The end of Bärgida? – A review

In January 2015, under the name “Bärgida” – derived from the Dresden-based “Pegida” –, the first so-called evening walk took place in Berlin-Mitte. It has since recurred each Monday. From the start, Berlin gegen Nazis accompanied the protests against the racists, neo-Nazis, right-wing football fans, and xenophobes, who arrived under Bärgida’s umbrella. A review.

It has become a familiar image every Monday at Hauptbahnhof: A group of modest size, equipped with numerous flags gathers to march through Berlin-Mitte, or boards the S-Bahn trains to march in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Lichterfelde, or Charlottenburg. Chanting racist slogans and agitating against refugees. The alliance Aktionsbündnis #No Bärgida accompanied them each week, protesting, at Washingtonplatz, then along their respective demonstration routes and during their gatherings at Hauptbahnhof over the past months, when there were only about twenty people showing up.

2019 – the recurring weekly demonstrations by Bärgida until Christmas 2019 have been cancelled. The few scattered supporters showing up at Washingtonplatz are sent home by the police. Bärgida could be history, this is the hope of all who joined the tedious fights for Berlins open-mindedness and against manifestations of racism right in the city center. Even if Bärgida continued to hold ever smaller events, its disintegration during the past weeks proves to be a good moment to acknowledge the persistence of the counter-protests over the past four years.

A timeline

action map by Berlin gegen Nazis for January 5, 2015

On January 5, 2015, five thousand Berliners gathered to oppose the first march of Bärgida, represented by only a few hundred supporters at Rotes Rathaus. The demonstration to Brandenburger Tor was cancelled. In protest, the lights illuminating Brandenburger Tor had been shut off. Many organizations of civic society had called to join the protest. Berlin gegen Nazis informed about locations and routes. Here is an overview by Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung.

On January 12, 2015, several thousand Berliners again opposed the current call for a Bärgida march. An overview by the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel.

During the following months and weeks, the participants of the counter protests diminished significantly, due to the large-scale cordoning off of the demonstration routes in the governing district by the police. Bärgida thus managed to hold their weekly events, however with only about 120 participants. With the “NoBärgida-Aktionsbündnis”, a campaign alliance formed of people and organizations wishing to set a signal against racism, which continues to organize counter protests against Bärgida until today.

Poster campaign against Bärgida in Moabit – July 2015. Photo: Berlin gegen Nazis

In mid-July 2015, a poster action campaign against Bärgida was organized in Moabit. Numerous businesses, cafes, restaurants, bars, and bodegas along the marching route of Bärgida posted Berlin gegen Nazis posters in their shop windows, which also featured a large badge stating “NoBärgida!”.

A month later, on August 29, 2015, activists in Moabit founded the NoBärgida-Day, which was supported by a broad alliance of organizations from civic society. Berlin gegen Nazis was on location with an info table and supported the hosts.

In the course of Spring 2016, the newly developed inflatable bear of Berlin gegen Nazis was used as part of the protests against Bärgida at Hauptbahnhof. A symbol of the protests and representative of Berlin’s civic society. At the same time, with the series of marches under the slogan “Merkel muss weg”, a larger gathering of Bärgida supporters was founded, now calling themselves “Wir für Deutschland”, which became the focus for counter protests.

Visible signals against Bärgida on Friedrichstadtpalast on September 5, 2016. Photo: Berlin gegen Nazis

As in 2016, the marching route of Bärgida led along Invalidenstraße towards Friedrichstraße time and again, Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin, one of Berlin gegen Nazis network partners, supported the counter protests. The inflatable bear and giant banner of Berlin gegen Nazis accompanied the protests from then on when the route led across Friedrichstraße, as it was the case in September 2016.

Despite diminishing participation of about 50 people in 2017, further districts and neighborhoods such as Lichtenberg, Friedrichshain, Charlottenburg, Spandau, Lichterfelde and Wannsee became destination of the weekly Bärgida marches. Berlin gegen Nazis reached out to activists in the respective areas and in each case, neighborhood protests were organized and events hosted.

Visible signals against Bärgida on May 1, 2017 in Charlottenburg. Photo: Berlin gegen Nazis

In March 2017, NoBärgida’s protest were affiliated with the program of the action weeks “Zusammen gegen Rassismus in Moabit und Wedding”. Residents around Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg positioned themselves against several Bärgida marches together with local business owners and galleries. In Lichtenberg, several protest events took place at the train station. On May 1, tourists took part in the protests on Breitscheidplatz. And in August, people in Friedrichshain filmed how the banner of Berlin gegen Nazis was raised, showing just how simple it is to position oneself against Bärgida.

Visible signals against Bärgida in Kreuzberg – April 2018. Photo: Berlin gegen Nazis

April 2018 saw the temporary unification of Bärgida and Wir für Deutschland (WfD) as “patriotische Frühjahrsoffensive” to mobilize about 50 people in order to be able to hold their marches in the street and not be relegated to the sidewalks because of the few participants. Several times, the destination was Mehringplatz in the district of Kreuzberg. This led to neighborhood protests opposing the racist marches. Following the split, Bärgida mostly stayed put at Washington Platz with their events.

Berlin gegen Nazis wishes to thank all members of the committees No Bärgida, all involved partners of Berlin gegen Nazi’s network, as well as the many supporters and neighbors in the many districts of Berlin, who Berlin gegen Nazis was able to meet on occasion of the Bärgida demonstrations and the protests against them.

Should the right-wing extremists of Bärgida continue, Berlin gegen Nazis will keep you up to date. Also, the Saturday events hosted by people of the Reichsbürger milieu, which have been taking place on a regular basis since the end of December, includes former supporters of Bärgida.