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Who is a Threat to Whom? G8 Summits and Increasing State Repression

By Jason Kirkpatrick

The heightening and virtual militarisation of domestic policing efforts against many US activists has clearly been stepped up since 911. Homeland Security is linked up in a “new and improved” information networking and cooperation system with a vast array of both foreign and domestic intelligence gathering agencies within the USA, and increasingly so, on an international level.

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After September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration has been superseding not only the US Constitution, but also the Geneva Conventions and other international laws in its so far unsuccessful pursuit of Al Queda and whatever else it deems to be a threat to the American way of life. In the run-up to the Iraq War and during 2003 many continental European politicians were strongly critical of American strategies and efforts to combat its percieved threats, publicly stated as the threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism.

However, in contrast during subsequent years European nations have been following the lead of the Bush Administration at a drastically increasing level, copying many of the USA’s most repressive internal “anti-terrorist” legislation and increasing security powers. To follow suit, European politicians are often stretching the truth and even telling outright liesi about “new threats to national security” to justify fresh legislation and to redefine or twist interpretations of existing laws governing policing authority. For citizen activists, the worst of this news is that Al Queda is rarely the focus of such excess, but progressives, broad spectrums of the left and anarchists are becoming the targets of repression like never before. Large-scale public protests in general, and G8 Summits in particular, seem to be the most loved opportunities for national governments to try out new repression methodologies and tactics.

G8 Summits as Security Experimentation Labs

In 2005 the UK G8 Summit was the first time that police forces had worked together with the British military inside the nation, with military transport helicopters used to fly in riot police during a legal protest outside the Summit hotel. Police also used and abused an obscure law entitled “Section 60” of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act of 1994ii, which was originally intended to be used against football hooligans. During the G8, police widely overstepped their legal authority by massively encircling and detaining crowds even before they had left march staging areas. They illegally searched people, taking names and photographs in clear violation of their alloted powers under Section 60. Furthermore, they often detained people for up to four days on mere suspicion, with charges mostly suspended and jail release coincidentally being timed with the end of the G8 Summit and its concurrent protests.

The German G8 summit of June 2007 proved not only to be the largest mobilization in years for left and radical activists, but it was also a high point in the use of repression by German security forces.iii Some early evidence of this began in Spring 2006 when activists noticed one odd person at meetings who seemed rather poorly informed, but insisted that he wanted to be on every e-mail list relating to protest activities. Not long after he was asked not to return due to suspicion he was an informant, it became public that police had offered a number of activists money in order to infiltrate the activist group Dissent!, giving instructions to try to get passwords for e-mail lists, and to collect information on the most militant anti-G8 and anti-fascist activists. One activist “double agent” went on to write a detailed account of his recruitment by the police.

Intimidation and Information Gathering

On May 9, 2007 the German Polizei and the other regional and national special police agencies (the LKA and BKA, respectively) raided 40 homes and other activist projects across the North of Germany.iv Citing the anti-terrorist “Paragraph 129a” which makes it illegal to be a “Member of a Terrorist Organisation” (which is quite handily defined in a very loose fashion), the police confiscated computers, made arrests, and took DNA materials as well as clothing “scent samples.”v It was made public soon after that the police actually had not even so little as a single arrest warrant for any of their targeted suspects.

The raids prompted comparisons in the press with the old hated East German “Stasi” Secret Police, quite a strongly unfavorable analogy in modern Germany.vi Activists reacted to the unprecedented searches by taking to the streets spontaneously in protest. Over 3,000 marched in Hamburg and 5,000 in Berlin in very powerful demonstrations on the very same night to show solidarity against state repression. The largen numbers of protestors were seen as a very strong backlash against the police raids, however the security forces kept up the pressure over the following weeks.

Such misuse of “anti-terrorist” legislation is becoming more and more rampant in Germany to intimidate activists and to garner information on them. Some intimidation targets include young anti-fascist activists who are already worried enough about trying to keep ultra-violent German Nazi skinheads from owning the streets of their economically depressed neighborhoods in East Germany. Even worse, police openly admit that such searches help them to find out more about activist networks, and how they function. One officer used a bird hunting analogy to comment on the May 9th searches, “We’ve shot into the bush, just to see what moves.”vii

Political Legitimization of Unconstitutional Repression

During the final preparations up to the Summit itself the entire state apparatus from local police up to Chancellor Angela Merkel herself did their best in the mainstream media to invoke fear of violent protest and possible terrorist attacks. After months of expensive well coordinated propaganda (paid by the taxpayers), the groundwork was laid for the implementation of never-before seen state repression led by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Since the end of World War II, the German constitution has forbidden the use of its Military within national borders. The constitution was broken clearly in this regard multiple times during the G8 protests. One time was through the use of the German military on civilian roads and highways to lookout for activists who publicly announced they would blockade roads at the nearby Rostock Laage Airport as President Bush and other G8 leaders arrived. There is a very well-known internet video interview on No-G8 TVviii with activists repeatedly asking soldiers which directive they are operating under that superseds the German constitution forbidding their deployment within national borders. Repeatedly, the answerless soldiers give blank looks to the video journalist and can do nothing but uselessly shrug their shoulders in despair.

Just prior to the massive blockades of the G8 Summit on June 6, 7, and 8th, a military Tornado fighter planeix flew at a height of 500 feet over an activist camp on June 5th, well below the legal height of 1,600 feet. The military admitted later that this was done to take high-resolution photographs of activists, again breaking the German Constitution by using the military against civilians within Germany. This event brought special critique as the first journalist questions asking who gave the order for this flight received the reply that the special anti-G8 police force “Kavala” had given orders to do so.

To publicly admit that the military had broken the constitution was bad enough, but to go even further and say that the police were the ones ordering the military what to do was totally over the top, as this is not only unconstitutional but also wildly beyond all limits of normal separation of policing powers and military authority since the end of WWII. The military later retracted the statement and claimed responsibility, but the issue has continued to be a hotly debated topic in both the German press as well as in the Parliament. Strangely, even the ruling SPD party proclaimed the flight to be unconstitutional in the largest German news weekly.x

Policing efforts during the massive anti-G8 protests saw nearly 1,500 activists rounded up and thrown into small temporary prisons. According to a popular leftist newspaper called simply “The Daily Paper” (die Tageszeitung), the bulk of the protestors were released immediately after the G8 Summit was over, with charges generally being dropped completely or suspended for the vast majority due to “insufficient evidence”. However, the entire exercise was a well planned out experiment for the government and security forces in how to round up and imprison an undesireable population (in this case G8 protestors), and to largely get away with it.

Repression continues even after World Leaders go home
Sadly, the repression has not ended alongside the closure of the G8 Summit on June 8. Soon afterwards there were more arrests of individuals suspected of “militant” actions, some of which had previously included such innocuous actions as throwing paint balloons at buildings. The July 31st arrest of Sociologist Andrej Holm bordered on the surreal. One legal ground for his arrest was that in his academic writings he had used the word “gentrification,” and apparently this exact same word had been used previously in communiques written by militants over previous years. Another reason listed in government files for his arrest was that he had access to libraries where one could research the kinds of issues discussed in militant communiques.

Luckily for Holm a massive international campaign organized largely by academics as well as local support within Germany stepped up the pressure and he was released from prison within three weeks.xi Other activists are not so lucky and many sit in German prisons on similar scant evidence, often via twisted use of the supposedly anti-terrorist Paragraph 129a legislation.

What does the Future Hold?

What is next for German progressives, activists and leftists? More radical elements are kicking off a large scale campaign against repression, most notably against the coming 11th European Police Congress of January 29-30, 2008, in Berlin.xii Activists are raising awareness about Europe-wide security efforts to undermine human rights and increase observation and repression against citizens. US policing agencies and the FBI are often mentioned as keynote participants at such conferences, and were mentioned clearly in German press as participating in policing conferences leading up to the German G8 Summit.

In Asia, the Japanese G8 Summit is coming up July 7-9, 2008. Both Japanese and German activists there have already reported heavy harrassment including being followed across the entire country by as many as six plain clothes police during an Anti-G8 Infotour in October 2007.xiii The German BKA has publicly made two visits to Japan in recent months since the German G8, and the German police are training a new Pan-Asia police force called “Asiapol” which includes security forces from every nation in Asia, including Burma. With the Japanese police already having the powers to detain suspects without evidence up to four weeks merely for questioning, one wonders what difficulties anti-G8 activists in Japan will face before G8 2008. Regardless, they are intensely organising for large scale protests with their own Anti-G8 Infotours across Asia, in Europe, and in the USA in Spring 2008.

The agents of repression are no longer operating within the borders of single nation states. They are also clearly not interested in heeding either international or national laws governing either civil rights, or their own operations. A necessary tactic is to go on the offensive, and to clearly and firmly make it known that such repression will not be tolerated, not in Burma, not in Germany, not in Japan, and not anywhere.

1 Interview with Ulla Jelpke, Member of German Parliament (Die Linke), November 9, 2007

2 http://www.wombles.org.uk/article20060324.php

3 Neue Rheinische Zeitung, http://www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=10825, May 2, 2007

4 Die Tageszeitung newspaper, November 12, 2007

5 http://www.rote-hilfe.de/themen/themenarchiv/g8_latest_news

6 Frankfurter Rundschau, www.fr-online.de, November 14, 2007

7 Zeck, Das Krawallblatt aus der Roten Flora, page 7, Sept./Okt. 2007

8 http://g8-tv.org/index.php?play_id=1721

9 German Parliament ”Answers of the Federal Government”, page 10, Nov. 7, 2007

10 Der Spiegel, Spiegel Online, June 19, 2007

11 Die Tageszeitung, November 12, 2007

12 https://gipfelsoli.org/Multilanguage/English

13 Interview with Anti-G8 Infotour member, Nov 20, 2007

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