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#Berlin 01.08. “Out of the defensive”-demo: tactical evaluation

Berlin. As Interkiezionale we offer with this text a first evaluation of the demo of 1st August 2020. This evaluation only concerns the tactics of an offensive demo culture. That does not mean, that the success of a demo can only be measures by tactics or that our strategy only consist of offensive demos. We want to further reflect with you on the points brought up in this text, to work on our strategy and strengthen the movement.

Originally published by Interkiezionale. Image above by Oliver Feldhaus.

As organizers if the “Out of the defense” demo on 1st August, we see the demonstration and the Sponti that took place in the evening as a success. The expectations we put high with an offensive slogan. Together we made the slogan come real, we came out of the defensive and took a powerful collective step against upcoming evictions. We hope that the demo has a mobilizing effect on the upcoming weeks, demonstrations and actions.
Despite the fact that there are many politically active people in Berlin, we are recognise a lack of collective offensive moments. Together with other offensive moments in recent times, we manages on the 1st august to “break” again the image of a passive Berlin: i.e. the Interkiezionale Demo on the 02.11.19, the many occupations, the George Floyd-sponti, the sponti for Liebig34 & Rigeaer94 recently, and now the demo showed, that we can do militant collective actions. These moments in which we collectivize our struggles are moments in which we actually become a threat to the state and the capital. It is moments like those on 1st August show us, that our strength lies in fighting collectivly. Let us learn from our mistakes and be encouraged by our potential.

What happened?
On the 1st of August a demonstration in solidarity with the threatened projects took place in Berlin-Neukölln, under the slogan of “Raus aus der Defensive”. Around 2500 people started gathering at the starting point of the demo. After some speeches and the announcement to gather at 11pm in Prenzlauer Berg in case of dissolution the demo started at 8.20pm from Herrfurthplatz revealing from the first moment a powerful character.
The crowd quickly gathered. At the corner of Weise- and Kienitzerstraße a banner drop and pyroshow took place. With a fast rhythm the demonstration headed towards Hermannstraße shouting paroles and lighting pyro and smoke. Despite the visible police presence, the dynamic in the demo created an atmosphere of solidarity and decisiveness.
Turning left at Mainzer Straße, where the cops were guarding the JobCenter a first confrontation took place. People attacked the building and the cops. People continued to shout paroles and light pyro and many carried banners and umbrellas to protect the demo.

At the corner of Hermann- and Flughafenstraße a luxury building was attacked with paint and stones. While the first rows were heading down Flughafenstraße, police made an attack in the middle of the demo. Unprotected by a lack of banners the demo split into two parts. People spread to the edges of the crossing and the firm demo body dispersed. Some people defended themselves against the attacks by the cops and attempted despite pepper spray, to restructure the demo. Keeping up banners and umbrellas for protection and walking in rows nonetheless did not succeed in making the demo walk further.

The cops were chasing people more and more in direction of Hermannstraße and Columbiadamm. While some panicked and ran off, others used the chaos for further actions. Since the biggest part of the demo was moving in the direction of Columbiadamm, the demo was dispersing more and more.

From there, the crowds moved into Schillerkiez. While some were carried along, other tried to built barricades to take back the streets. Moving through the Kiez, the crowd managed to reach Hermannstraße again, where the party office of SPD was attacked.

With increasing police presences and the helicopter buzzing over Neukölln, des crows dispersed into the neighbouring streets. The date to meet again in Prenzlauer Berg at 11pm was coming closer.

a) Demo structure & organisation:
We have to critically reflect that we did not manage to publish in advance, that we want to start on time. We are used to demostrations in Berlin starting with a big delay, which is why many were surprised and some came to late to the demo. Generally, we think it makes sense however to start on time as long waiting can create a lethargic mood.
Also we had the usual issues with megaphones, as they were not loud enough to bea heard by all people. Nonetheless, we think that megaphones are a better tool than sound trucks. They enable a mobile communication – an approach that has been long established in other context (Ende Gelände) which we think is worth establishing here too.
Regarding the speed of the demonstration, it was a problem that the front block walked all the way very fast. While the fast start did not leave the cops much space for controlling the demo, it was hard to keep up with the demo. This led to gaps in the demonstration with the consequence, that people were less protected or could offer less protection. The speed also left no time for other things (drinking some water, tiing your shoes, …)
instead, the demo could have started with confidence and less hectic. It was possible to start slowly in Schillerkiez and only take up speed after the first confrontation and slow down when there are gaps. It should also not be the only the demo-orga which dictated the speed through information by runners and internal communication informing about gaps. Als known from other countries and contexts is the working with hand sings to communicate and control the demo speed among all. That way we can work anti-hierarchically and spread responsibility.
The first target was the jobcentre, which is loocated at the start of the route. That way, the escalation started really early. In hindsight, we think, that the early escalation did not allow for a smooth increase of escalation which might have allowed more people to participate. We could have from the start planned the route differently.
Different parts of the route offered a different potential to show our critique of capitalist and state oppression. Unfortunately, people ran into tactically unsuitable directions (Columbiadamm/ Schillerkiez). While Schillerkiez is a big dead-end, it is mostly a residential area. Columbiadamm is a long empty street. It is actually possible, that while smashing the demonstration, already attempted to prevent the crowd from running into certain areas. Either way, the demo structure did not manage to steer the demo back into the planned direction. Here it might be useful to also discuss the ideaa of out-of-control again, which should not mean to act unplanned.

Overall we know of 7 arrests during the demo. In the surrounding of the spontaneous demonstration in Prenzlauer Berg, we heard of a minimum of 12 identity controls and 3 arrests. All arrested people had left the detention centre by the next morning. We were happy to hear that some arrests had to be stopped or could not be made due to the cops being overwhelmed. For the level of escalation, there was a low amount of arrests. It again shows, that often there are less arrests when there is more confrontation. This also proofs of a loss of control by the police.
We apologise by those people who were left alone when coming out of detention. The responsibility of the lack of prison support does not lie with the EA Berlin but with us, the organisers of the demo.

b) General demo culture:
Through our reactions on the demonstration is became clear, that we have internalised a fear of cops. The exmaple at the corner of Flughafen-/Hermannstraße when people spread to the sides of the crossing even though not many cops were present. The spreading out led to organised rows being left alone and people attacking the lofts being unprotected. Our impression was, that many people panicked and some pushed the panic even more by shouting at others to run. Most people followed this dynamic and let themselves be chased by the cops. We cannot evaluate if it was necessary to run in this moment. Rather however, we want to question generally our fear of cops. We thank that the movement has to gain confidence in dealing with cops, for example by forming organised rows to block them and not be at the mercy of the cop’s attacking is without defending oursleves.

Neither did the cops act smart, not were there many of them. Even though we we outnumbered them in many situations, many people let themselves be chased by running cops and cop cars driving like crazy. Here we should learn to stay calm. We think it is useful for indviduals to learn in moment of stress, to keep the view of the whole of the demo/ others and not just focus on oneself. We should work on our collective acting (in action trainings) as demonstrations are a good possibility to express our angercollectively.

c) Prenzlauer Berg Sponti (Plan B)
During the demo in Neukölln it was announced, that we want to meet again at 11pm in Prenzlauer Berg in case the demo is dispersed. The choice of place was not arbitrary, as this area is one of the most gentrified in Berlin, hosting real estate offices, luxury apartments and overpriced shops.

The sponti from Kollwitzplatz to Senefelderplatz left behinde some broken windows. However the taken route was to ideal. Here also, another route was planed. Due to the situation at Kollwitzplatz, with two cop vans and civil cops, the crowd spread out moving into an unplanned direction. In the end, this opportunity was taken to start the Sponti. At Senefelderplatz two more cop vans arrived, cops jumped out and the sponti dispersed.
In the future we want to contnue working with a Plan B as we want to walk autonomously. A plan B can work as a threat to the cops to let a demonstration take place or ensure, that at least during the plan B we can have offensive collective moments on the streets.

An important point in our reflection was the lack of communicating when and if plan B is taking place. Public communication in such situations is generally tricky as we are stuck between bigger mobilised actions which are not exclusive and in which we can be strong together and and increased police presence due topublic information. For us it is important to plan actions publicly, so that more people can participate and can prepare themselves for the action and the area. At the same time increased cop presence is a barrier to our protest. The concept on the 1st August tried to go the middle way by only publicly announcing the district but not the exact starting point. Our discussion about mobilising for and spontaneous, unregistered demonstration (Sponti) will be continued in our text on the Syndikat-Sponti.
Also we have to admit, that the plan B did not work as a threat to the cops, to keep them from attacking the demonstration. Nonetheless, it was important that we followed up on our announcement. If we want to keep working on this potential threat, we have to communicate it earlier, louder and more directly to those responsible.

The last point we want to mention regarding plane B is, that we walked despite the cops being present. We think that this was an important step. It is unfortunate, that the sponti route suffered under our initial panic. Of course we do not want to deny people’s fear of repression. Generally however, we think it is not necessary to be afraid of the cops in the right moments. That is why we believe, that we are really coming out of the defensive. The sponti was another step in loosing our fear and powerlessness. We want more collective actions, more confidence, more disregard, and more anger against this system and the eager cops. We welcome an exchange and experiences about democulture in which our collective strength enfolds.

With this powerful demonstration and the angry spontaneous demonstration as a reaction we think we are on a good way to come out of the defense. As we stated at the beginning, the are first points of a tactical reflection. We appreciate for digital feedback but also want to open other spaces for exchange. We want to reflect on our strategy and take part in bigger discussions on powerful demonstrations and demo culture.

The demo was a strong signal and we want to turn all eviction attempts into a desaster. In case of evictions we want to come together for demonstrations or spontis. Aside from actions on day X a feminist action week will take place from 7th-13th September, with the another Interkiezionale Demo.

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