The New Repression: May Day 2012, Berlin

<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://www.crimethinc.com/blog/2012/05/15/the-new-repression-may-day-201...

<p>On May Day 2012, anarchists around the US succeeded in precipitating clashes on a larger scale than in previous years. But it’s important to strategize ahead of our immediate problems, in order to be prepared for the subsequent challenges we will face when we succeed. This report from the May Day 2012 mobilization in Berlin offers a cautionary tale, showing how the commodification of rebellion, the influence of accommodating movement leaders, and the rhetoric of creating safe spaces have been used to neutralize a popular tradition of resistance. If revolt continues to gain momentum in the United States, we can expect to see some of these strategies employed here as well.</p></td><td><img title="TL;DR: This is asymmetric warfare. Discuss." src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/davidgoliath.jpg"></td></tr...
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<a href="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/1b.jpg" rel="lightbox[berlin]"><img src="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/1a.jpg" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

<h3><strong>The People Rebel</strong></h3>

<p>According to <em>Fire and Flames</em>, a book recounting the history of the German <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomism#The_German_Autonome_movement_in_... target="_blank">Autonomen</a>, the first May Day riots in the Kruezberg area—on May 1, 1987—came as a surprise to everyone. A simple street party became a major conflict involving many sectors of the population, forcing police to abandon the district for hours. From that night of freedom sprang a tradition of mass confrontation, a yearly day of rioting in downtown Berlin.</p>

<p><a href="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/2b.jpg" rel="lightbox[berlin]"><img src="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/2a.jpg" /></a><center><em>Rioters in 2000</em></center></p>

<h3><strong>May Day 2012</strong></h3>

<p>May Day 2012 occurred in a context of resurgent revolutionary movements seeking to project their strength. There were many signs that it would be exciting and combative: unexpectedly confrontational actions during the previous year, a call for <a href="http://insurrectiondays.noblogs.org/post/2011/08/08/ciao-mondo/">insurre... days</a> the weekend before, new attempts to squat housing, and efforts to expand the conflict zone to other areas of the city—not to mention, this was the 25th anniversary of the first Kreuzberg May Day riots.</p>

<p>Walpurgisnacht, the traditional anti-capitalist gathering the night before May Day, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXWefm6ygwY&amp;feature=player_embedded" target="_blank">was moved to Wedding</a>, a residential area seeing gentrification for the first time. This attempt to extend the conflict zone met a suffocating police presence that tightly controlled the actions of the 5000 participants and prevented almost any action outside the route previously registered with the police. </p>

<p>On May 1, for the first time, the traditional revolutionary May Day march attempted to march to the center of the city. Perhaps expectedly, the police surrounded the gathering of 20,000 after some small incidents, declared the march illegal, and steadily broke down the crowd.</p>

<p>Special semi-autonomous snatch squads charged violently into the gathering to extract individuals, making the majority of arrests during the march. Here’s how these work: one cop selects the target and runs forward full speed with the rest of the squad in a compressed line behind. The group flows around the arrest site to form a circle, picking the target up and running, the entire operation usually accomplished in under 20 seconds. People were targeted for wearing masks and showing some sign of fight towards the police. </p>

<p>The suffocating numbers of police caused people to leave so as to avoid being trapped. Later that night, most people had returned to Kreuzberg but were unwilling or unable to precipitate further clashes. </p>

<p><iframe width="450" height="305" src="http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/y6SU9Vxj4x4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><br />

<center><em>Police attacks and snatch squads</em></center></p>

<p>The protests have been received within the radical scene as a bit of a letdown, while the state and establishment view <a href="http://www.thelocal.de/national/20120502-42283.html" target="_blank">this as a victory</a>. Papers were splashed with headlines such as “May Day Passes Relatively Smoothly” and “<a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,830827,00.html" target="_blank">May 1st Demonstrations Largely Free of Riots and Violence</a>.”</p>

<p>The reduction of confrontation on May Day is not a result of decreased social momentum. To understand what’s happening, we have to look at the state’s strategy for undermining successful mobilization. </p>

<p>A large movement with thousands of militants can’t be ignored. Millions of euros are spent on the security operation to ensure that the events of May Day do not call the power of the state into question. Officials’ careers can be advanced or ended by the perception of how May Day goes. Media coverage is extensive. The language around the necessity of using force, and against whom, mirrors the US government’s description of “surgical” drone strikes and bombing campaigns against those with whom negotiation is impossible. </p>

<p><a href="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/4b.jpg" rel="lightbox[berlin]"><img src="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/4a.jpg" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span></p>

<h3><strong>Myfest Is Not Your Fest</strong></h3>

<p>In 2003, <a href="http://www.myfest36.de/" target="_blank">Myfest</a> was created by an alliance of do-gooder liberal types, small capitalists, and neighborhood-watch-style initiatives. The festival, now attended by tens of thousands, was designed specifically to occupy traditional gathering sites of overt political action in Heinrichplatz, Kottbusser Tor, and Mariannenplatz, remaking them as depoliticized zones of cultural activity, commerce, and partying. Through the joint public-private efforts of Myfest and the state, this scheme is intended to achieve complete spatial occupation and psychological control of the population of Kreuzberg.</p>

<p>The control extends from the big picture—about 10,000 police and private security—to minutia: the smallest aesthetic detail of your presentation can determine whether you are allowed to pass dozens of arbitrary entrance and exit controls. </p>

<p><a href="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/3b.jpg" rel="lightbox[berlin]"><img src="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/3a.jpg" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />
Massive security operations in the US, such as those seen at political conventions and international summits, have carved out artificial spaces in cities for the elite to gather. This security model is designed to shut down all aspects of normal life in a particular zone by establishing an impermeable demarcation between the normal and the special. This is the use of <em>crisis.</em></p>

<p>Berlin’s May Day, on the other hand, is the mapping of total state control onto the everyday lives and experiences in a specific geographic area. In the festival zone, control is about the creation of fixed continuity and normality where nothing besides a festival can occur above all because everyone knows that nothing besides a festival can occur. The crisis model at least acknowledges a state of exception and increased violence.</p>

<p>To neutralize Berlin’s history of active resistance, Myfest imposes its own convergence on the area. This starts with the branding of the event as a safe space for families, immigrant business people, and anyone wishing to participate in a political May Day event without conflict. <a href="http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/global-observer/may-day-in-berlin-from-b... target="_blank">“Protest leaders”</a> play an essential role in legitimizing and enforcing the idea that this is not a space for confrontation.</p>

<p>Two dozen stages physically occupy gathering sites; music monopolizes the aural space. Artifacts of resistance are offered for consumption, wielded as weapons against any potential for resistance. You can watch bands under anti-Nazi banners railing against police and fascists. At night, there is a movie showing on the history of the protests.</p>

<p><a href="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/5b.jpg" rel="lightbox[berlin]"><img src="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/5a.jpg" /></a><center><em>The banner reads, “Welcome to the police-organized MyFest 2012: get drunk, stuff your face, shove.”</em></center></p>

<p>Heading towards the festival zone, the police presence becomes visible a full mile away, increasingly steadily until you reach the actual checkpoints where bags are searched for bottles and weapons. The police officers who serve as bouncers courteously move aside to let in the right people, but sternly grip their weapons as they tell other individuals to fuck off. At one line, you may not be allowed to leave due to a pierced ear or a political t-shirt, while at another you have no issues. It’s the kind of arbitrary repression that says, “We do what the fuck we want.”</p>

<p>The zone itself is closed to all vehicular traffic, ceded to pedestrian commerce in order to avoid the possibility of people trying to occupy the roads for anything else. Groups of 30-60 plainclothes police with earpieces monitor the crowds; additional groups of <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_bxzfdrQOw" target="_blank">“Anti-Konflikt-Team”</a> police work to “reduce tension.”</p>

<p>As the night progresses, the proportion of radicals begins to rise and police visibility becomes more suffocating. Small autonomous groups of riot police snake through the crowd seemingly at random, looking at individuals or standing near smaller groups they wish to intimidate. Sometimes they deliberately shoulder people to emphasize that there is nothing anyone can do in response. It’s a difficult tactical environment, a fact recognized by those who want to continue contesting space and by those who believe it’s better to stay out of the way. </p>

<p><a href="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/6b.jpg" rel="lightbox[berlin]"><img src="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/6a.jpg" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span></p>

<h3><strong>Putting Down Roots, Escaping Plateaus</strong></h3>

<p>All this is not to say there is no future for May Day confrontations in Berlin. Many avenues for experimentation suggest themselves: shifting to decentralized actions around the periphery, attacking the checkpoints themselves, precipitating conflicts at new flashpoints via squatting or occupations. This is not the venue for a complete evaluation of the options. Rather, we should focus on what May Day in Berlin can teach US anarchists. </p>

<p>Many US cities have been known as anarchist hotbeds over the last decade, and at least one seems in the running for a repeat championship. Yet successful outbursts of activity have often been followed by escalating police repression and movement fragmentation, locking anarchists in cycles of confrontation with the state (and each other) that have been difficult to disengage from.</p>

<p>What’s astounding about Berlin’s May Day is not just that the authorities have been successful at limiting people’s ability to riot; it’s also that each year thousands of people keeping trying despite the odds. The ability to regularly manifest a collective desire to publicly attack our oppressors is missing throughout the United States. This failure speaks to the problems anarchists have had at rooting themselves anywhere from which they can consistently struggle—be it workplace, school, neighborhood, or margin. We’ve gotten better at gathering for occasional storms, but haven’t yet broken through to creating permanent sites or traditions of confrontation—Oakland’s admirable recent attempts notwithstanding.</p>

<p>Throughout the year, rioting and acts of sabotage occur regularly in Berlin—<a href="http://www.brennende-autos.de/" target="_blank">click here</a> to see a partial map of car burnings between 2008 and 2011—but they exist in the context of a movement that still holds significant space from which it can continually gather, regenerate, and attack. Social spaces and housing and the intimacy and support such spaces generate go hand in hand with the ability to weather repression. The constant flurry of activity at social spaces and their function as default social gathering points enable them to bring new people into the movement on an ongoing basis.</p>

<p>Yet movements rich in numbers and space and steeped in the history of specific tactics often have a hard time adapting and experimenting with new approaches. Owing to the sheer weight of resources being directed within them and against them, shifting strategy often requires a large movement buy-in that is difficult to achieve. If US anarchists are to consolidate recent gains, we’ll need to sink the deep roots our German comrades have, while retaining the unpredictability and dynamism necessary to push beyond plateaus and impasses.</p>

<p><a href="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/7b.jpg" rel="lightbox[berlin]"><img src="http://cloudfront.crimethinc.com/images/berlin/7a.jpg" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

It’s also important to strategize ahead of our immediate problems, so we will be prepared for the subsequent challenges when we succeed. The cooption of Berlin’s traditional May Day rioting via Myfest is an important cautionary tale, showing how the commodification of revolt, the influence of accommodating movement leaders, and the rhetoric of creating safe spaces can be used offensively to suppress outright resistance. On <a href="http://tidesofflame.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/tof19read.pdf" target="_blank">May Day 2012 in Seattle</a>, a few dozen anarchists may have accomplished as much damage and unexpected disruption as occurred in all Berlin. If this kind of combative activity continues, we can expect to see some of the strategies exemplified by Myfest employed in the US alongside straightforward policing. Let’s be ready to identify and counteract them immediately.</p>

Comments

wait, you're saying that traditions and rituals have limits? whoda thunk it

apparently not Eugene 2000/2001.

tl;dr Berlin cops make New York cops look like amatuers

"On May Day 2012, anarchists around the US succeeded in precipitating clashes on a larger scale than in previous years."

And so much was accomplished! LOL@anarkids.

go back to your non-profit while my friends still rot in jail you self-righteous smug fucking pig.

then maybe they were were not really your friends to begin with?

Mostly the only true friends you'll find are in prison.

"yeah I'm in for throwing newspaper boxes in the streets as well..."

Not really. Real friends are there for you. Not abandoning you by going to jail.

blaming the victim again, eh, liberal fuckface nazi murderer middle class pig piece of shit?

You learn so much about a person on A news comments, don't you. :)

A true friend discusses anarchism perspective, experience, and academic theory with you long after you have been co-defendants. When you both can relate on the difficulties of looking after a 2 year-old and the difficulties of providing the state with its demanded share of your tiny, wage-labor slice-of-the-pie......then you have found a true friend. True friends aren't made in prison, they get thrown in there with each other.................Don't Sell Out.

(same author)-----don't sell out even after 30.

Why do We radicals in the USA tend towards Horizontal antagonism? We seem to always critique each other and blame each other, few constructive criticism are found when I look for them on this site. Fuck leftists, or fuck rioters or fuck those who build radical infrastructure...
Why?
Why aren't divergent and complementing views being presented and critiqued in full, with the goal of promoting greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of certain ideas or methods?
You know not everyone who would come to this website is necessarily an Anarchist. We could persuade or turn off a bunch of people here.

We should take responsibility for persuading people to the Anarchist perspective and methods; Recognize that diversity of tactics also implies that there are many jobs to be done in any revolutionary social movement. We persuade with great arguments and organizing and getting results. Rather than reducing Anarchism to an ideological costume, we could see ourselves as committed people who are responsible for bringing these ideas and methods into the leading position in the struggle.
Whatever fellow oppressed people are, political opponents, or not, they are the people we need to convince; not to be Anarchists necessarily, but to support and practice Anarchism.(I see myself and other @s) Anarchists are specific eccentrics who identify and commit their lives to the revolutionary ideal of freedom equality solidarity sustainability and a rationally based society. We sacrifice many other dreams in this pursuit, Our future is tied with the struggle.

(Most of us realize) A revolution will not be made by Anarchists but by everyone, when Anarchist ideas and organization take the lead.
Many of us are so uncomfortable with the leadership role that we forfeit it up to liberals, leftists and people who's ideas are as well intentioned but not nearly as advanced. Let's not make the 1930s Spanish mistake again, we are very popular, lets act like it, lets keep it up, deepen the struggle and spread Anarchism.We won't be afraid to win.

Thank you! I think that anarchists deserve the utmost respect for trying to take the betterment of the world into their own hands, despite the dire consequences. We really doom ourselves to failure when we make our "struggle" so cheaply antagonistic. Not that we have no justification for going against the things we do, but no one wants to side with a bunch of punks who want to destroy their way of life and offer them absolutely nothing in return.

One thing I enjoy about anarchists is how universally competent they are. We really do have so much to offer in the way of living independent, noble, and wholesome lives. I would like to see more of that rhetoric, or we might end up reaping the antagonism we sow.

Above two comments rock the house...party over here fuck y'all over there...what what.

Anyone have more info about these "surgical drone attacks" mentioned?

HELLOOOOOOOOOO! "Surgical drone strikes" doesn't strike anyone as a red flag? Where did this term/proposed tactic come from?

If you're referring to actual usage of drones to attack combatants, they're used all the time by thte US in the middle east, where the hell have you been?

If you mean the policing method, where it's not literally drones, it sounds pretty much exactly like what they tried to do in Oakland on May Day, only in Oakland, it didn't work all too well. You see, what would happen is, the police would all run in in single file line, then suddenly, they would realize they were surrounded by a thousand people who hate them. One officer was shoved to the ground (without repercussions), the people kept the police from leaving with the attempted prisoners, many of those arrested were unarrested (the police would form a dog pile on top of them, and we would just pull the person out by their ankles), when the police had to bring in the vans to remove the extraction team and what prisoners they could get, the windows were smashed out, that sort of thing. I could be wrong, but I don't think OPD will be trying that technique again soon, they're MUCH better at kettling.

The exception being the method where they wait until the targets are by themselves, then they rush in and do it, but that's always been an issue. Just remember that it's dangerous to go alone.

Ok, for some reason I thought what was mentioned in the article by "surgical drone strikes" was somehow related to domestic dissidents, I was wondering if there was some leaked document or some such which I wasn't aware of.

OPD has their shit wayyy less together than Deutschland PD. Let's hope it stays that way, but NOT count on it.

I dont know why crimethinc thinks this doesnt already happen in the US.

Where are you getting that from? THis is just an egregious example that can give perspective on things that already happen here. But you have to admit it's more advanced than what's happening in the US: like, we don't have our shit together enough to get repressed this way.

>we don't have our shit together enough to get repressed this way

Ouch.

This is my favorite @News comment of today because it references a John Campbell comic, and he is the best.

CrimethInc isnt saying that snatch squads dont happen here, simply that the specific way that berlin cops are doing them is a more advanced approach. I can affirm this; from the Kreuzberg May Day I was at two years ago, the cops used this line technique of piercing into a mass, surrounding and dragging out one individual. It was indeed different than the way US cops are trained to do it - faster, cleaner, and the cops were disciplined enough to avoid confrontations with anyone other than the "target". typically this sort of thing in the US gets bogged down in a larger group conflict, as the bloc will try to prevent the squad from entering our space, while cops tend to just lash out at anyone who is fighting back, regardless of whether they were the original target.

People here are strange. If the US has seen all this before than why are Berlins revolutionary marches of 20,000 people, where almost everyone is pro-conflict and destruction, finding themselves unable to act. Berliners have been in conflict for years and they aren't stupid. The problem needing overcome is an overarching police strategy that we have not encountered in the US.

Bunch of postmodern gooblyglob!
Kisses,
Liam

i h8 recent crimethinc almost as much as i h8 defunct nefac

hating crimethinc: it's a dumb job, but somebody has to do it

Yeah. That's original. Go cry about it. These people have been doing good work for a long time now.

Who is nefac?

"Semi-Autonomous Snatch-Squads".....hmmm....
I saw semi-autonomous snatch-squads at work in NYC in 2005 at an outdoor LOC show at Thompkins Square. Cops rushed into the main pit, bashed some clueless fuck in the head for having an open container, and dragged him back out to the paddy wagon with a bloody head. Needless to say, the crowd responded by throwing bottles, the sides squared off, the show was interrupted, and the mace was sprayed until everyone dispersed to local pizza shops to buy bottled water to pour over our eyeballs.
My first point is that "snatch squads" are not a new police tactic----european or american. My second point is that we can only hope that the anarchist perspective and interpretation of history spreads in the united states to the extent where police forces employ the tactic of "snatch-squads" to target anarchists.....if so we are gaining ground. I don't know why the author assumes a forward trajectory of the anarchist movement in the US. I think the future is dismall despite my anticipation of new fresh arrivals to anarchist theory.b/c they don't have credible
perspective.

Semi Autonomous Snack Squads? What?

*munch munch munch*

In an obscure location, the author of "The Aberration" delivers a short reading from his work with heavily edited audio and obscured video. This method accentuates the heavily anarchistic and antinomian theme of the greater work.

The author reflects on his first 21 years of life as a grand theatre with predetermined scripts and a world already playing the roles chosen for them. From birth it is clear that he is a born aberration; a Jew growing up in a predominantly Mormon town. His life continues to multiply the contrasts between main stream culture and the unique identity he develops. Everywhere he goes, he becomes criminalized for his differences (often times merely aesthetic). These pressures and the many existential issues which stem from inescapable individuality begin to provide substance for an ever-expanding philosophy. As the author discovers nihilism, anarchism, romanticism, surrealism, the occult, quantum physics and many other past schools of liberal thought, he realizes for the first time that he is not the degenerate a life of disciplinarian institutions had lead him to believe. A clear analysis of the Artist, Art and Society, and today's "Starving Artist" finally verifies truth to the author's uncommon claims. The author reflects on his first 21 years of life as a grand theatre with predetermined scripts and a world already playing the roles chosen for them. From birth it is clear that he is a born aberration; a Jew growing up in a predominantly Mormon town. His life continues to multiply the contrasts between main stream culture and the unique identity he develops. Everywhere he goes, he becomes criminalized for his differences (often times merely aesthetic). These pressures and the many existential issues which stem from inescapable individuality begin to provide substance for an ever-expanding philosophy. As the author discovers nihilism, anarchism, romanticism, surrealism, the occult, quantum physics and many other past schools of liberal thought, he realizes for the first time that he is not the degenerate a life of disciplinarian institutions had lead him to believe. A clear analysis of the Artist, Art and Society, and today's "Starving Artist" finally verifies truth to the author's uncommon claims. I love cumming on a young anarchist boys face.

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