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Wladek Flakin: Riot against deportation

When police tried to deport a Nuremberg student from Afghanistan, they were met with a small riot – proof the city has come a long way since the Nazi days.

Image for Wladek Flakin: Riot against deportation
Photo by Lars Steffens (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wladek spent the last half a year in the jungles of Latin America, busy with mysterious revolutionary activities. But now he’s back in Berlin, blogging about the city’s vibrant, splintered and misunderstood left-wing scene.

Nuremberg. What do we associate with the city of Nuremberg? Hitler organized huge NSDAP rallies here. The 1935 laws that stripped Jews of their citizenship were called the Nuremberg Laws. And after the war, Nazi war criminals were put on trial here. In other words: Bavaria’s second largest city is often associated with fascism and its nasty little companion, racism.

But as of last week, Nuremberg is also known for its stance against racism.

Last Wednesday, a bunch of police entered a vocational school looking for Asef N., a 20-year-old student originally from Afghanistan who has been living in Germany for four years. Was he a criminal? No, he was learning a trade. But the Bavarian authorities wanted to force Asef onto a plane to Kabul.

But the other students weren’t going to twiddle their thumbs as their classmate was dragged out by Bavaria’s finest. Three hundred students poured out of the school and sat down in front of the police cars. While the media reported “tumultuous scenes”, what really happened was an orgy of police violence, as one student described to the radio show PULS on the state-run radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk (my translation):

“When we blocked the third car, it really escalated. They began to use pepper spray and batons. Every time I sat down in front of the car, I was pulled to the side by my hair. Someone was kneed in the face. A friend of mine was grabbed by the throat. That’s what bothered me. The first strategy wasn’t to try to dissolve the sit-in peacefully. The first strategy was: How do I grab this person so I can cause the greatest amount of pain?”

But what really stands out in the interview is when this student is asked whether, despite her injuries, she would participate in this kind of direct action again:

“Yes! Of course! No doubt about it!”

Deportation is just another word for tearing families apart – people who have committed no crime are forced from their homes and into deadly situations. On Wednesday, a massive bomb exploded in the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital, killing 90. Ludicrously, the German government has claimed that parts of Afghanistan, including Kabul, are safe for deportees, even though it is not considered a “safe country of origin”.

If it’s so safe, as the satirical magazine Der Postilion asks, why doesn’t Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière spend his summer vacation there?

The following day, a Nuremberg court released Asef from custody. And the same day, the German government decided to suspend all deportations to Afghanistan, pending a review which is due in July.

I don’t think either of these decisions would have happened without the videos of Nuremberg students standing up to the police. They show the brutal reality deportation can bring.

What does this mean for us in Berlin? There have been big school strikes against racism – but these were a few years ago. There’s a national election coming up, and it isn’t just the AfD calling for more deportations: it’s the CDU and even the SPD. The kids in Nuremberg showed the way forward: Young people are just about the only group in the country who are resisting the shift to the right. They might save us yet.