Berlin School Strike: refugees are welcome – no one is illegal !
Thousands of school students strike in solidarity with refugees fighting racist violence and deportation. Tobi Hansen reports
Photo credit: QuilomboFotos – http://quilombofotos.wix.com/home
On February 13, more than 3,000 school and university students went on strike to demonstrate their solidarity with refugees on the streets of Berlin. For nearly two years, there has been a camp on Oranienplatz in Berlin protesting against the residency requirements and refusal of work permits for refugees.
Earlier this year, the Christian Democrats, the senior coalition partner in the current government, represented by the Berlin Interior Minister, Frank Henkel, wanted to clear the camp, forcibly if necessary, and over the head of the local district authority led by the Green mayor Monika Herman who opposed evacuation.
As this threat became known, an alliance of Berlin’s radical left organisations was quickly formed to prevent this clearance. It decided to focus on activity around the schools and universities.
Youth organisations such as REVOLUTION, Red Brain and the social democratic youth organisation, SDAJ, were the main contributors to the mobilisation, alongside many unaffiliated activists.
Unfortunately, the organisations linked to the Left Party stayed away from the Alliance, perhaps because they were not convinced of the potential of the action, and, therefore, contributed nothing to its success.
Organisations such as Gruppe Arbeitermacht, the New Anti-capitalist Organisation and the Revolutionary Internationalist Organisation, RIO, launched a call to trade unionists to support the action, thus broadening the issue beyond the schools and universities.
In January, the Berlin government decided against an eviction and now a compromise is to be negotiated under the authority of the Senate, the churches and NGOs.
However, this is not aimed at satisfying the demands of the refugees, its purpose is purely to “sit out” the issue because the Berlin SPD does not want to see any escalation of the action.
Some of the refugees have been shipped out to a disused nursing home, others are now occupying an empty school. At the same time, the bourgeois press has rushed to stir up racist sentiment against the refugees, spreading all manner of racist stereotypes.
At one point, the CDU was warning of epidemics around the Oranienplatz, while the media referred to refugees as drug dealers, criminals and potential rapists.
The demonstration of more than 3,000 students was a sharp rejection not only of this racism but also of the delaying tactics of the SPD and the Greens.
With slogans such as “shoulder to shoulder – against racism” and “right to stay for everyone – no one is illegal” the militant and very vocal demo moved from City Hall to Oranienplatz.
The great bulk of the protestors were mobilised by the students themselves through strike committees in the schools that organised meetings, actions and plays and this work will continue.
The Alliance now has the support of many new activists who came to the first meeting after the strike and this is a strong basis for continuing the protest.
Together with the refugees, other initiatives and networks we want to defend the Oranienplatz and fight for the rights of refugees !
- No eviction from Oranienplatz ! – Full mobilisation against planned evictions!
- All Together Against Racism!
- Against restricted residence rights and conditional “right to remain” – full residence rights for all!
- Against Fortress Europe!
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