Did you see the headlines on Sunday? On Saturday night, the Polizei Berlin announced on Twitter that they had broken up a “Fetisch-Party” in Mitte. With a formulation that doubtlessly made someone at police HQ feel clever, they wrote: “For circa 600 guests of a fetish party in Mitte, it was probably an unsatisfying ending.” They added that officers from the Bundespolizei (Federal Police) “subsequently made it clear that it was time to go home”. Followed by a hashtag calling on us to stand #TogetherAgainstCovid19.
This was the version of events taken up by all the major newspapers. The right-wing tabloid B.Z. Berlin, for example, reported that “the police and the public order office had, during a joint inspection, determined that some participants were not wearing masks, others were not maintaining physical distancing, and there were generally too many people in the area.”
I have to admit: I read that headline, and I immediately pictured a pile of carefree hedonists grinding on each other in a packed, humid hall, ignoring the deadly pandemic. That is certainly the image that the police and their friends from the big newspapers were trying to conjure up.
But is that what really happened? The pornceptual festival announced that this year they would be having “limited capacity”. The invitation says:
- You are required to wear a mask or similar at all times. Only take it off when sitting down
- Please, keep 1.5m distance from other guests
- Sanitise your hands regularly
- Registration will be required
Reading the newspapers, you would never guess that this was an outdoor party, taking place in the courtyard of the Alte Münze. As the team from the location explained: this was a party for 600 people at an open-air space of 3,500 square meters. This was all completely legal.
As of Saturday, Berlin’s Corona rules allowed for up to 1,000 people in closed spaces and 5.000 people in open spaces. (Those rules were tightened yesterday, so now only 300 people can gather inside and 500 outside.)
Were the police enforcing hygiene measures? Or were they just harassing queers? The organisers of the event wrote in a statement: “Our guests were treated as freaks and outlaws and humiliated by the police. The media headlines also prove so. While many other legal open-airs in Berlin were shut down yesterday, it is only the ‘fetish party’ that makes it into the media, giving the impression that being part of the fetish scene is shameful. We stand against this approach and we will not stop fighting against this sort of moral judgment.”
Consider the following: same city, same district, same police, same weekend. On Sunday afternoon, something like 2,000 people gathered on the Alexanderplatz in Mitte — just a few meters from the Alte Münze, actually, for a so-called anti-corona-demonstration. Since they refused to wear masks or maintain social distancing, it would probably be more appropriate to call it a pro-corona-demonstration. Despite the fact that they were clearly and explicitly violating the law, the police allowed them to march down the street, as videos show.
As Berlin’s police chief Barbara Slowik was asked about that, she told the Morgenpost: “We had women in summer dresses that were running towards colleagues [i.e. cops]. This is a new situation for the colleague. There is a certain inhibition about acting with a woman as one would with a masked attacker.” Berlin’s interior senator, Andreas Geisel from the SPD, declared: “I can’t go after people with a water cannon because they aren’t wearing a mask.”
Is this serious? At the beginning of this month, up to 5,000 police evicted the #Liebig34, a building in Friedrichshain which was home to 50 women and gender non-conformists. No one noticed the slightest police inhibition when it came to attacking women. I have been reporting on demonstrations in Berlin for more than ten years. I have seen police beat up 14-year-old school students too many times for me to count. And you can’t do anything about people refusing to wear masks — but you can break up a queer (not a fetish) party?
The “inhibition” the police were feeling was not about gender nor fashion. It was about politics. The Berlin police are full of Nazis. Over the summer, the police leadership got hold of a video of an initiation ritual to get into a unit of riot cops. New recruits had to say: “My MP5 fucks everything … we do not retreat … we even observe Zecken [an insult for lefties] having sex.” In the two months since I last wrote about this, a police chat group was discovered in which 25 officers were discussing that left-wing demonstrators should be shot, while right-wing demonstrators could be “allies”. That wasn’t even the only such chat group made public this month!
I, a communist, am saying the Berlin police were operating under two radically different standards this weekend, and this is because they are structurally violent, homophobic and right-wing. But you don’t have to take my word for it. This is what police say about themselves when they think no one else is listening.
I should know never to trust their copaganda. I fell for their lies about the party on Saturday, and I feel dumb about that.