Let us stay on Tempelhofer Feld!

13 Aug

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The security guard in the puffy black jacket was shining his flashlight in my eyes. I had turned on my iPhone’s flashlight and was shining right back at him. We held this pose for at least a minute. If this were a Western, I’m sure I’d be in the John Wayne role. But to an impartial observer, our flashlight standoff might have looked rather silly. How did we end up here?

Night was falling on Tempelhof Park and a group of friends had just finished their Grillfest. We were gathering up the grill and the blankets – the beer bottles had long since been snatched up by Flaschensammler – when security came to tell us that it was one hour after sunset and we had to leave. We said we were already on our way, but the bulky young man insisted on illuminating us while we worked. The only way I could explain to him that he was being annoying was a practical demonstration.

I won that standoff – he moved on – but it got me thinking: Why, exactly, does Tempelhof Park have to close at night? Over 700,000 Berliners voted to reject the construction of luxury apartments and keep the field open. But why does that only apply during the day?

I asked the PR agency – the brave souls in charge of spreading the lies of the construction mafia – but they couldn’t give me a straight answer. They also wouldn’t tell me how much the city spends on the nightly evictions.

The park needs to close at night because of “Sicherheitsaspekte” (security issues) apparently. But whose security is in danger? The neighboring Hasenheide is open 24 hours a day, and I’ve walked through at night without being murdered even one single time. Or are they worried that people will damage things? What, exactly, on that giant empty field?

The decision was made by Grün Berlin GmbH, a company that belongs to the Berliner Senat. Grün manager Christoph Schmidt and his team get to decide which gardens, which parties and which demonstrations are allowed – and how much they have to pay.

The field isn’t a public space – that’s why they can throw us out whenever they want. Grün isn’t really accountable to anyone – they don’t even have to answer to the Senat, let alone to park visitors. The Pirate Party, for one, demands that the parks stay open at night. The private company should be replaced by a public institution under at least some democratic control.

But still, why kick us out? An architect friend explained that there’s a whole science of making people think a certain way about a certain urban space. When Grün kicks us out every night, they’re letting us know it’s not our space – we can only enter their space with their permission. That way, the next time they try to sell the land to their realty speculator friends (and that’s just a question of time) it won’t feel like the robbery it is.

To summarize: Your tax dollars are being used to kick you off your field. And the reason, it seems, is to make it easier to steal the whole thing from you.

Does anyone else find this displeasing? The field was only opened to the public after massive protests and attempts to squat it back in 2009 (“Did you ever squat an airport?”). Now I think it’s time to squat the park at night too.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/let-us-stay-on-tempelhofer-feld/

The PARTEI has started!

30 Jul

sonneborn.

If you ever find yourself in the EU Parliament’s gargantuan chamber in Strasbourg, look toward the back. No, further back – in the last few rows on the far right. This is the area reserved for the xenophobic wackos who aren’t in any parliamentary group. But in their midst, on seat 694, between the neoliberal AfD from Germany and the neofascist FPÖ from Austria, sits Martin Sonneborn.

Wearing the grey suit of a bureaucrat and the noncommittal smile of a politician, the 49-year-old Sonneborn doesn’t look out of place. “We’re not the craziest ones in the European Parliament,” he says. Marine Le Pen of the Front National, just one row ahead, won the European elections in France with diatribes against immigrants and globalization. Sonneborn’s Die PARTEI, in contrast, got their seat with a promise to “overcome substance” (Inhalte überwinden).

Die PARTEI was founded 10 years ago by editors of the satirical magazine Titanic. They wanted to re-build the Wall and crossed every ‘t’ for establishing a political party. After years of slow progress, their breakthrough came at the European Elections of 2014 after Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled to abolish the three percent hurdle for EU elections. The reasoning? Since the EU Parliament can’t decide much anyway, it can’t hurt to fill it with small parties.

Now Sonneborn can make EU politics interesting. Daily life in Strasbourg seems to consist of endless horse trading to fill positions, interrupted by speeches in front of a mostly empty chamber. It seems that many parliamentarians don’t find it too thrilling either and thus don’t bother to show up to work. The discussions about byzantine regulations are mostly theatre anyway, since important decisions in the EU are made by the Commission, not the Parliament. And any attempts to make it look interesting just result in face palms.

That’s why Sonneborn, while taking selfies with his right-wing neighbours, is quite open about his goal to get as much money as possible. The original plan, to have each representative resign after one month and then collect six months of transitional pay, has apparently fallen through due to red tape. But Sonneborn isn’t giving up: “We’ll bring them a 60 PARTEI cadre to Brussels – whether as office managers, interns or EU Commission Presidents.” He has given his word that he will get material benefits for his underlings.

The real question is how much satire is possible in the EU parliament. Udo Voigt, the head of the NPD (who has been featured in Exberliner magazine far too often for my liking), has just been elected to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. What is left for a comedian to say?

The EU parliament used to have a directive about the required length and curvature of cucumbers. After endless ridicule, it was dropped in 2009. Sonneborn wants to re-introduce this directive but apply it to weapons: “Any gun barrel would need a curvature of at least two centimetres per 10 centimetres in length,” he told the newspaper junge Welt. “I believe that would be less suffering in the world if Germany, as the European champion in exporting weapons, moved ahead on this.” When did you last hear such a sensible proposal from the EU?

And he told the radio Deutschlandfunk his philosophy as a parliamentarian: “Basically I like anything that annoys the EU Commission.” Now that’s a politician I would vote for. If I could vote

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/martin-sonneborn-makes-eu-politics-interesting/

Refugees occupy the TV tower

10 Jul

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“I’m sorry, but the tower is full” says the security guard at the entrance to Berlin’s Fernsehturm. “You’ll have to try again later.” The tourists turn away. But I’m not convinced, I had heard something else was going on there. I ask her: “Are you sure it’s just full, and not occupied by refugees?” She feigns shock: “What do you mean ‘occupied’? It’s full!” Alexanderplatz is packed with dozens of police vehicles. Officers in riot gear are blocking every entrance to the tower. Because it’s full?

On Wednesday, 37 refugees occupied the viewing platform 203 meters above the city. They bought tickets and went up at 3pm and refused to leave. In a statement they explain that they have been active in political protests for several years:

Everywhere we are turned away. Everyone has the same answer for us. Everyone refers us to the next person. No one listens to us. No one wants to be responsible for us refugees and the inhumane laws under which we live.

This group – originally from many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East – have come together from Lager (camps for asylum seekers) across Bavaria. Last week 70 refugees occupied the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Nuremberg, hoping to find someone who would listen to their demands. They were evicted by the police.

“You have to talk to someone in Berlin”, one of the activists recalled hearing. So they went to East Berlin’s emblematic tower. “We selected this place to find public support. The people of Deutschland must understand our problems.”

These refugees say they have been in Germany for three, four or five years, waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. They aren’t allowed to work, go to school, or travel outside of the Landkreis of their Lager. They are demanding Bleiberecht (a right to stay) as well as an end to the Residenzpflicht that prohibits travel.

The police refuse to let the press up into the tower. Fabio Reinhardt, member of the Berlin parliament for the Pirate Party, buys a ticket, but only after several hours can he go up to participate in negotiations.

Via social media, dozens of supporters at ground level can see the police breaking up the sitting blockade. “Please translate for us,” one refugee calls out the the police in a video, “since we are not allowed to learn German”.

Over the next few hours, they are let out one by one after their papers are registered. “We are here, and we will fight,” the crowd chants at each new arrival, “freedom of movement is everybody’s right.” The activists show bruises and cuts they got from the police. “They have no respect for us as human beings” says one young man with a bruise on his face. He claims they weren’t allowed to use the toilet for hours. The company that manages the tower, the Deutsche Funkturm GmbH, which belongs to the Deutsche Telekom, had pressed charges against the refugees.

As darkness falls, up to 20 Nazis from the NPD organize a demonstration against the refugees. They are protected by the Berlin police and leave with an escort after one hour. I notice at least one with the stretched earlobes and unkempt beard of a Nazi hipster.

During the occupation, the viewing platform is closed, but a constant stream of people with reservations is still allowed into the restaurant one floor above. I ask people coming out if they saw the refugees. No, they assure me, they just had their meal. Videos have been posted on Facebook showing a cacophony of screams as the police drag away the activists. “But we didn’t notice anything”, the tourist repeats. Why, I wonder, do Germans always say that?

The refugees end their statement with the reminder: “Every day, people kill themselves in the Lager because they can no longer live this hopeless and painful live. We demand a conversation with the responsible politicians. We are people too.” After the eviction of the Oranienplatz in April and the partial eviction of the school in the Ohlauer Straße last week, some racist politicians might have hoped the refugee protests would die down. But as one banner at the time already warned them: “You can’t evict a movement.”

Police violence is becoming surreal

8 Jul

Who is your favorite surrealist author? Breton? Hugnet?

Me? My favorite surrealist is the press officer for the Berliner Polizei.

For an example, how would the average joe describe the video above from last Saturday at Görlitzer Park?

I would say: A bunch of police ask a guy with a clown nose for his ID. Then they beat him mercilessly. Then more people come, then more police, and the beatings continue for several minutes.

But I’m not a surrealist. From the winged pen of Berlin’s police spokesman, this scene is described in an enthralling combination of dream and reality straight out of a film of Luis Buñuel:

… a 22-year-old got in the way of the officers and impeded their investigation. After the police had sent him off, in vain, and the impediments continued, an officer pulled the troublemaker to the side, at which point a group of up to 60 people interfered in the events … two bicycles were flung at the officers, and a policeman suffered a head injury that required out-patient care at a hospital. With the help of further police, the group of people was pushed away and two men (aged 32 and 46) and a 33-year-old women were arrested. They are being investigated for aggravated assault, attempted freeing of prisoners and serious breach of the peace.

Like in any great surrealist art, the absurdist elements predominate, but there’s tidbits of reality to connect the narrative back to our world. So around the 2:24 mark we do in fact see a bicycle enter the frame. But the police officer, far from being injured, flings it right back. Did he injure someone? This is where great art makes us think: What does it mean to claim that “six police were injured”, when all we can see are citizens screaming in pain? Do the police reside in a different dimension than normal people? Does the bicycle exist at all? Is any of this real?

Last Tuesday, it was reported that police attacked dozens of underage school students with pepper spray. Their laconic explanation – “we didn’t use pepper spray” – for me qualifies as great art. Eighty-five years ago, René Magritte shocked the world with his statement: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” The Berlin police are going even further: “Dies ist kein Pfeffersprayeinsatz.” It’s up to the art critics to decide.

P.S. There’s lots of discussion in the press about what might have actually happened. We’ll sift through all the “evidence” in the comments.

Just let the refugees stay!

2 Jul

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Kreuzberg is under a state of siege. For the last week, 1720 police have sealed off four city blocks surrounding Ohlauer Str., where a former school housed a hybrid crowd of squatters and refugees. Residents are only allowed to go to their houses if they show an ID. No one else can go past the police barricades.

Why has an entire Kiez been locked down? The police operation is directed against 40 refugees camping on the roof of the school on Ohlauer Straße. The former Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule was occupied a year and a half ago by activists from the protest camp at Oranienplatz.

Lots of people moved in, perhaps as many as 600. The sanitary conditions were terrible – just one shower in the whole building! – and there were repeated cases of violence, which shouldn’t be a surprise when people from so many different cultural backgrounds (from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa to the Balkans) and with so many legal situations (some have some kind of visa, some are refugees, some are totally paper-less, others are Germans or have a Schengen passport!) are forced to live with 20 other people in one room. But the refugees preferred this to the Lager (camps) they are forced to live in as asylum seekers.

Last week, on June 24, the Bezirksamt (district government) ordered the eviction of the school – supposedly so it could be converted into an official refugee centre. They wanted the residents to leave “voluntarily”, but brought along over 1000 heavily armed riot police. Under this pressure, several hundred people left. Supporters report, however, that they were not allowed to take their meagre possessions, and some are now living out on the street because they couldn’t get into the promised housing.

Forty fled onto the roof, demanding a right to stay and to maintain the school as a self-organized political space for refugees. They were and still are to this very moment threatening to jump if the police try to storm the roof.

So on Tuesday, the neighbourhood was under police control – not even the press could get in. “I went to get groceries from Penny,” said Belén, who lives on nearby Lausitzer Straße, “and they wouldn’t let me back in.” She has a Spanish ID that doesn’t contain her Berlin address. After a long discussion, the police accompanied her all the way to her door.

“Bist du taub, du Wichser, du kannst hier nicht rein!” one police officer screams at a man who wants to get past the blockade. The men in black (or green) Robocop uniforms, who have been brought in from as far away as Bavaria, let a Pizza Taxi through for themselves – but held up an ambulance for a resident.

Almost 100 local shops haven’t seen a single customer in the last week. On Monday, more than 50 AnwohnerInnen met up and decided to write a protest letter to the district, followed by more direct action through a successful storming of the blockade later that afternoon. “It’s a bit beklemmend to have to show your ID just to go home,” says Martin, who lives on Reichenberger Straße

Trying to keep a sense of Berlin’s playful anarchy, some protestors traded in storm tactics with a friendly game of badminton – over the heads of the police lines. A shuttlecock of resistance. A neighbour told the Tagesspiegel: “In the past two years I’ve walked past the occupied school almost every day and I never felt unsafe.” Now he sees police attacking peaceful demonstrators.

Yesterday, 2000 students went on strike to support the refugees (just like in February). The police brutally attacked underage demonstrators with batons, pepper spray and dogs: one had his nose broken.

As the strike ended at 12:45, news came that Hans Panhoff, the Kreuzberger Baustadtrat from the Green Party, had washed his hands of the matter and faxed a Räumungsersuchen (a request to evict) to the police. All hell broke loose: sirens were blaring throughout Kreuzberg and in the next few hours there was extreme violence against peaceful sit-ins. I personally saw at least one broken arm and one broken foot.

Now none of the politicians want to take responsibility. Kreuzberg mayor Monika Herrmann has disappeared and there are rumours she has called on her party colleague Panhoff to resign. The Green Party is contradicting itself with every new statement: they are against an eviction, no eviction was ordered, and an eviction wouldn’t be so bad. In the Green heartland of the middle-class Öko apartments around Ohlauer Straße, people are angry.

Why can’t they just let the refugees stay? Paragraph 23 of the asylum law would make it possible to grant them all asylum for humanitarian reasons.

But Berlin’s interior Senator Frank Henkel from the CDU says “the state can’t let itself be blackmailed”. He doesn’t like to mention that he came to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1981 as a refugee from his native country, the GDR. He didn’t fulfil any of the conditions he now demands from refugees, such as proving he had to flee for political and not economic reasons.

Demonstrators and activists are calling on Berliners to help break the stage of siege: Go to the Ohlauer Straße and join the sit-ins!

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/just-let-the-refugees-stay/

Photo: John Riceburg

John Riceburg on Russia Today

26 Jun

John Riceburg speaking on Russia Today about Nazi hipsters.

http://rt.com/news/168680-nazi-hipsters-in-germany/

We don’t need kings in Madrid or Berlin!

10 Jun

On June 2, King Juan Carlos I of Spain announced he was abdicating the throne to his son Felipe. That very evening, 300 people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to demand that the son and the whole family leave as well. There were dozens of demonstrations across the Spanish state. The young peopled called for “the right to decide”: they want a referendum about the “Third Republic”.

Back in 1931, Alfonso XIII fled Spain when the Second Republic was proclaimed. Even though Alfonso supported the fascists in the Civil War, the new dictator Francisco Franco didn’t want the royal family to return. Only at the end of his life did Franco begin to groom Alfonso’s grandson, Juan Carlos, as a successor. He became head of state in 1975 and has stuck around for almost 40 years.

Spain’s monarchy is at the nadir of its popularity. In the midst of an endless economic crisis, with unemployment over 25 percent and hundreds of evictions every single day, the aging monarch went to Botswana to hunt elephants. Son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin and daughter Infanta Cristina have been charged with corruption. And the monarchy represents the keystone of the political regime of 1978, which has been challenged by millions of young people occupying plazas and demanding “real democracy now”.

Just a kilometre away from the demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate, construction is in full swing for Berlin’s City Palace. It was supposed to cost €590 million. It might end up closer to several billion. And what is this for?

It’s not entirely clear if Berlin’s current rulers have noticed that the Prussian monarchy has been gone for quite some time. On November 10, 1918, while his capital was in the throes of revolution, Kaiser Wilhelm II left for the Netherlands and took his dynasty with him. While there are still a few monarchists in Germany who want Wilhelm’s great-great-grandson to restore the House of Hohenzollern to power, there are still no plans to have a member of that dynasty move into the new palace.

Now is there any danger of the Prussian kings returning? Might sound like a crazy idea, but think about it: why would the German government spend a billion euros to re-build an imperial palace? If all we needed was a space for museum exhibitions, there was already a perfectly good “Palace of the Republic” in the spot which had been cleared of asbestos yet was demolished out of pure historical spite. With the limitless popularity of Game of Thrones, perhaps people in smoke-filled rooms have decided the time is right to turn back the clock of history.

So will the Spanish monarchs be invited to Berlin? Would it make sense for the House of Bourbon, like so many of their countrymen, to move from the Manzanares to the Spree? It is in this context that I think the guillotine has gotten a bad rap. The guillotine was invented during the French Revolution as a means of execution that was both humane – at least compared to strangulation by hanging or decapitation by axe – and equal for all citizens. It might sound gruesome, but the swift drop of the blade seems preferable to being ruled by an aristocrat, right?

Then again, let’s not be bloodthirsty. Back in 1993, the Canadian acapalla band Moxy Fruvous produced a roadmap for precisely this situation. Their “King of Spain” tells the story of a monarch who decides to leave his position in order to work for minimum wage at a pizza joint in Canada. “So next time you drool in the pizza line, remember, slower pizza’s more luscious. The King of Spain never rushes!” I think when Felipe survey’s his options he’ll see that pizza selling isn’t so bad.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/we-dont-need-kings-in-madrid-or-berlin/

Screw you, Senat! (And good for you, PARTEI!)

26 May

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A typical Sunday evening at Tempelhofer Feld. The sun is setting over the gardens. The guy from the Parkaufsicht comes by to tell us the park will be closing in 30 minutes. We’re still considering whether we’re going to make a scene and demand the park remain open at night (as we usually do), or just pack our stuff and leave peacefully.

Right at 9pm, all across the field people start cheering. Soon, fireworks are screaming into the sky and hundreds of people gather on the runway for an improvised rave.

We won: 738,124 Berliners voted to save the Tempelhofer Feld – well above the 25 percent quorum of eligible voters necessary for the referendum to pass into law. And not only people living near the park voted in favor: Even in far-away Spandau or Marzahn there were two JAs for every NEIN.

This is a massive defeat for the Senat and the corporate media supporting them. Above all, it’s a defeat for the city’s Baumafia (construction mafia) who stood to make billions with luxury condos and office buildings at the old airport. The government spent months spreading lies, claiming they were planning to build social housing on the field.

Berliners might be desperate for cheap housing – but they weren’t ready to believe a government that privatized 200,000 social apartments in the last decade. Why would they now want to build public housing on the most exclusive real estate in the city? As the community activists from Kottbusser Tor said: “Of course we want new housing. But we’re not stupid.”

Around 460,000 Berliners were excluded from the election because they don’t have German citizenship – 160,000 of them live in districts adjoining the park: Tempelhof, Kreuzberg and Neukölln. So the campaign “Wahlrecht für alle!” invited them to a symbolic election on Saturday – 1000 non-Germans came to the Tempelhofer Feld to cast their votes for the European parliament and the referendum. (The results will be published on the internet this week.) Sebastian Mehling from the campaign said the goal was to create “residency-based election rights”, rather than passport-based, so anyone living in the city can participate in democracy.

On Sunday, I went to the local polling station to make my voice heard as well. “I know this isn’t your decision, but I want to file a complaint that I and hundreds of thousands of other Berliners aren’t allowed to vote, even though we live here and pay taxes.” The women working there were very nice but told me they couldn’t help. “Talk to your member of parliament,” they said. “But that’s the problem, I don’t have a member of parliament!”

The European elections, in contrast, were not nearly as exciting. There were some big surprises in other parts of Europe – with an extreme right party winning in France, while a radical left party was in first place in Greece – but Germany only experienced a tremor: Die PARTEI won 0.6 percent of the votes, just enough for one seat in Strasbourg.

Martin Sonneborn, leader of the satirical party, had held a speech in the Olympiastadium which he had copied from Hitler, only replacing “Germany” with “Europe”: “Europe stands before us, Europe is marching in us, and something or other is following behind.” Die PARTEI saved money by covering up other parties’ materials. On CDU posters, the PARTEI wrote: “Merkel is dumb.” While the Pirates said: “Borders are so 1980s”, the PARTEI countered: “Pirates are so 2011.” And Sonneborn was the only party leader to be seen on the street with a bucket of paste hanging up posters himself.

Now Sonneborn will go to Strasbourg, but he plans to resign after just one month. His replacement will quit after one month too. In this way, in the next five years 60 different PARTEI MPs will pass through that one seat. Each one will get €33,000 for their one month of work, plus six months of “transitional pay”. My local PARTEI representative told me he will be up in just over three years. And as Sonneborn said: “We’re not the craziest ones in the European Parliament.”

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/screw-you-senat/

Photo: John Riceburg

The eight stupidest election posters

23 May

by John Riceburg and Konrad Werner

Two more days until the European elections. Let’s be honest, though: no one really cares about the results. But another, more exciting contest has already been decided: the stupidest election posters! The parties put their least competent politicians on the European lists – and they also seem to use the slogans that got rejected for more important elections. John Riceburg and Konrad Werner survey the worst of the worst in our slideshow above.

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SPD: Wohnraum statt Stillstand (Housing instead of stagnation)

Let’s do a little thought experiment here. I’m going to give you three terms and you tell me what pops into your head: airport, stagnation, SPD. What did you think of? Inevitably the BER airport – which according to latest projections should open in 2123 just in time for the Starship Enterprise to land there. But no, the SPD isn’t referring to the one empty hole of an airport they’ve given us. They want to turn another airport – which is currently Berlin’s favourite park – into a construction site for luxury apartments. We’ve written about the lies being spread by the Senat regarding Tempelhof, but this poster seems almost honest by comparison. They’ve made claims about “affordable housing”, but that means 18 percent rather expensive housing and 82 percent extremely expensive housing. Now, they’re talking about just “housing” – and they do actually intend to build 5000 apartments, even though you and your friends would never be able to afford them.

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Pirates: Zwischen Mut und Angst liegt nur ein Herzschlag (There’s only a heartbeat between courage and fear!)

Man, I was just about to set up my Agency for Vapid Election Slogans. The idea was simple: a party gives me €50,000 or so, and I’ll provide them with a string of those meaningless buzzwords that German voters seem to love. I’ll even throw in a stock photo of a guy in a suit with a friendly but determined look. The trick is to cram everything into one slogan. For example: “It takes courage to be close to people and display leadership in order to strengthen democracy!” (That’s copyrighted, by the way!) But now the Pirates, Germany’s own online activist party, seem to have cornered the Vapid Election Slogan market. A European Union flag in a heart shape? Courage? Fear? Less than three years ago, the Pirates came up with the legendary poster: “Why am I even hanging here? You won’t vote anyway.” If any more proof was needed that they had run out of steam, this is it.

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AfD: Die Schweiz ist für Volksentscheide. Wir auch! (Switzerland is for referendums. We are too!)

How often do they have to tell us? The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is not a racist, extreme right party! AfD leader Bernd “I’m not a Nazi” Lücke assures us his party is just conservative and “Euro-skeptisch”. This poster tells us they are for referendums. Would that be a reference to the recent referendum in Switzerland in favor of deporting “criminal foreigners”? Who knows? But the Nazi party NPD has a similar poster lauding “The example of Switzerland: Stop mass immigration! Referendum now!” That’s not the only coincidence: An AfD poster says: “We aren’t the world’s unemployment office!” The NPD, in contrast, says: “We aren’t the unemployment office of the world!” Totally different! See if you can spot the differences between these AfD and NPD posters. Or try this quiz.

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Greens: I have a dream. I’m a refugee. I’m Europe.

We’ve reported how the Greens in Kreuzberg sent the police to evict the refugee protest camp – again and again. But for people who don’t follow the news, the Greens are presenting themselves as a pro-refugee party. As part of a series of English-language posters, this young woman presents herself as a “refugee” – a refugee with tussled hair, perfect makeup and stylish piercings. Now I think I understand the problem: The refugees at O-Platz who the Greens had violently evicted were mostly men from Africa. But the Greens totally support refugees if they are young, white models. Come to think of it, we might even convince the CDU and the AfD to support the right to asylum if we just make sure the refugees are gorgeous enough. We asked the Greens several times if the woman on the poster is, in fact, a refugee. We’re still waiting for a response.

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DKP: Hände weg von der Ukraine! (“Hands off the Ukraine!”)

It’s the Great Game all over again: all the major powers are currently intervening in the Ukraine in their own interest. The most annoying part is that everyone, from Obama to Putin to Steinmeier, claims to be acting in the interest of democracy, human rights and the constitution. So it’s nice the German Communist Party has a simple slogan: “Hands off the Ukraine!” But wait. Why are there only US and EU hands? Doesn’t Russia have any “hand” in the conflict? Now the DKP is a fairly old party, but surely the comrades have noticed that the Soviet Union dissolved a while ago, right? Or do they still think Comrade General Secretary Putin is fighting for peace and democracy like back in the good old days? And why have the Eastern provinces of the Ukraine already been cut off the map, apparently reabsorbed into Soviet Russia? Even weirder: Why is the Crimean Peninsula still part of the Ukraine?

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/john-riceburg-and-ben-knight-the-eight-stupidest-election-post/

(The three by Konrad Werner are available at the Exberliner website.)

Fotos: John Riceburg

Everyone is lying about Tempelhofer Feld

12 May

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On May 25, Berliners can vote on whether the Tempelhofer Feld should be turned into a sand-box for realty speculators or maintained as an eccentric park. As with any political debate with billions of euros in profits at stake, the air is thick with misrepresentations. So, what are the biggest lies? Who’s doing the lying? And how should you vote if you want the field to stay the way it is?

1. The ballot paper is lying to you.

Say you want to save Tempelhofer Feld. Then you check “Ja” for the “Gesetz zum Erhalt des Tempelhofer Feldes” (law to conserve the field) on the ballot. That’s easy.

But there’s a second question right below: Do you support the “Gesetz zum Erhalt der Freifläche des Tempelhofer Feldes” (law to conserve the open area of the field)?

Sounds good too, right? But this other law from the Senat would allow for a “Randentwicklung” – that literally means a “development of the fringe”, but actually means that over 100 hectares will be turned over to realty speculators to build luxury condos, expensive shops and other buildings for the city’s extremely wealthy. The law’s misleading name doesn’t mean they have something to hide, right?

2. The Senat is lying to you.

The PR company advocating construction, Tempelhof Projekt GmbH and owned by the city, says they are planning to build “affordable housing”. But look at the numbers: They want to build 4700 apartments. There is an agreement – legally non-binding – between the city and realty companies that 850 apartments should have rents between €6-8 per square metre.

Obviously, €8 per square meter is not affordable. If a person living in such an apartment loses their job and has to go on Hartz IV, the Jobcenter will force them to move out. I asked if that was affordable at PR company’s information pavilion. “Well, the apartments won’t be for unemployed people,” I was informed.

So 850 apartments will be expensive but somehow “affordable”. By definition, that leaves 3850 apartments – a full 82 percent – that will be “unaffordable”. It’s true that the plans aren’t finalized yet. We could be optimistic and hope the rest will be cheap. But this government hasn’t built a single social apartment for 10 years – are they going to start right when park-side real estate opens up?

3. Seymour Gris is lying to you.

Now Seymour Gris is an optimistic guy. But he can’t really be naive enough to think that building “will have a positive effect on rental prices,” as he wrote back in January on this site. The luxury condos will be sold to Russian oligarchs and Qatari sheiks who need a place to park some capital. Maybe they’ll even drop by once a year for a crazy party. But that won’t free up any Berlin apartments.

In fact it will raise the rent index in neighbouring districts, thus allowing rent increases for old apartments too. If Seymour is so excited about throwing money at Berlin’s construction mafia, why doesn’t he just put some cash in an envelope and stuff it in their mailbox?

And before anything could be built on the field, the taxpayer will have to shell out at least €180 million to build streets and sewers, according to a secret internal report.

4. This whole referendum idea is lying to you

The information pavilion refers to Bürgerbeteiligung (“citizens’ participation”). Its windows were smashed on April 12. Angry Berliners spray-painted: “This is our form of citizens’ participation!” Because the government has held some public discussion forums, but always carefully stage-managed to prevent citizens from saying anything.

Last year we asked people at the field to sign a petition in favor of construction. We collected exactly 0 signatures. Now satirical activists have called for filling the Weißensee and building apartments there – the idea is equally popular.

This might be more democracy than usual, but expats still can’t vote. Even EU citizens who will be voting in the European elections on May 25 won’t be allowed to vote on the park.

Don’t put up with everyone lying to you. Vote “JA” on the ThF-Gesetz and “NEIN” to the senate’s proposal. And if you can’t vote, then convince someone who can.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/everyone-is-lying-to-you-about-tempelhofer-feld/