Germany March 15: Day of Action against the Normalization of Racist Police Violence

On March 15th, the International Day against Police Brutality, various actions were organized in Frankfurt am Main. This international day of remembrance had not been organized before in a German city except for Berlin, but it is now thought to be established on a long-term basis.

Creative Day of Action in Frankfurt am Main

Random police controls, stop and search controls, sending off, public humilliation and brutal treatment by police and security services shape the everyday reality of Black people, People of Color, migrants, roma, poor and homeless people, sex workers and transgender persons. Making visible this normalization of structural and state violence was the aim of the action day #15MRZ. It was about mourning the various victims, making visible the dimension of racist police violence, engaging in the various forms of resistance and empowering the persons affected through a creative engagement in urban space.

An alliance of local initiatives and transregional campaigns had called for organizing the International Day against Police Brutality in the city of Frankfurt am Main. At Hauptwache, a hotspot of everyday police controls, and at Willy-Brandt-Platz speeches were held and a creative performance as well as a memorial event took place. An information desk gave passerby the opportunity to inform themselves and to get into conversation with the activists about police violence. A place of encounter was created for some hours at the crossroads of Niddastreet and Ottostreet in the district of the central station. Video installations, speeches held by persons affected and local initiatives created an atmosphere of solidarity that was accompanied by music and food for everybody, and that made space for imagining the social without daily policing. The “activist excursion” found its ending with a panel discussion at Café KoZ in the district of Bockenheim. The discussion was about the different possibilities of collective action and interventions as well as radical alternatives to police and policing.

Of much importance were the numerous encounters with people who shared their experiences with policing, informed themselves about the difficult legal situation or expressed their solidarity. At the same time, the comments of outraged passerby showed to what extent a discussion and actions against state violence are urgent and necessary.

Racist Police Controls constitute an Everyday State of Emergency

Sissy Rothe of the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) explains in a moving memorial speech at Willy-Brandt-Platz that „Racial Profiling is often dismissed as ‚just‘ a control and routine, and we see how we – Black People and the People of Color – are being criminalized promptly and with pleasure. The mere color of skin is enough for the police to stop us, asking for papers, documents, the right of residence, the right of existence. No suspicion of a specific crime, our appearance alone is the sufficient trigger for suspicion. Even court jurisdictions, as most recently by the Higher Administrative Court in Baden-Baden in February 2018, are not able to provoke any reaction of the police apparatus. The necessity of measures in order to recognize own prejudices and to examine and reduce them, is denied. Instead they use statistics as an argument. Statistics that they themselves created on the basis of (biased) controls.“

Why Frankfurt needs the International Day against Police Violence

Throughout the day a horrifying picture of the routine violence of policing against marginalized groups was revealed. It became obvious that policing escalates on a routine basis, or better, is itself an escalation, and that controls result in slurs and physical violations. A member of the collective Doña Carmen described how the new “prostitute protection act” enhances the humiliation and continuous criminalization of sex workers. Apartments of sex workers can be raded without judicial search warrants.

„Especially refugees experience systemic violence on an everyday basis, in form of controls, searchings or during the traumatizing enforcement of deportations“, explained a member of the Hessen Refugee Council.

Greetings and words of support from the alliance “Unraveling the NSU Complex“ emphasized the systemic racism within the police apparatus, which contributed to the decade long continuation of the murders by the rightwing terrorist group NSU. Relatives of the NSU victims have been surveilled, lied to and criminalized by law enforcement. „The bomb after the bomb” is how a survivor of the NSU murder series has called the treatment by law enforcement as victims have been treated as perpetrators based on racist bias.

The victims of racist police violence are also dehumanized from state authorities. The case of Oury Jalloh, who was murdered in a police holding cell in Dessau on January 7th 2005, demonstrates how important evidences are concealed, bringing the case to justice is systematically sabotaged and deferred by the justice system. “Until now the murderers have not been found and the circumstances of Oury Jalloh’s death have not been cleared up” scandalizes a representative of the Initiative in Remembrance of Oury Jalloh. That is why an independent international commission has now been constituted to investigate the case as well as the circumstances that make possible the systematic concealing in the investigation of the murder.

Structural Dimension of Racist Policing and Police Violence

Racial profiling is not just the outcome of a racist attitude of single police officers. It is a form of institutional racism that is also reproduced by the legal apparatus as racial profiling is fostered and legitimized by stop and search controls. „These are structural violations of basic human rights and they include severe physical and psychological consequences“ says June Jordanus from the documentation and support collective copwatch-ffm. The recent report of the UN-investigation group of the decade for people of African descent also highlights this.

Manuel from the red aid legal support group explains the obstacles when it comes to legal struggles against police violations. “It does not really matter what applies or does not apply to the law, what the police is allowed to do or not to do. The police does what it can when it can and with what it gets away with”.

Remember, make visible and practice alternatives!

„Laye Condé, Oury Jalloh, Dominique Koumadio, N’deye Mariame Sarr and Christy Schwundeck are only a few of the people who have lost their lives based on racist policing practices. Christy Schwundeck was shot in a Jobcenter in Frankfurt Gallus on May 19th 2011,” says June Jordanus from copwatch-ffm. During the day of action victims of police killings were remembered and a commemoration took place at Willy-Brandt-Platz where the names of victims of police killings in Germany, France, the US and Brazil where remembered during a say their names performance.

„As long as the lives of some are more worth than those of others, as long as some are more free than others, our societies are unfree“, explains Sissy Rothe from the Initiative of Black People in Germany.

„Just yesterday the Black queer socialist city councilor Mareille Franco, who was very active against police brutality in racialized communities, was brutally murdered. This painfully shows the international importance of the struggle against policing and police violence“, says a representative of the Initiative Bahnhofsviertel Solidarisch.

Societal problems such as poverty, gentrification and migration are only regulated and criminalized by police instead of providing solutions. What alternative forms of social and political living without policing and punishment could look like was discussed at the final plenary discussion. The necessity of lived practices of abolition and solitary forms of living together were also emphasized by the Kafä–Kollektiv, that organized the awareness team for the entire action day: „There’s no justice –  there’s just us.”

The following groups were involved in organizing the 15MRZ:

Copwatch Frankfurt,
Rote Hilfe Frankfurt,
Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (ISD),
Bahnhofsviertel Solidarisch,
LOS! – Offenbach Solidarisch,
KNAS [] Initiative für den Rückbau von Gefängnissen,
Kollektiv Kafä