Around 300 West African refugees arrived in
Local authorities here refused to provide the refugees with permanent accommodation and tried to drive them out of the city. They provoked a spontaneous wave of public sympathy and solidarity.
Churches opened their doors, as did mosques (albeit less publicly), housing projects and left-wing centres. Around 80 people found sanctuary in the St Pauli church, next to Hafenstraße house and the local park, which is organised by residents against the interests of property speculators. In the park, residents organised welcome grill-parties for the refugees, while groceries and blankets were taken to the church.
The FC St Pauli football club donated drinks, team kits and free match tickets, while the Ver.di public sector union and the teachers’ GEW union organised a welcome party.
After some racist abuse directed against the refugees, a well-known local bouncer volunteered to stand guard in front of the church every night. He stayed for weeks.
While the refugees received much solidarity from the public, from left groups, and from trade unions,
After this ultimatum ran out, massive police surveillance began with the aim of capturing the refugees and preparing their deportation. A spontaneous wave of protest emerged in opposition. More than 1,000 people took the streets. The same happened the next day, and the day after that.
At the same time, year eleven pupils at a school in St Pauli announced that they would make their gymnasium available to refugees. The council reacted to the appeal, saying the students would make themselves liable to prosecution. So the parents’ association made its own appeal. They declared, “We stand fully and without restrictions behind our school students. We are proud that our children are confronting the council … We call on the citizens of this city to mount civil disobedience against racism!”
On 25 October nearly 10,000 people answered a call from FC St Pauli fans to march in solidarity to St Pauli church. A week later, around 15,000 joined the largest demonstration in support of the refugees yet. Since then there have been weekly demonstrations.
Under pressure from the protests, the council voted to send heated containers in which the refugees can sleep to the church grounds. However, it still rejects the demand for residency rights for all the refugees.
In December 2013, the situation in
The police used this as an excuse to declare parts of the city a “danger zone”, in which people could be randomly controlled at any time. The Left Party protested against the repression and stood against the media witch hunt that followed, causing the party to be fiercely attacked in the right-wing media.
It seems that
This example shows how anti-racist protests can be tied to social struggles, such as those against rising rents and city development. To compel the council to abandon its course, the movement must increase the pressure, and bring together wider forces – including those in the Social Democratic and Green milieu.