Germany: Berlin targets Bundestag Gaza protest camp with bans, police brutality

Germany: Berlin targets Bundestag Gaza protest camp with bans, police brutality
Germany steps up its crackdown on all forms of solidarity with Gaza, including a protest camp in Berlin calling for an end to German complicity in the genocide.
3 min read
24 April, 2024

Since Monday, April 8th, pro-Palestine activists have established a protest camp opposite the Bundestag, the German parliament, with the slogan “Occupy against Occupation.”

They are protesting Germany’s involvement in the Gaza genocide. The camp was supposed to last for two weeks and included plans for an exhibition called “Life: Banned from Gaza,” showcasing everyday items prohibited by Israel from entering Gaza.

But from the start,  the camp has been hassled by German police, with arrests and limitations on chants and Muslim prayers.

Salah Said, a Palestinian activist and political science graduate working in the non-profit sector, told TNA, "When law enforcement officers arrived at the camp on Sunday, police conducted searches and swiftly resorted to violent arrests, assaulting attendees brutally. Civilians were kicked, beaten, and harassed".

German police employed excessive force against pro-Palestinian activists. Even an anti-Zionist Jew attempting to intervene against police brutality was targeted.

"This ongoing unjust treatment of Palestinians and anti-Zionist Jews by both the police and the media has fuelled tensions for months. The police also assaulted me, punching me three times in the face," Said told TNA.

One of the camp's main organizers, speaking anonymously to TNA, said they would stay in the camp until their demands to stop Berlin's weapons exports to Israel and end the criminalisation of Palestinian activists are met.

"The police have violently attacked us several times; they threw me on the floor and pepper-sprayed me," the organiser said.

The organiser said they were detained on April 9th after giving a speech calling Germany a fascist country and given two criminal charges for allegedly insulting Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor and Annalena Baerbock, the foreign minister of Germany.

"The camp was given a blanket ban by police on speaking any language other than German or English. During Ramadan, they were warned the police would shut them down if they prayed in Arabic," they said.

Palestine Congress crackdown

On April 12, German police shut down a conference of pro-Palestine activists.

Tthe conference was even labelled a ‘terrorist, anti-Semitic event’ by the German media. The organisers’ homes were raided by the police. Shortly after the conference began, around 30 police officers stormed the stage, blocking the main screen while others cut off all power in the building, causing fear and panic. 

Prior to the conference, Iris Spranger, Berlin’s Senator for the Interior (SPD), stated that authorities were closely monitoring the conference, while Dirk Stettner, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) faction leader, insisted on efforts to prevent the “anti-Semitic event” from taking place.

Commenting on the events that occurred on the day of the conference, Said said, “There’s an unnaturally heavy police presence at Palestine events or protests, which intimidated protesters, making them feel afraid and unsafe. Many avoid returning to other protests because of this".

"We’ve seen numerous protesters detained, instances of police brutality, and some investigated for allegedly spreading hate", he added. 

Intimidation and threats were happening long before the Palestine congress and the emergence of protest camps, and this isn’t a new occurrence in Germany.

Said explained that even before the events of October 7th, discrimination against Palestinians and the silencing of pro-Palestinian voices were common in Germany. This includes banning protests, suppressing voices even from Jewish activists, and cancelling cultural events.

I refuse to give in to these intimidation tactics and will continue to speak up no matter what.”

“Silence is not an option," Said concluded.