There‘s a movement that’s recently gotten a lot of press attention called PEGIDA: Patroische Europäer Gegen die Islamificaktion des Abendlandes (Let me help you out here: “gegen” means “against,” and “das Abendland” is apparently a nickname for Western Europe). Basically it means that the Nazis got a new hat to wear and a stupid new name. PEGIDA has met with alarming popularity in Dresden, a not-too-far-away city, where its supporters like to go on the news and tell us how Muslims and refugees are Ruining Absolutely Everything. It’s mostly all the stuff you’ve heard before: they steal our jobs, they come here for our social benefits,they come to sell drugs… I’ll repeat the words of the Kentucky Refugee Ministries: No, they come here to not get shot at.

“I’m demonstrating against Islamist terror…and the people who have to flee from it!”

The Berlin answer to PEGIDA is known as BERGIDA or, more frequently, BÄRGIDA (Bär is pronounced „bear“ and means „bear“).

The Berlin flag features a bear having the worst trip of his life.

BÄRGIDA attempted to have a demonstration before, and basically no one showed. Since Nazis are slow learners, another march was planned for last night. Antifa (Antifaschistische Aktion) organized a last-minute protest-protest („Gegendemonstration“), one of my favorite strategies for fighting Nazism. While I accept that I can’t restrict your right to spout whatever racist nonsense you can come up with, I can certainly show that your views aren’t accepted and, with enough support, make you rather hard to hear.

Germany has a knack for Gegendemonstrationen. Exit Deutschland, an organization that helps former Nazis to break their ties with the movement, has refined them to an art form:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysTqSHoTz0M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSIbsHKEP-8

This one is not from Exit Deutschland but is still one of my favorites:

http://youtu.be/U9suwowburY

Upon hearing about the Gegendemonstration, I texted everyone I knew. Anna, my friend from capoeira, replied that a group she’s in was also planning to go. The group is called Salaam-Shalom and, predictably, creates a forum for interfaith (and non-faith) discussions. Christine, the Fulbrighter I chance-met a few months back, also came out, as did more cops than I’ve ever seen in my life.

Our plan was to walk from our starting point, near the Rotes Rathaus, to the Brandenburger Tor, along the way joining with another similarly-minded demonstration. Our march was set to run parallel to that of the racists. WELL. No one expected 5,000 people to show up for our Gegendemonstration, especially on such short notice. Between 100 (the police’s count) and 300 (BÄRGIDA’s count) racists showed up, although it might have been somewhat higher if members of Antifa hadn’t announced on the BÄRGIDA Facebook page today that the protest was postponed due to weather.

We started the march, went out into a big intersection in front of the Rotes Rathaus, and then were stopped. We heard a couple of talks, and the announcers told us that there were so many of us that BÄRGIDA wasn’t physically able to leave the parking lot where they’d congregated. So the march route was called off, and instead we stood at that intersection for 1.5 hours, occasionally chanting „haut ab“ („beat it“) and passing out paraphernalia from Salaam-Shalom (unfortunately we were prevented from distributing the materials to the racists, in the interest of keeping our blood on the inside of our bodies).

Neukölln is the neighborhood where I live, and it’s been known as „the immigrant quarter“ for as long as Berlin has existed. Apparently a local politican recently blamed Muslims in the area for violence towards Jews, saying that it causes Jews to avoid Neukölln.* This postcard reads, „Is Neukölln a no-go area? Yes, for racists.“ (source: http://salaamschalom.wordpress.com)

Around 7:45 Anna and I hauten ab, since our feet were freezing. At the time I felt sort of guilty for leaving, as the crowd was thinning, and the barricade wouldn’t hold much longer. By the time I got home, though, four or five people had been arrested, and as the barricade became more permeable, things got more physical, so really everything timed out just about perfectly.

When I got home, Nathan sent me a link to RT’s live coverage of BÄRGIDA, which mostly consisted of them standing in their parking lot, waving German flags and chanting „Wir sind das Volk“ (THIS HAS NEVER BEEN OK). When, two hours after their march had been scheduled to begin, the Antifa blockade was finally breached, the racists all just sort of wandered out to the street and shuffled their feet for a few minutes before the cops told them to go home. That footage is sweeter than honey.

*There are limits to how long a picture caption should be, but this is important: I’m sure that violence between Jews and Muslims has happened in Berlin, but I’ve never heard of it—and I read the local paper daily. Neukölln is indeed both diverse and rough around the edges, but religiously-motivated violent crime is not usual.

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