This is an attempt to explain the current situation in Hamburg for folks who are reading things about the hashtag #gefahrengebiet, the “Rote Flora”, “Lampedusa in Hamburg” and other things. I do have an opinion on this but i’m trying to explain it in simple words. So please don’t kill me for minor inaccuracies or facts you might judge different from your political point of view. I’m also trying to be quick and my sources are all german.
— Quinn Norton (@quinnnorton) January 6, 2014
The “Rote Flora“: In 1989 a former theatre in the Hamburg quarter of “Sternschanze” was squatted and has been since. It was renamed from “Alte Flora” (Old Flora) to “Rote Flora” (Red Flora) and has been a centre of the autonomous left in hamburg since. In 2001 it was sold to an investor under the premise that it would not be evicted. Long story short: times have changed, Flora is again (sorta, loong story) being threatened with eviction.
The Group “Lampedusa in Hamburg” is a group of over 300 refugees, 70 of which are currently being protected by the church in St. Pauli (the area South-West of Sternschanze). (See more in ihdl’s excellent comment). With no legal status they are living in fear of deportation. In October 2013 the city began to stop and search people of colour in and around St. Pauli in order to find out the names of those people and register them for possible deportation.
The “Esso-Häuser” is a set of old buildings on “Reeperbahn”, Hamburg’s amusement mile at the heart of St. Pauli, that have been left to rot by their owners. They were scheduled for demolishment in July but deemed uninhabitable and unstable in december and therefore evacuated just before christmas leaving approximately 70 inhabitants (and also a legendary live music club…) temporarily without a home (the inhabitants were put into hotels and will receive offers for alternative flats).
These three topics are the main focal point for the current social conflicts in hamburg. The underlying ones being of course gentrification (It is nowadays impossible for people with low income to find an affordable flat in the centre of hamburg and especially St. Pauli and Sternschanze have been heavily gentrifying in the last years) and racist immigration laws / the whole Fortress Europe complex.
In October a rally protesting the warrantless search of people of colour in St. Pauli was stopped by riot police only a couple of hundred metres after starting. The official reasoning was to prevent violence. This sparked a lot of protest in the following weeks and culminated in the December 21 protests and following riot. The whole situation has been heavily reported on; to make it short: about 10000 protestors from all across Europe gathered in front of Rote Flora and were stopped by riot police using kettlings, water cannons, baton charges and pepper spray after walking for approximately 10-20 metres. The offical reasoning being that the rally started too early, however there are rumours that right wing commanding officers within the police force had planned this abrupt stop beforehand. Before and after the December 21 riots police stations and other public buildings (and also almost every shop in Sternschanze that could be identified as “gentrifying”) were attacked and window glass was smashed.
The police issued a now highly disputed statement that on December 28 2013 a group of 30-40 rioters attacked the “Davidwache”, a police station in St. Pauli, smashed windows (which is documented to have happened on the night of December 20th but not on that night) and also attacked a policeman, hitting his head with a stone. This caused a major uproar in Hamburg but was, however, contested on January 5th by one of the lawyers defending Rote Flora. Subsequently the Police acknowledged “mistakes” in the statement, the cause is still ongoing.
This, in addition to a lot of press attention and a police force trying to contain daily minor spontaneous protests as well as, sometimes, attacks on public buildings or large shops (such as an American Apparel Store) caused the Police to declare a vast area of Hamburg (St. Pauli, Sternschanze and adjacent quarters) a “Gefahrengebiet” or “Danger area”. This allows the police to stop and search people without a warrant and, without any additional order by a court, issue letters of “eviction” or “Aufenthaltsverbote”. This means that, until a certain time, this person has to leave the danger area it is currently trespassing. I have heard of people living in the area that they were allowed to walk to their homes (if they were in the area) but had to stay alone doing so, and stay indoors. The eviction notices are usually given out until 6 AM the next morning.
In addition to random searches, spontaneous protests are quickly stopped or kettled.
As I said, there is a lot more to this, very many shitty details, but this should sum up the most of it. Additions are welcome in the comments. As I want this to be an informative post, I’d kindly ask people to abstain from posting anything that solely contains an opinion.
Additional links in german:
Statement by a group of critical members of the police force concerning the December 21 riots
Blog post by publikative.org explaining the dispute of the December 28 attack on the Davidwache
MP3 from FSK Hamburg (Free alternative radio station) summing up the December 21 riots especially the treatment of injured protestors by the police
Regional public broadcast website on the Gefahrengebiet-Stop-And-Searches
Article in a hamburg newspaper
Article in “Die Zeit”, a nationwide weekly newspaper from hamburg
Commentary on the current law-and-order-policy