Hamburg: Danger Zones lifted, City may buy Rote Flora

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Photo via Enough is Enough

Photo via Enough is Enough

After Hamburg police divided the “danger zone” into three smaller areas last week, police authorities lifted the danger zones on Monday. The move came after protests continued to grow during the weekend, and after strong criticism against the police and the state government of Hamburg in German mainstream media. On Tuesday, the city of Hamburg announced that they want to buy back the autonomous cultural center Rote Flora to maintain its occupied status. The Rote Flora has been occupied by autonomous activists since 1989, but owner Klaus-Martin Kretschmer wants to evict the building.
demo roteflors

After more than a week of daily protests and strong criticism against Hamburg police authorities, the police announced that the so-called “danger zones” (which are actually state of emergency zones where police are able to stop, search, ban and detain people as they please) were over on Monday. Mainstream media criticized the excessive use of force by police, and the police fabrication of an attack on Davidwache police station at Hamburgs famous Reeperbahn. Protesters were reclaiming the streets on a daily basis, and because of the spontaneous nature of the protests – and the massive support of local residents – police forces couldn’t control the protests, and after 9 days of daily protests, authorities finally gave up. During the 9 days that the danger zone existed police had harassed 990 people, banned 195 people from the area, detained 66 people and made only 5 arrests.

The ongoing protests became increasingly more creative, eventually employing an iconic toilet brush as a symbol of freedom after a video of man caught with a toilet brush was filmed at a danger zone checkpoint.

Also, on January 10th, activists organized a giant pillow fight to protest the danger zone:

That same day, a leftover Christmas tree fell victim to danger zone protestors.
Photo from Enough is Enough

Photo from Enough is Enough

For German activists, closure of the danger zone was an important win, as it was the first time police authorities installed a danger zone to suppress political protests. Many activists feared that other German cities might follow the pilot project of police authorities in Hamburg. On Monday afternoon and in the evening hours, there were still protests ongoing in Hamburg because people are mobilizing against the law that makes these danger zones possible, and also to make it clear that they have not forgotten their original demands. People demand the right to stay for the “Lampedusa in Hamburg” refugees, make clear that they are against the demolition of the Esso houses, and that they will defend the autonomous cultural center Rote Flora (which is still under threat of eviction).
Post-danger zone protest on January 13th, Photo via Enough is Enough

Post-danger zone protest on January 13th, Photo via Enough is Enough

Last year there were more and more demonstrations for the right to stay for the “Lampedusa in Hamburg” refugees. Starting in October on an almost daily basis (after activists issued an ultimatum demanding the right to stay for refugees to the Hamburg senate during a general assembly at Rote Flora), there have been spontaneous demonstrations in Hamburg, as well as weekly registered demos, the biggest on November 2 having drawn more than 20,000 people.

While protests against the eviction and demolition for another gentrification project in Hamburg of the Esso houses have intensified in the last months of 2013, authorities evicted the houses just days before a big demonstration on December 21. About 10,000 people wanted to march in Hamburg to defend the Rote Flora, the Esso houses, and for the right to stay for refugees; but a huge army of riot cops attacked the demonstration after activists marched just 20 meters, despite the demo being peaceful until the police attack. After riot cops attacked a demo against EU austerity in Frankfurt earlier this year, kettled about 1000 peaceful protesters for 10 hours, and brutally beat activists at many smaller demonstrations; people  had had enough of police attacks against demonstrations, and defended themselves on December 21 in Hamburg. Clashes broke out and lasted until the early morning hours of the next day.

Police authorities claim that activists started the clashes, but their lobby groups demanded rubber bullets and tasers for the police. Hysterical media supported the police so much that authorities decided to install the danger zones. But after the strong protests and the elimination of the danger zones, Hamburg’s ruling social-democratic SPD party made a U-turn on Tuesday, and are now blaming the owner Klaus-Martin Kretschmer of the Rote Flora building for the clashes. The SPD announced that the city of Hamburg wants to buy the building back for 1.1 million Euro. Kretschmer bought the from city authorities in 2001 for 190.000 Euro in order to make a huge profit. But on the same day, Kretschmer reacted and he said he would not sell the building back to the city, and that he will continue with his plans to evict the Rote Flora and to build a theater with a car park inside the building. In a leaked letter from the city of Hamburg to Kretschmer, the city is even threatening to force Kretschmer to sell the building. The SPD wants to buy the building to maintain its occupied status.

In the letter, the city wrote that they “will not tolerate his (Kretschma) this behavior,” and that he is fueling the conflict. They also wrote that in the buyers contract, Kretschmer was obligated to maintain the status of the Rote Flora, and that they have the right to buy it back if Kretschmer violates these contract terms. In the letter, the city says that Kretschmer must accept the offer to buy back the building for 1.1 million Euro, and that if he doesn’t, the city will consider suing Kretschmer and seizing the building – compensating him with only 190.000 Euro.

Many are rightfully speculative of the city’s claim that they will buy the Rote Flora and maintain it’s status as an autonomist cultural center. After all, there are local elections on May 25 in Hamburg. It might be just a PR move of the ruling SPD party to refurbish their image a bit after many people lost all confidence in local authorities and police for taking away their basic rights and lying to them. On Thursday, Rote Flora will hold a press conference to give their assessment of the current situation.
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Jennifer Baker is the founder and editor of Revolution News - Contact us with inquiries, tips, corrections at - revnewsmedia@gmail.com