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New Years’ solidarity

January 16th, 2009 · post by isy · Make a comment

Prisoner solidarity posterCelebrating New Year’s Eve in Berlin in Germany not only involves tons of smoke, explosions and fireworks set off by everyone and their dog in a manner unthinkable in health and safety obsessed Britain, but for many grassroots politically active people New Year is traditionally spent expressing solidarity outside Moabit prison.The Berlin demo has been happening for over 20 years. This year there were also midnight prison demonstrations in Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, where 150 people climbed up the fences, and Stuttgart where people have been visiting Stammheim prison since the 1980s. This year, the police attacked the small demonstration with dogs, injuring many and arresting 12 people.

In the words of the organisers, “Prisons are only the tip of the iceberg of this repressive system that lives off the the oppression and exploitation of people and wants to create uniform, emotionless beings. Many of those who do not want to submit to this logic become victims of repression and end up sanctioned by prison. In our fight against this system we must not forget the prisons and those locked up inside, or leave them to their fates.” The Hamburg callout stated “On days such as New Year’s Eve, where people go out and come together to celebrate and interrupt everyday life, being in prison is even more lonely and isolating than usual. … Especially on such a day we wish to stand by the prisoners.”

The demonstrations were also in support of struggles prisoners engage in. Throughout November, 8000 prisoners in 21 (of 24) prisons in Greece refused prison issued food or went on hunger strike demanding better conditions; since the 1st of December, lifers throughout Italy are on hunger strike.

I had been at the Berlin demo five or six years ago and was really looking forward to being a part of it again. About 300 of us met at a tram station and moved off; luckily I managed to avoid the searches cops were imposing on many people arriving. There was a surprisingly large number of English speakers, so many that the leaflet that was distributed was both in English and German. We got to the prison and could see people at the lit up windows – a few of them were jumping and waving, some ‘greeted’ us by turning their lights on an off.

A sound system van alternated playing German punk rock classics with Turkish pop music and German hip-hop (which, to my mind, just doesn’t quite work!) as well as short talks about the prison system, letters from prisoners, and announcements. Addressing the prisoners directly had been forbidden by the police. The police also seemed to keep on getting the sound system to ask people to stop throwing fireworks at them. Which was ignored quite a lot.

Despite the freezing cold it felt like the right place to be to see in the new year. At some point the demo disbanded, and we walked off through the streets littered with more firework debris than you could imagine, and past a bunch of riot cops guarding what looked like the remains of a huge bonfire in the middle of a bridge.

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