Israel-Palestine war: German police repress Palestine solidarity protests
More than a thousand people were expected to take to the streets of Frankfurt on Saturday afternoon to march in solidarity with the Palestinian people and protest against the Israeli bombardment and siege of Gaza.
Then, at 2.48pm, just 12 minutes before it was set to begin, police in the German city announced that the Hessen administrative court had issued an urgent application against the demonstration, stating that public safety would be “immediately endangered”.
Though the police were then instructed to stop the protest taking place, hundreds of demonstrators already gathered in Frankfurt’s city centre did not go home. Many smaller groups formed around the city, playing a game of cat and mouse with police, who were moving to block different areas off.
Hundreds of police kettled protesters, trapping them in one place so they could not leave or join up with other groups. A helicopter flew above and a water cannon was positioned facing protesters.
Unfazed, demonstrators chanted “Free Palestine” and “End the war on Gaza now”, as police called out “this is a banned demonstration” from loudspeakers. When it became clear the protesters wouldn’t leave, the police resorted to more severe measures.
At least 300 protesters were detained and had their IDs and information taken, while 12 people were arrested. One protester was knocked over by police and fell on her head. The week before, she had had surgery for a brain aneurism.
One witness told Middle East Eye that a police officer pushed the woman and that others then ignored her. “He saw her on the floor and said, ‘What’s this?’, then simply kept walking,” the witness said of one of the officers. “It was other protesters who made sure she was okay, called the ambulance and stayed with her till they came.”
When asked about the actions they were taking, a police officer told MEE: “Simple, the protest is banned and what they are doing is illegal.”
As of Monday morning, 2,750 people had been killed in Gaza, as Israeli air strikes on the besieged coastal enclave continued. Civilians have been told to leave northern Gaza as Israel readies its troops for a ground invasion.
At least 1,400 Israelis have died after the armed Palestinian group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Saturday 7 October.
'We have forgotten nothing'
In Germany, demonstrations in support of Palestine are a sensitive issue. Protests in the capital Berlin were banned, and then a replacement vigil of a thousand people was also banned, with Berlin’s police responding to demonstrators waving Palestinian flags.
“As a result of the considerable number of people with pro-Palestinian symbols arriving, the replacement event was forbidden even before it had formally begun,” the police said in a statement.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced last Thursday that his government “will ban all activities and organisations supporting Hamas”.
“Hamas is already labelled as a terrorist organisation in Germany, but now Berlin will prohibit any activities in support of the group or its agenda,” Scholz said in a speech to parliament. The ban will apply to fundraising, the display of the Palestinian flag, and even the wearing of the Palestinian keffiyeh.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s vice chancellor, addressed Israelis in a video message on Friday, promising them that “we stand at your side, and we have forgotten nothing”, an apparent reference to Germany’s role in the Holocaust and its post-war guarantee of Israel’s security.
Between 1941 and 1945, Germany’s Nazi government and its collaborators systematically murdered around six million Jews.
While police were breaking up the pro-Palestine demonstration in Frankfurt, a pro-Israel march was taking place close by in the city’s downtown area, where 1,200 supporters of Israel rallied on Saturday without any police interference.