The right to demonstrate is a fundamental right in Germany. Theoretically, it is always worth providing. Are there really no exceptions to this claim? From the 7th to the 8th of June, while the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel invited the heads of state of the 6 most important industrial nations to the G7 summit, held in Bavaria at the Elmau castle, it seemed as if there were.
Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, the USA and Canada were there to discuss topical global problems, such as sanctions against Russia, fighting terrorism in Africa or the situation of the world economy.
Russia was suspended from the summit yet again, for annexing Crimea, so talks about Ukraine took place without any Russian input. Similarly, talks about climate were held without China. Every year, more than 300 million euros are spent on this event out of taxpayers’ pockets, to provide the illusion of a perfect German nation and secure society.
G7 or G8 summits have already been held in the past, so one would expect practical results from them. The last summit was hosted by Germany in 2007, in the resort of Heiligendamm. In its final report, one of the statements made was: “The leading industrial nations strive to clearly reduce CO2 emissions.” From my experience, I can tell you that in reality, nothing has changed. There are only declarations of intent which are not treated as obligations. 300 million euros, on an event with only this kind of result, is a huge amount.
Much of that was spent on security. 20,000 policemen were placed all around the castle to protect Obama and Co. from “annoying” demonstrators. Every fourth Bavarian official was deployed to the area
The Bavarian authorities made it as difficult as possible for the opponents of the G7 summit to exercise their right to demonstrate. Helmut Tinter, the mayor of Weselbrunn, stated that the Ministry of the Interior had indirectly requested that he refrain from providing the constitutional rights of the demonstrators. In some instances, farmers were instructed not to lease their land to protesters – anybody who applied for permission to protest on the fields was rejected.
Despite Germany being a signatory of the Schengen Agreement, which abolished the internal frontiers between 22 member states so that the inhabitants may cross the borders without passport checks, Merkel’s government temporarily enforced heavy border controls. Instead of tracking down aggressive demonstrators, as they had expected, border officials found unlawful immigrants and refugees.
When over 10,000 protesters were expected to camp in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen municipality, authorities forbade them from demonstrating there, citing the danger of flood waters, despite the town’s location in the mountains. The right to demonstrate was thus curtailed on a large scale.
According to the final report of the 2015 G7 summit, in 2015, these following important arrangements have been made:
- In general, heads of state would like to cooperate with the aim of reaching a robust and stable world economy.
- Moreover, more women should be able to achieve professional independence or entrepreneurship.
- A fair and international control system should be implemented to address the financial crisis.
- The TTIP agreement with the USA should be brought through as far as possible – this ignoring the fact that over 2,000,000 people from all over Europe are against its conditions.
The G7 states are quoted as stating: ‘We, the G7, emphasise the importance of freedom, peace and territorial integrity, as well as respect for international law and respect for human rights. We strongly support all efforts to uphold the sovereign equality of all States as well as respect for their territorial integrity and political independence.’ That is why they strive for solutions to the conflicts in Iran, Ukraine, Libya and Syria.
Also, with regard to refugees, the politicians took the stand: ‘We are extremely preoccupied about the increasing and unprecedented global flow of refugees, internally displaced persons, and migrants caused by a multitude of conflicts and humanitarian crises, dire economic and ecological situations and repressive regimes. […] We reaffirm our commitment to prevent and combat the trafficking of migrants, and to detect, deter and disrupt human trafficking in and beyond our borders.’
Despite all this, the action alliance ‘Stop G7’ sees the G7 states as the driving force of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) – they command some of the biggest military forces in the world. Their military operations in Pakistan, Mali and other countries have put unprecedented numbers of refugees into motion.
The typical G7 opponent also questions the ideal of a world economic system because 85 of the richest people on earth own more than the poorest 4 billion together put together. At the same time, 37,000 people die everyday from starvation. At the G7, this means that 7 people decide on 7 billion. The press agent Simon Ernst explains:
‘If we do not act, we cannot look our children in the eyes, telling them that we have fought for the fact that this planet and the society on this planet further exists. Therefore, we protest. We think that a basic other world is possible. A world without exploitation, economic chaos, environmental destruction, without wars and without suppression!’
There have never been so many demonstrators worldwide in the streets. Simon Ernst had the chance to talk to a 30 year-old demonstrator who has experienced the police brutality in Elmau on her own person. While she watched a street play which was a part of the pre-announced demonstration, she was hit by a policeman 2 times with a truncheon on the head. She now has a dislocated arm and had to be treated in an intensive care unit. ‘This is no democracy, but the injury of the freedom of assembly’, stresses Simon Ernst.
Many people from Germany have not gone to Elmau to demonstrate because they were intimidated and frightened by the threatening behaviour of the police. Even if they wanted to show support for the dissenters, they changed their mind because they were afraid for their physical safety.
How can such a thing be possible in a state which calls itself free and democratic? How can it be that someone who wants to make use of their right to demonstrate or likes to express their opinion must fear injury?
Is that what democracy looks like?