Preparation of protests and mobilization
Taking into account the experience from the previous year, Berlin gegen Nazis started an info campaign in collaboration with numerous partners, based on the expert assessment by Mobile Beratung gegen Rechtsextremismus Berlin (MBR) already in early 2019. The information provided by alliances, neighborhood initiatives, local councils and politicians allowed for the registration of more than twenty protest events and demonstrations in nine of Berlin’s districts, although the expected “Heßmarsch” rally ended up not being announced. Many activists prepared in case of the marching of neo-Nazis through their neighborhood at short notice.
In 2018, the broad and well-prepared protest events at Spandau successfully and impressively forestalled a “Heßmarsch” on location to the location of the former prison of war at the Wilhelmstadt neighborhood of Spandau, the neo-Nazis spontaneously held a rally on an alternative route from Alexanderplatz to the districts of Friedrichshain and Lichtenberg on August 18, 2018. It was possible to generate civic ad-hoc protest events to counter the rally. (Documentations 2017 und 2018)
2019, however, went differently. Berlin gegen Nazis resumed the awesome protest preparations and the simultaneous networking of Berlin-based initiatives against right-wing extremism in an interview with Neues Deutschland under the headline „Berlin ist sehr, sehr gut aufgestellt“
“Many people and initiatives joined themselves locally to organize protest events. This would allow for a spontaneous mobilization. The central protest event is to take place on Alexanderplatz and is hosted by the association ”Bündnis für ein weltoffenes und tolerantes Berlin”. […] Upon notification of a gathering by neo-Nazis, people would travel from there to join the protest event registered on location. Otherwise, those local protest events will serve as meeting point for a joint travel to the central event in Berlin-Mitte.”
The district governments of Lichtenberg, Pankow, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Neukölln responded to the early notification by the partnerships of “Partnerschaften für Demokratie” and Berlin gegen Nazis and issued resolutions against a possible “Heßmarsch”, calling to join the protests.
A Choreography of Protests on August 17, 2019
In 2019, the right-wing extremist rally “Heßmarsch” did not take place. Thus, many initiatives cancelled their protest events accordingly. However, in Spandau, Lichtenberg, Kreuzberg and the center of Berlin, people took to the streets to protest, despite the Nazi rally not taking place.
Central protest event at Alexanderplatz
The association Bündnis für ein weltoffens und tolerantes Berlin organized the central take-off event under the slogan “Verantwortung für die Vergangenheit übernehmen – für Gegenwart und Zukunft“ at the World Clock at Alexanderplatz, where about 300 participants from many of Berlin’s districts gathered to oppose the glorification of National Socialism even if the actual “Heßmarsch” did not take place this year. Well-known speakers, such as Bishop Droege, spokespersons of DGB Berlin-Brandenburg, Jüdisches Forum für Demokratie und gegen Antisemitismus -JFDA, Erzbistum Berlin, Humanistischer Verband Berlin-Brandenburg HVD-BB, Lesben- und Schwulenbverband Berlin-Brandenburg – LSVD, as well as members of the organizers of the protest events on the district level such as Verband interkultureller Arbeit – VIA from Friedrichshain and Britzer Initiative Hufeisern gegen Rechts, uttered clear statements. The musician Bernadette La Hengst performed as well, rounding off the successful event against the neo-Nazi rally. To close the event, protestors gathered for a group photo.
Picnics and Vigil in Spandau
In 2017 and 2018, the district of Spandau predominantly had to bear the load of the right-wing estrmist “Heßmarsch” rallies, as the former prison for convicted NS criminals was located within the heigborhood of Wihelmstadt in Spandau. This is the location where Rudilf Hess committed suicide on August 17, 1987, and which thus serves as destination for the “Heßmarsch” rallies. In 2019 yet again, civic protestors appropriated the location early on to host a well-attended event celebrating democracy by picnicking. It was supported by a broad association comprised of the local districhs of the political parties SPD, CDU, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Die Linke and FDP, as well as the club B²Aktion+, and sponsored by Partnerschaft für Demokratie Spandau and Restaurant La Amistad.
To commence the protests in Spandau, Mahnwache für Toleranz und ein friedliches Miteinander – Gegen Rassismus, Antisemitismus und Islamfeindlichkeit of Evangelischen Kirche Spandau held a vigil at Melanchtonplatz.
Residents from Staaken and the working group AG Vielfalt der Stadtteilkonferenz Heerstraße hosted a picnic simultaneously to celebrate respect and tolerance. In 2018, the right-wing extremist rally was scheduled to march trough the neighborhood, which prompted this valuable initiative by the local residents.
Residents’ protests in Kreuzberg
In Kreuzberg as well, residents gathered following the call of the local AWO-Begegnungszentrum, to set a signal against neo-Nazis. On location, ver.di Berlin-Brandenburg supported the residents with a large banner by BERLIN GEGEN NAZIS- Transparent hung from the building of the union’s headquarter.
Protest events at Lichtenberg train station
At Lichtenberg train station, the final destination of the “Heßmarsch” 2018, over fifty participants gathered for the protest event hosted by Lichtenberger Bündnis für Demokratie und Toleranz. Speeches by local initiatives opposing the glorification of National Socialism served as visible signals and allowed for a quick reaction to a possible spontaneous gathering of neo-Nazis.