same time. Especially the Italian comrades were taking care of keeping the good spirit up, chanting, singing but resisting hard to make it difficult for the cops to grab them out. I love these men and women from Italy for that (and for other things as well 😉 .
From the soundtruck we received regular updates in German, English and Italian. The umsganze coalition organized the anti-capitalistic bloc and they did a great job (Thanks comrades!). They also made the cops clear that to grab all people out one by one would not be an easy job. From the soundtruck cops heard: “You didn’t think it would take so long, did you?”. But they also made very clear that it was very easy for the cops to put an end to the standoff. just retreat.. Especially the part of Italians that were the new front group as the people in front of them were all grabbed out now, were still putting up great resistance. Cops tried to push them all back but their first attempt did not succeed. The cops did not get one inch. The second attack was with a special group of cops and they went through the middle to get the soundtruck. That took a while because all were defending the soundtruck but eventually the cops were on our truck and started to demolish banners.
My back was getting worse and worse and I had great pain. So we went to the front to be the next ones to be grabbed out. We still had to wait about half an hour before we got out because only a special unit were grabbing the people out. There were still about 150 people inside the kettle as we left the kettle after about 8 hours. Two cops brought me out and as I wasn’t resisting anymore because of my back, I was one of the very few lucky ones that didn’t get the violent and hard treatment as I got out. They checked my id and ofcourse they will save it all in their huge database, filmed me and searched me for doing nothing but for taking part in a demonstration. After that they said that it is prohibited for me to be in a big part of the innercity of Frankfurt until 07:00am next morning. I asked them on what legal basis I am not allowed to go there but they couldn’t answer my question. As I said that I want a written confirmation of that they refused to give me that confirmation. They didn’t even gave me the map they showed me, so as a person who doesn’t live in Frankfurt it was almost impossible to obey ( but ofcourse I didn’t, half an hour later I must have been in that part of the city where I wasn’t allowed to be but as free person nobody is going to forbid me to walk on a public street.).
We will have to discuss a lot about what this actually all means for our strategies in the future. Two days later it is even more clear that the cops kettled us to make sure that although the courts (the first one and the court of appeal) ruled that we were allowed to march to the ECB, the cops ignored that decision by kettling us knowing that the ones behind us also would not be able to march as the kettle was blocking the route. We have dozens of witnesses saying cops were already building up at the point were they attacked us long before the demo even started and telling people with children to go away because soon there would be a police operation. There are also dozens of witnesses saying that it must have been planned upfront by cops because they never stopped traffic on the part of the route which would have been used after the kettle. At a demo with 15.000 people they usually do that a long time before the demo actually arrives.
Video: Police units march before the demo séven started at Gutleutstraße in the direction where they later attacked and kettled
What the cops achieved is a wave of solidarity with spontanious demos in several cities in Germany and other countries like for instance Italy where people marched to the German consulate in Venice in solidarity with their comrades in Frankfurt. More solidarity demos are planned in the coming days. Next year we will be back in Frankfurt. They want to open the new building of the ECB and we will be there, with more people from even more countries to fight against austerity and captilaism. We will devolope new strategies against their repression and inhuman behaviour. But hey.. in between we will fight the capitalist system as well. Every day! Expect us!
Video: Cops get heavy-handed with kettled in protesters