GERMANY: "City of Frankfurt denies freedom of association"

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30.05.13 - In May last year, a series of protests "against the austerity dictatorship" were organised by the Blockupy network in Frankfurt. They were due to take place near the headquarters of the European Central Bank, but local authorities issued a near-complete ban on all protests for four days. The measures were heavily-criticised, and higher courts later ruled that some of them had been illegal. This week the protests are returning to the city.

The local authorities have taken a slightly more tolerant position this year, allowing a protest camp to be set up - albeit an hours' walk from the city center. The authorities have also issued permission for the main demonstration on Saturday 1 June, but the route of the protest has not yet been agreed and it is restricted by a wide number of conditions (Auflagen). The police will have the power to disband the demonstration at any moment if they decide that participants are not complying with the demands in the permit. Amongst these are prohibitions on "masking up" (including wearing sunglasses) and carrying banners more than three metres wide.

The organisers of the demonstration have refused to accept the conditions and filed an official request for the conditions to be repealed. The watchdog organisation Committee for Basic Rights and Democracy (Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie) has issued a declaration entitled "City of Frankfurt denies freedom of association." [1]

The Committee points out that jurisprudence stemming from the so-called Brochdorf Arrest means that disbanding a whole demonstration is not permitted solely because of the actions of a few participants. Only if all the demonstrators decided to undertake prohibited acts would it be justified. But there are fears that local authorities will disregard the jurisprudence and accept the risk of possible juridical reprimands. The Committee will deploy some 20 legal observers (Beobachter) to keep a watch on and register the actions of the police.

In an interview with the newspaper Junge Welt, politician Ulrich Wilken from the party Die Linke (The Left) argues that the conditions put on the demonstration are an infringement of civil rights. He also ridicules the arguments used by the authorities to justify the conditions, such as the fact that feminist groups have called for a Tanzblockade (dancing blockade). [2]

The organisers of the demonstration have produced websites, leaflets and brochures to inform demonstrators of their civil liberties and legal rights. [3]

Further reading
Statewatch analysis: European governments step up repression of anti-austerity activists by Kees Hudig, August 2012

[1] Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie, Stadt Frankfurt missachtet das Grundrecht auf Versammlungsfreiheit, 21 May 2013
[2] Gitta Düperthal »Die Auflagen schränken Grundrechte ein«, Junge Welt, 23 May 2013
[3] Blockupy, Important legal information

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