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Copwatch Leipzig: The authoritarian character of the police [Germany]

Leipzig. Germany. What developments have there been in the police in Saxony in recent years?

Originally published by Knack News.

Even though criticism of police is as old as they are, the topic has become highly politicized, especially in the last 2 years. At the latest after the protests over the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, police criticism in Germany has become stronger. Society’s awareness of the problem has grown and even bourgeois media and state institutions cannot get past the no longer deniable accusations of police violence, right-wing attitudes and networks in the so-called security apparatus, racism and deaths in police custody. Reactionary is the backlash from conservatives and right-wingers who lamentingly demand “more recognition and appreciation for front-line fighters,” although it is hard to argue that this has not always existed in Germany. Last but not least, this “recognition and appreciation” is found in numerous tightening of laws (beyond the limits of the rule of law) and the acceptance of everyday aggression and violence against the exercise of fundamental rights.

In addition, the police are increasingly acting as a political actor. The so-called police unions, contrary to all criminological empiricism, lobby for more resources and powers. The Soko Linx is set up with an enormous number of personnel, among other things to serve the then Saxon Minister of Justice as a campaign aid for the local elections in Leipzig. This is also where the pressure comes from to be able to show investigative successes, at the preliminary climax of which is the Antifa East trial. Furthermore, the police actively engage in press work that goes beyond their powers and duties and thus exert discursive influence on political and social issues. In this way, the police present themselves as an indispensable force for order, even though their policing is what led to the escalation in the first place. From a reformist perspective, systematic deficiencies in the apparatus could be criticized, which have just become known through the corruption scandal in the MEK Saxony (a highly militarized special unit). The consolidation of right-wing extremist structures, institutionalized racism and sexism, and a lack of error culture are intolerable for a police force with a democratic self-image. But our abolitionist critique of the police is more fundamental and already starts with the task of the police as such in capitalism and its history of origin (https://copwatchleipzig.home.blog/abolish-the-police/).

How does the increase in authoritarian police behavior manifest itself in concrete terms?
One example of this would be the behavior of the police in the exercise of citizens’ rights and democratic control by the public. Critics and people showing solidarity are met with aggression, violence and criminal prosecution during discriminatory police checks. A legal defense against this is almost impossible.
We continue to observe excessive punishments and repression against leftists. During the symbolic blockade of the airport LEJ (Halle/Leipzig) in July 2021, there was a police operation that started with an obvious disregard of the right of assembly, tried to justify itself with false representation in press releases and ended with long detention for young climate activist:s, including actions that can be described as torture. (https://copwatchleipzig.home.blog/2021/07/14/statement-zur-pressekonferenz-zu-cancellej-am-14-7-21/)

The open breach of law has become the normal state of affairs: unlawful actions have no consequences for officials in Saxony – neither administrative, nor official, nor criminal. This certainty, together with the existing esprit de corps, leads even more to such behavior. The fact that this is possible is also due to the self-image of the police: the enforcement of their interests and assessments at almost any price just to preserve their (supposed) authority. This could be observed very well during the deportation in the Hildegardstraße in Leipzig in July 2019 (https://copwatchleipzig.home.blog/le0907-le1007/).

Also the method of “show-of-force”, i.e. deterrence by threat by displaying police resources, is a clear sign of authoritarian-etatist development. For example, the Saxon SEK deployed at demo in Wurzen in September 2017 simply to intimidate the demonstrators, since no realistic scenario was conceivable that the SEK could have been legitimately deployed. The unconstitutionality of this action was recently established by the Federal Constitutional Court with regard to the Tornado deployment at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm.

Authoritarian practices do not only exist in the actual actions of the police. What legal changes often precede this?
Within a few years, there have been reforms of police and assembly laws in numerous German states, including Saxony, and the StPO and StGB (§§ 113, 114) have also been tightened. They give the police more investigative powers with profound encroachments on fundamental rights. In many cases, the threshold of danger is advanced and lowered, which undermines constitutional principles such as the presumption of innocence. It is also authoritarian that the principle of proportionality and the ultima ratio principle of criminal law are devalued.

The application of criminal law is mostly directed at the enemy images of the police, i.e. leftists and the marginalized, as can be seen from the history of the police and our observations, who have not infrequently been affected by police violence before.

The conservative General Prosecutor of Saxony, Strobl, also introduced the so-called Bagatellverordnung (https://copwatchleipzig.home.blog/bagatellverordnung-sachsen/), which required prosecutors to unconditionally prosecute crimes against police officers as well as petty offenses. This was rejected by his superior, the Green Minister of Justice Meier, but he still refuses to implement it.

What role do reactionary politicians play in the parliaments and what developments are there in this area? Who benefits from this policy?
Reactionary politicians in parliaments play a very big role. At the federal level, with Interior Minister Seehofer (still) and at the state level, with formerly Gemkow as Minister of Justice (now Minister of Science) and Wöller as Minister of the Interior, we have law-and-order CDU politicians who are driving the autocratization of society. The conservative and partly right-wing CDU is also subject to the misconception that by adopting AfD’s narratives they will bring back voters:inside. This is wrong, but it brings discursive and real-political negative consequences for democracy, the rule of law and, in particular, socially excluded people.
More and more human and financial resources are flowing into the so-called security apparatus. The police are being militarized, new surveillance techniques are being developed. This also shows the connection with the capital interests of the corresponding companies.
Fatally, the police are also being assigned more and more social tasks. Ensuring “security” is said to be the sole responsibility of the police, a repressive institution not suited for negotiating social issues. It acquires more power through this “omnipotence”. This also leads to more abuse of power, an authoritarian development through the policing of all areas of life and the reproduction of social power relations such as discrimination and social exclusion.

Are there also positive influences from the parliamentary level?
Due to the lack of transparency of the authorities, answers to small questions by the parliamentary groups are often the only possibility to clarify grievances.

The Soko Linx has been in existence for two years, what is your conclusion?
It was set up for political reasons to investigate left-wingers and is therefore under pressure to succeed. If there is nothing, then something is constructed. We demand the immediate dissolution of Soko Linx.

How has the work of Soko Linx affected people from the activist scene so far?
Repression works, for example, through intimidation, by spreading a feeling of surveillance and permanent mistrust. But we, and we presume to speak for the radical left in Leipzig in this respect, have not allowed ourselves to be divided or intimidated, even though, due to the §129 investigations, it must (or could) be expected that numerous people, possibly even professional secrets once again, have been and are still being bugged. In the Antifa Ost trial, an example is now to be made of a few people, in order to send a signal to the entire left-wing scene. However, the leaking of sensitive data by the police to right-wing actors, e.g. Compact Magazine, increases the threat situation for all extremely.

What activist counter-strategies are there or should there be?
There is a need to take precautions for the self-protection of people, events and spaces. Security precautions for groups (because of informers and informants), as well as against technical surveillance are also necessary. The challenge remains to be open to new people, not only to elitist small groups, but to form a broad movement of progressive forces for real solidary and libertarian change in society.

What can/must/should be done in the long term for a transformation in the field of security policy? What are your demands?
This year we presented a concept for the medium-term abolition of the police in Germany. In it, we argue for taking power away from the police, especially tasks, resources and powers, up to the abolition of the police (Abolish the Police: https://copwatchleipzig.home.blog/2021/04/23/ein-konzept-zur-abschaffung-der-polizei-in-deutschland/) This also applies accordingly to other so-called security institutions such as intelligence services and the military.
We need to strengthen social security, which starts with our material livelihood. In this way, a huge part of crime, the so-called poverty crime, could be almost completely avoided. Also, a different approach to drugs (many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs, criminalization creates the basis for so-called organized crime and violence) could reduce crime and thus the “need” for police enormously.

Furthermore, we need a development of alternative security structures in our societies. This concerns especially the handling of sexual violence (also in the left scene) or the handling of domestic violence in the neighborhoods. For this, the feminist transformation of society is also essential.
We also demand a psychosocial emergency service for conflicts such as drug use or violence in personal neighborhoods, where a “neutral” mediation and de-escalation instance is needed, but not repression.

Finally, we must fight against fascization and authoritarian development, especially in the so-called security structures, as well as against any form of discrimination, in order to build a solidary and libertarian society for all in the long term.


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