On a recent trip to Hamburg in northern Germany REEL NEWS witnessed first hand the brilliant response from ordinary German people and activists to the unfolding European refugee crisis.
In the main rail station activists have set up a permanent reception area for refugees arriving by train. They are given food, tea and advice on how to claim asylum or travel onto further destinations if they wish. Meanwhile the city’s main conference centre is presently hosting 1,200 refugees with the adjoining exhibition space being used to sort tons and tons of clothes, tents and toys donated by local people and businesses.
It is a considerable task. At weekends a car or van arrives with donations every 30 seconds. Each day 6-700 volunteers come through the building to help process the numerous items. Sanitary packs are made up for women and children. Clothing and toys are safety checked then bagged up for either immediate distribution or to be sent elsewhere in Northern Germany. Such is the scale of generosity in this one city that they are now exporting aid to other areas.
As volunteers leave the building after their shifts, they stick their nametags to the corridor around the exit. In just a few days the area has become literally wallpapered with the names of those taking part in the relief effort. A visual testament to the scale of this one aid operation.
Meanwhile activists are also responding in solidarity with deteriorating situation for Kurdish people both in Turkey where a bombing campaign by the government has recently begun. Also in Europe, where small Kurdish communities are being threatened. By both repressive anti terror laws (the PKK is falsely branded a terror group), and also from local Turkish nationalists.
On Friday September 11th local antifascists staged an impressive show of force against in solidarity with both German Kurds, recently arrived Kurdish refugees and those fighting for autonomy. Particularly in the Rojava rejoin of Northern Syria where Kurdish forces are reclaiming territory taken by the murderous islamist ISIL group.
The protest marched through the city led by Kurdish groups and finished with speeches and music outside the local detention centre. Flares and fireworks were let off on the roof of an occupied social centre on the route of the march. Anti fascists are clearly making the link between the current situation in Turkey and the activities of far right Turkish nationalist groups like the Grey Wolves who had a protest planned for Hamburg the following Sunday.
Then on Saturday September 12th Hamburg became a police state as a modest 2,800 riot cops were drafted in from all over the country along with 10 water cannons and a helicopter. The reason? A threatened march by German neo Nazis. The police had argued that the march should be banned as they did not have the resources to control the backlash from local people. A feeble excuse, given the size of the police operation.
For those residents wishing to oppose the Nazis without actually having to look at them a non-confrontational protest was organised in a square addressed by the mayor and other politicians.
Meanwhile local antifascists, trade unions and leftist groups organised a march starting from the main station where Nazis defying the ban were expected to arrive. The police estimated the total attendance of both protests to be at over 20k.
As the march from the station began Antifa called their activists into the station as a train carrying a small group of boneheads was spotted arriving. Concerned that the Nazis trapped in the carriage might be overheating; the anti fascists took immediate steps to improve the ventilation of the carriage with those conveniently sized rocks that lie around railway lines in abundance. Riot cops were briefly prevented from getting to the platform in question as more anti fascists linked arms to obstruct their passage. The Nazis remained trapped on their train, any plans of marching in Hamburg destroyed by militant action.
Then around 45 minutes later a second group of fascists arrived. This time they managed to leave the station as the march had left. But within about 2 minutes they were running for their lives back inside as reports from spotters reached the demo.
Protected by a ring of many riot cops the Nazis (most of whom looked like a cross between hipsters & metal fans) started doing that usual thing that the far right specialise in. I.E. acting all tough and doing their utmost to provoke the increasing numbers of anti fascists, while enjoying the protection of the state. Before long, it was raining cobblestones on the police lines whom brought in water cannons for protection.
The fascist were then informed by their protectors that they would be searched ID’d and then removed from the city for their own protection. By now hundreds of Antifa and other activists were had them surrounded and more cops were brought in to keep them at bay.
Antifascists jeered at the Nazis as they were searched and corralled. Not exactly shining examples of Aryan perfection that they claim to be the ‘masterace’ whined that they were being victimised while dodging flying bottles and masonry. All in all it was a very bad day for National Socialism as those of them who accepted the ban on their event in Hamburg were also attacked and prevented from marching in Bremen.
Here at REEL NEWS we are very far from naïve about the real reasons for the supposed generosity of Angela Merkal towards refugees. Not least the economic incentives for recruiting grateful workers from desperate situations. However a weekend in Hamburg has done much to boost our faith in the ability of ordinary people and activists to organise in solidarity with refugees and against the moronic racists who are trying to exploit this crisis for their own purposes. Nice one Hamburg!