Picture by Björn Kiezmann, Creative Commons by-nc Licence
Report on some derive and direct research in the protest against the opening of the O2 World in Berlin on Wednesday, the 10th of September 2008
The situation: Shortly after a successful referendum against Mediaspree (a big project to build some kind of media-city at the sides of the river Spree, between two poor and alternative parts of the city), which has been widely ignored by politicians, the opening of one big building near the river took place. An event-hall, that many people consider totally ugly, was celebrated in the small circle of invited guest. One week before faked invitations were spread, the organizers of the event reacted with some kind of folk festival that should have space for 20000 citizens. The people of the area, that don’t seem to like the project, because of gigantic illuminated advertising screens and entry fees that are more aimed at inhabitants of richer areas, stayed away.
The opposition to this project announced a demonstration the same evening. The planned ending directly in front of the hall was not allowed, but taken 300 meters away. The official reason for this was, that there is only one street at the hall, and this one would be blocked by protest, so the guests wouldn’t be able to reach the place and would cause problems for the safety of the VIPs and the emergency services would be blocked. Ok anyways, you can’t officially legalize blockades
First a view on the demonstration:
”Now we go to the buffet” comes out of the loudspeakers. The more than thousand people that are trotting behind really seem to be hungry… With hanging shoulders and without paroles they are traipsing towards the end of the demonstration. I was surprised how many there were and how much there seemed a message missing, apart from the stylish front transparent stating: “Away with the shit hall. No profits for rightwing clericals.”. The second part of the parole I consider as a stupid moralist request, profits only for normal clericals, political neutral profiteers? When it comes to content this protest was divided and versatile respectively, which I can maybe show in the following research.
A view over the Spree showed only some water police and first little groups at the big illuminated screen at the riverside. I went on my way to search for the unofficial protests.
The international hedonists had called for intruding the event by using elegant dresses, this call was also reported on in daily newspapers, so it was widely known. At one bridge near the hall you therefore faced a quite unusual view. Riot cops in black gear surround young people in partly badly arranged elegant clothes, since they suspected them of being protesters. After some time they were let free and could move to the hall.
The street between the hall and the river was closed on the side of the big demonstration, on the other side everybody could pass. In front of the hall were gathered punks and young people in cheap suits or at least chic clothes. A radio station had a small stage and was raffling tickets for Groenemeyer, without getting much resonance. Here and there you could see “Sink Mediaspree” materials. In front of the hall were moveable fences, cops with dogs and securities. At one end of the fence the VIPs had to push themselves through a mob of jeering protesters to get into the hall.
At sunset the festival site in front of the hall was filled with protesters, there was some parole shouting and some banners. Some people had managed to get into the hall, some came in over the big parking lots. In the hall some people were throwing confetti, changed O2 logos to NO2 logos, one person presented his naked ass and another one showed a “sink MediaSpree” T-shirt.
When the radiostation started a new round of win-a-ticket, many people gathered in front of the stage. As two were invited on the stage for the game, a third person went up and started a speech. The microphone was taken from him very fast by the officials, but some people with protest banners went on the stage and showed them peacefully. 20 seconds later the cops were storming on the stage from the front and from behind, managed to catch one person and threw him on the ground and themselves onto him. The journalists that were approaching the scene were hustled from the edge of the stage by a second squad.
On youtube you can see a video of the escalation of the occupation of the stage. It starts just as the protesters move back: http://anonym.to/?http://youtube.com/watch?v=FQnSPM8Y774
And the radiostation also issued a video:
Here some pictures for you, the ugly face of democracy
1: Presentation „riverside for all“
2: Performance Catch me if you can
3: Performance Facesitting
4: Hustling journalists over the edge
5: And so on
6 (little image): Mr. Freedom of the Press 2008 to the mister in green who managed to sweep 3 journalists from the edge of the stage
some speculative Details: The press spoke about the destruction of two loudspeakers during this occupation (this was claimed by the radiostation). You can’t see anything like that in the videos, at 1:55 you can see that both towers are still standing. The only thing that fell over were the two plastic air filled columns, but they were not destroyed at all. And the only thing flying through the air are two rolls of toilet paper… All in all it was a fairly loud and resolute action, but destruction wasn’t at all a part of it.
In the crowd now two banners appeared “luxury for all” and “out of the way capitalists”. Red and black flags were waved and a picket with “Our World ist better than O2-World” was raised. The press gathered around this material, and shortly after this the whole crowd moved fastly towards the hall. The few citizens that were sitting there waiting for the display of fireworks were first interested but then moved away as the cops started running and pushing through the crowd to catch the banners and the people carrying them.
One side of the protest could be seen here: a big crowd shouting “Tear it down!”, in the sense of an insurrection against the ugly architecture… The big illuminated signs I was speaking about before have been under attack since their installation, through colourbombs and one time by hundreds of shots out of a colour softair gun. This time they had only the small defacements of logos inside the hall, so was the arguing about violent protestors in the opening speech really because they were thinking the autonomous people would tear down the whole thing like proclaimed?
Another side was represented through the partly queer appearance of the protest, by that some wanted to set a sign against the homophobic investor Anschütz. Also see the announcement in the genderblog.
A third side that I perceived was the agitation against people that can afford the entrance fees, against VIPs, the “rich”, privileged people, and so on. Some people tried to block the streets at night to hinder expensive cars.
The street was closed by the police from about 20 or 20:30 o’clock at both sides for everybody, since the police had obviously noticed that mostly enemies of the hall were gathering at the festival site. But there were also other ways, I won’t mention them here since creativity should be awarded . I would say that about 100 “normal” people were on the place, for the festival and the fireworks (they were expecting 20.000). Some were entertained by the protest and were sitting around. The stands were closing very fast since nobody was buying stuff, and as the violence was escalating from the side of the police, many visitors left.
A second demonstration with about 50-100 people was walking from a alternative space nearby towards the area. At this alternative space a big sign stating “H4-World: Welcome to the Hartz4-Arena Berlin” has been put up in the style of the O2 advertising. Hartz4 is the scandalous low social money the people in need and out of work get in Germany. This demonstration ended at the street block the police had put up and the people stayed there until the end of the opening.
I was talking to some people in the crowd of “normal” visitors that seemed to be angry about the protest. They showed some understanding after I explained the protest against homophobia, but didn’t agree to the agitation of the protest against rich people. They were of the opinion that one would have to save some money for an evening in the hall, and that this is just something special were you can wait some time until you can afford it. People like these should be picked up at this point with an argumentation against the control of needs through poverty, instead of ranting against those that are not poor. And on the topic of the insurrection against the architecture: How this thing is looking didn’t matter to them, the riverside meant an open space to them, where people are able to relax (sitting at the river or go to the alternative bars), they were opposed to the video surveillance of the area. When you speak to people living in the area, often not the hall as such, but the illuminated big advertisements at the front and back of the hall, at the riverside and on the bridge are seen as annoying and as the reason for the area to be more ugly.