Yesterday, I almost got arrested. But let me back up just a bit…
I basically spent this past weekend with friends in numerous dive bars and parks. We were doing our best to soak up the Berlin summer – despite it really chucking it down on Saturday – and make the most of each other’s company – especially since Betti and Banks had an out-of-town visitor for the weekend. And let me tell you, without getting into too much detail, after having some things not go the way I would have liked them to as of late, I was in dire need of a weekend with friends.
After spending the evening in the dive-iest dive of dive bars the night before, playing pool in a haze of smoke, and drinking dubious cocktails that never came out quite as ordered, we all decided to meet up at Mauerpark for a go through the markets and some delicious street food. Although originally on the hunt for a dining room and/or kitchen table as I have still yet to buy one, I opted for three vintage records and a little boy’s denim coat – which started out as a joke to see if I could actually fit into it, and ended up with my wallet being 15€ lighter after some persuasive sales techniques from a particularly enthusiastic market seller.
We settled down for some drinks in the garden, joked about the actual possibility that our entire friend circle consists of chain smokers and shot the shit for a bit. At the end of the evening, we all went our seperate ways, my friend Crav and I opting to head over to a VoKü at a house project in Friedrichshain. For those of you who do not know much about VoKü, let me give you the run-down:
Volxküche, also known as VoKü, Bevölkerungsküche (BeVokü) or Küche für alle (Küfa) is basically an initiative started in the left-leaning alternative scene which features regular meals at different locations which are served on a donation-basis. Many of these events also feature purely vegan options. Locations of Voküs are often found at house projects or other politically left-leaning locations, like Bars or autonomous centers.
The Vokü we happened to be at on Sunday night was located at a feminist transgender house project on a sreet where there has been growing political unrest between the police and the left scene for years. As of late, this particular location has been labeled a ‘Gefahrengebiet,’ or “Danger Zone” by authorities. Since August 2015, this location has been deemed a full of dangerous criminal activity allegedly instigated by the left scene – despite the fact that the housing project we visited actually got attacked by Neo Nazis not too long ago. Therefore, the police have been given extra special power within this location: those suspected of left-leaning politics are subject to having their papers taken, searched, and even detained without any other kind of explanation other than being within the “Danger Zone.” The police can be seen routinely controlling the area and have already stopped over 2000 individuals, 1577 of whom whose Names, birthdates, and official residences have been entered into the “Polizeilichen Landessystem zur Information, Kommunikation und Sachbearbeitung” (POLIKS) eerily similar to that of McCarthy’s in the 1950s. My friend and I are part of this growing number of individuals.
What did we do on Sunday night exactly? Well, we were sitting on the sidewalk eating a vegan meal prepared by leftists. As we were told by the police who stopped us, took our identification, wrote down our area of residence, and detained us for 20 minutes, eating on the sidewalk is “not normal behavior.” We were then told that based on our manner of dress it was clear that we were affiliated with violent leftists and if we showed our faces in the “Danger Zone” within 24 hours, we would be arrested.
So I am going to get just a wee bit political today on LFB, but seeing as I almost ended up in a prison cell, I think it’s entirely warranted. Now I am fully aware that there are other countries whose governments are much more despotic than Germany’s, but when two peaceful individuals who are are enjoying some delicious home-cooked vegan food are threatened with the prospect of being thrown into prison based on their appearance and political ties, something is very wrong with the world. Political ideals that seem dissident and exist outside of a system that promotes capitalism and gentrification are seen as the enemy.
We could have gotten up and walked straight back into the house project when the cops (all 12 of them with their big police wagon and squad car) started coming – as the rest of the people sitting outside did. But why? Why should we choose to let ourselves be intimidated for doing nothing other than believing that all individuals have the right to be treated fairly?
As mad as the situation made me, is has also emboldened me. It has made me more resolute in my quest for fighting for social justice. Right-wing extremists in Germany have been setting fire to refugee homes. British MP Jo Cox was murdered by a right-wing neo-Nazi who shouted “Britain First” before slaying the Labor Party politician. 49 people were murdered in cold blood in Orlando based on who they happened to love. Brock Turner was given a meagre six months in prison for raping an unconscious woman near a dumpster. These are the things we should be angry about. These are the things we should be fighting to change. And these are the things our governments should be concerned about. Not two well-meaning politically active artists eating a cruelty-free meal on a warm Sunday night in Berlin. Intimidation of this nature will not work, as it only draws more attention to a lopsided institution that promotes the vested interests of corporate capitalism and those in positions of privilege over the rights of the oppressed and voices of those trying to set things right.
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