Sunday, March 21, 2010

Besetzt

[ Occupied ]

It has become painfully obvious from busy times here in Germany the simple fact that, with Germany feeling "normal" to me on most accounts, blog writing has slowed to a trickle of a few posts a month. Now that it has been addressed, I have a new motivation to bring back some of my observation and reflection from previous months and continue to document my inspiration, inquisition [ and at times, even confusion ] of daily life here in Deutschland.

Monday at work started normal. Beginning of the week, a weekend full of newspapers to sift through as well as the monday addition to read, search, copy, paste, format, email and print - I had my work cut out for me. A few hours into the morning, the office buzzer rings, and my boss goes to open the door. I hear murmers and chatting going on, and then marching by my room where I was working on the computer come almost a dozen civilians clad in neon colored wigs, festive glasses and maskes fit for Karneval just weeks prior.

I was confused. Did I not get the memo? Were they from the Grünen? What's up with the wigs?

Everything wasn´t all laughs though, and I quickly came to the realization when my boss' tone was becoming more stern and almost agrivated. The civilians were activists, and we were being "besetzt" - there was a "sit in" taking place in the office. The entire ordeal was very confusing to me - the windows were being opened, a huge orange flag was tied from our 4th story buildingfront "Wegen besezt abshiedspolitik" [ we're sitting in for deportation politics ] signifying the "take over" ... and I was offered ... cookies?

[ an example of what the banner was like ]

These occurences are all true, and it took me a few minutes to dicern these events as a prank or joke, some type of festivity like Halloween... or a potentially serious obstruction by political activists that were possibly very prepared to make a scene if my boss had not dealt with the situation as smoothely as he did. It is almost comical to write that as two young men began searching through the office to fax some document, and my boss becoming visibly angered by the breach of controll in the office, the compromise was allowing the activists to utilize the fax as long as he could read the documents being sent - then proceded to offer the activists tea and coffee in the meeting room to go along with the cookies they brought along.

Fortunately, the entire ordeal did not last that long - only an hour, but I wasn't able to fully comprehend everything that took place until after everything had passed over. From my boss I learned that the Grünen office had been Bezezt before, and on other occurances by different activities, minor damages were done, or on one account the protestors sat on desks to prevent work from being done, or remaining in the office overnight simply sitting in the vestibule making another statement.

After hearing the potential problems and destruction that can take place from these uninvited activists, I began to inquire why we even let them in in the first place, or why we served them ... tea and coffee? The entire scenario is as rediculous as it sounds - civilian activists, lime green hair and sunflower rimmed glasses, cookies and tea, hanging banners out windows, and sending protesting faxes without much inhibition. The activists resultingly were protesting refugee laws in Germany, specificly situations with Croatian refugees, living in Germany to escape their war stricken land, now being forcefully sentenced to pack up and leave because they have overstayed their welcome. The politics surrounding the situation revolves around the credibility of deeming Croatia now as safe to live in, racial discrepancies with Roma peoples [non-PC term, Gypsies], and disputes of German government and police departments rights to officially deport these refugees.



The next question, why the Green party? I came to later find out from the police that visited the office to record the happenings, that the activists also visited the SPD offices on the other side of town. The green party and the SPD are both liberal parties, and for the most part with social beliefs, so the bottom line is that they are the political answer of supporters of these Croatian refugees. Why did these activists not go to the FDP or CDU offices in the city? The conclusions seems to be - my boss did sit down with these people for coffee, don't forget - that this was their way of making a broad statement - that likely will spread within the party heirarchy, as well as the local news - of what is expected of these parties in terms of their positions on the issues.

Fortunately, this minor take-over of the office was very harmless, some time taken away from normal work procedure, and now a banner hanging out the window, but nothing greatly disturbed or damaged - maybe just some clarifications with the police and some press in and out of the office in the afternoon.



Why did we let them in in the first place? I think this was my biggest question. In the states, I have no idea if this would ever happen. If you want to protest, do it outside in front of the office - I would expect any activity of disruption such as today would be considered beyond any interpretation of freedom of speech in America. [ however, with recent "tea party storm-ins" taking place at the capital this week, maybe I am mistaken ]. From another perspective, inhibiting these activists could have only made the situation escalate into something more, or also bring out bad publicity for the office once the message of the protest is released to the public, and it - as it was in this case - potentially something that could cast a bad light on the position of the Green party on certain issues.

Protesting is nothing new in the news here in Germany, it seems to happen all the time. I have seen protests even in Göttingen with very radically minded students bringing the town to become full of police cars waiting for any disorderly conduct - I am pretty sure the protests can take place, often times they are even arranged in advance, but where the line is crossed, and what penalties follow are still things that I have yet to completely understand here in Germany.

The public is very politically charged and are generally very well versed on their opinions, and as can be seen, Germany is no stranger to some radical ideas. This could happen anywhere, but the main differences lie in how the situation was handled - how it is accepted. Sure this might be in the newspaper tomorrow, and people with shake their heads and wonder why neon wigged activists are invading an essentially harmless local political office, but I think this is just a small reminder of how protest, opinion and how to manipulate and demand ultimatum in the political sphere can be greatly varried around the world. Asside from giving my contact information to the Polizei later in the day, it turned out to be very normal - now I am just curious to see how the situation unfolds in local news in the days to come.

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Press release the following day, translated:

Pressemitteilung von Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen Göttingen vom 02. März 2010


GRÜNE solidarisieren sich mit Abschiebungsgegner_innen

zur Besetzung des Grünen Zentrums durch eine Gruppe von
Abschiebungsgegner_innen am Vormittag des 01. März erklärt der
Kreisvorstand von Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen Göttingen:

Mit ihrem politischen Anliegen laufen die Kritiker_innen einer
inhumanen Abschiebungspolitik bei uns offene Türen ein. Bündnis 90 /
Die Grünen treten an der Seite der Migrationsverbände und freien
politischen Initiativen für das Menschenrecht auf politisches Asyl
und für ein Bleiberecht in Deutschland unabhängig von der Herkunft
ein. Damit teilen wir als Grüne klar die Anliegen der
„Besetzer_innen“.

Moritz Keppler vom Kreisvorstand dazu: „Wir freuen uns
immer über Besuch von politisch Gleichgesinnten. Mit einer Besetzung
als politischem Signal haben die Besetzer_innen aber leider das
falsche Büro erwischt. Die Grünen schieben nicht ab! Auch die Kritik
an der Göttinger Ausländerbehörde trifft die falschen, da in der
Ausländerbehörde Göttingen weisungsgebundene Akteure arbeiten.
Wir bedauern zutiefst, dass die Besetzer_innen augenscheinlich nur die
Büros der Grünen und der SPD besetzt haben. Das ist ein falsches
Signal. Die Geschäftsstellen für CDU und FDP als
Landesregierungsparteien und Bundesregierungsparteien wären für ihre inhumanen Richtlinien und
Weisungen an die kommunalen Behörden der richtige Anlaufpunkt
gewesen. Dennoch sind uns die Besetzer_innen jederzeit gerne wieder
auf einen Tee und ein Gespräch über gemeinsame Ziele herzlich willkommen."



Press release of Alliance 90/The Greens Göttingen from 02 March 2010


Greens show solidarity with deportation-opposition activists

The accounts of the occupation of the regional office by a group of
deportation-opposition activists on the morning of 01 March
District Executive of Alliance 90/The Greens Göttingen:

Activists of inhumane deportation policy came to us with their political concerns through our open doors. In the debate on refugee deportation, Alliance 90 /
The Greens support the side of the migration and free associations
policy initiatives for the human right to political asylum
and for a stay in Germany, regardless of the origin
book. We, the Greens, clearly share the same concerns of the forementioned activists.

Moritz Keppler from the District Board, "We are always pleased and welcoming to visits from politically-minded people. With a goal of broadcasting a political statement
the deportation-opposition activists have unfortunately picketed the
wrong office. The Greens do not support nor endorse deportation laws! The criticism
of Gottingen immigration authorities is also incorrectly understood, because the true
imigration authorities are not working under instruction by Göttingen actors.
We deeply regret that the visiting activists apparently only occupied the
Offices of the Greens and the SPD. This was the incorrect political statement to make. The more effective opportunity would have been addressing the offices for the CDU and FDP as
Government parties known for their inhumane policies and
instructions to local authorities. Nevertheless, we are always happy to welcome the deportation-opposition activists again
to a cup of tea and a conversation about common goals. "

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