Friday, August 16, 2013

Münster: Keinenmeter

On August 15th, a branch of Germany's NPD extreme-right party (often referred to as "nazi") organized a demonstration in the Nordrhein-Westfallen city of Münster as part of a tour through the state in advance of the upcoming regional and national elections.

The NPD allegedly has strong focus in this region in cities like Dortmund, Hamm, and Unna.

Münster, unlike my former city of Dresden, Saxony, is a rather inhospitable place for extreme right politics.  The city is very international, tolerant, and highly protective of its standard of living and multi-faceted local culture.  Possibly one of the aspects of why the NPD has not been able to make headway in Münster can be attributed to the local, regional, and national governments being involved, to various degrees (even if in disagreement) with the city.  The governments appear to, in contrast to Dresden, not shield itself from the community.  In fact, one can sometimes see the mayor and various staff at local events, among crowds.  The criticism in the former East Germany is the apathy the governments have, from the local level straight up to the national level.  The people there feel slighted, as the NPD is there year-round, while other, "legitimate" politicans often only make their presence known in relation to elections.  There is effectively little resistance from within in Eastern Germany and why the few residents who protest need to import protesters.

Largely, a media-statistics game is played in Dresden (home of Europe's largest yearly neo-nazi rally), which directly conflicts with video and other materials that are posted online.  They constantly reduce the number of alleged nazis that appear, inflating the number of demonstrators against them, and claim the marches are blocked, while, in fact, they simply go through different streets.  The local governments try to give the impression that the alleged nazis are all imports, when many are the very people of Dresden and the surrounding towns, such as Bischoffswerda and Hoyerswerda, where swastikas and neonazis are seen quite often.  The media also plays a statistics game with the voting numbers, acting as if xenophobia and nazism doesn't exist on a daily basis due to voting trends.  Both are prevalent and problematic, but the people decouple their voting habits from their personal politics.

Münster contrasted itself and proved itself as actively against them.  The demonstrators assembled first at the Stadthaus and walked, in solidarity, to Schlossplatz to peacefully counter the NPD speech with noise and direct addresses.  Their leader, Holger Apfel had zero chance and gave up after only a few minutes.  Again, this contrasts with Dresden.  Effectively, the crowd trolled the NPD for several hours, then not allowing the 7-8 members to not leave the city.  The frustration of the NPD became evident, as the crowd continued to peacefully heckle them, surrounding them completely and progressively enclosing them in a small space.

The turnout was mixed, including large numbers of elderly interspersed within a crowd of very young.  Often, some of the most vocal were the older members of the protests, again, contrasted with Dresden. The estimate I've seen is 1,500 for the turnout, which I believe to be somewhat underestimated.

Also contrasted with Dresden was the peaceful, respectful police presence.  The police in Dresden are often accused to being supporters of the NPD as they march alongside them.  However, the police in Münster, even with alternating formations often used to break sympathetic connections between them and the people, to some degree, blended with the protesters.  There was no violence that I saw, and anti-police animosity (and signage) was mostly gone when many saw the police were not overtly sympathetic towards the NPD.  If anything, they proved neutrality and respect for the demonstrators and the city.  Later pictures in the series will reveal the good nature of some officers and how they correctly handled the actual mood and attitudes of the protesters, not using some classroom flowchart of how to deal with all protesters, which can often ignite tensions.  My positive opinion of the police might not be shared by any side, but, in contrast to what I've seen in East Germany, I will happily defend their professionalism.  Other aspects I will not discuss in specifics, but it felt apparent that the police were not interested in the NPD coming to the city.








1 comment:

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