Can Europe Make It?

Hashtag analysis: #Clausnitz and #Bautzen

When hashtags help to uncover a societal problem: racism.

Johannes Filous
3 March 2016
Clausnitz in Saxony, 1910.

Clausnitz in Saxony, 1910. Wikicommons/ unkown. Public domain.Let’s start with #Clausnitz. What happened in Clausnitz?

Clausnitz, a town in the beautiful Erzgebirge in Saxony on Thursday, 18 February: a group of about 100 people first blocked a bus bringing refugees to Clausnitz, for four hours. They harassed the refugees and shouted at them‚ “Go home, we don’t want you here”. The police allowed the mob to get really close to the bus which created an intimidating and quite frankly threatening situation for the refugees. Some of them as a result refused to leave the vehicle, fearing for their lives, as they later said. Among them were many women and children. 

How come that 100 people spontaneously demonstrated out of a town of only 800?

It is a huge gathering for such a small town, which leads us to the only conclusion that was not a spontaneous gathering. Research from a local TV station has confirmed that the brother of the man who runs the refugee shelter was actually one of the organizers of the protest. He has confirmed this when speaking to journalists and said that he did not mean this to become such a threatening situation.

This also suggests, however, that it is highly probable that he received information regarding the time of arrival of the bus, straight from his brother who runs the refugee shelter. There have been further signs of protest against refugees for about two weeks in the town of Clausnitz. People put up a sign two weeks ago, saying ‘resistance’. 

In their press conference after the incident, the police however, maintained that they had no notice of any protest. This poses the question, How come they did not know, when everyone else did? Or is this statement intended to justify the fact that at first, they were there with only one car and two policemen at first. 

Criticism of the police

There has been a lot of criticism against the police.

What are the criticisms of the way in which they dealt with the incident?

The main complaint is that they were not able to keep the aggressive and threatening crowd away from the bus. Also, another highly problematic aspect is that they say they did not know anything about any possible protest. In the end they had a maximum of 23 policemen at the refugee shelter and said they were not able to keep the aggressive right wing crowd away, which is an unbelievable statement, when you consider how long the protests and threats towards the refugees were going on that night. 

The biggest criticism however, is that they didn’t act against the aggressive crowd, but instead, used direct force against women and minors on the bus.

One policeman dragged a young boy out of the bus who was crying and did not want to go. He was afraid for his life, he said later. The policeman was rough and grabbed his neck and arm to drag him out. 

The aftermath

A press conference raised more questions than answers. 

The press conference was widely agreed to be a disaster. The police refused to acknowledge any criticism and actually said that the refugees have to carry part of the responsibility for the situation, because they didn’t want to leave the bus and because some of them, especially the children, made gestures towards the aggressively chanting crowd.

One of them supposedly showed them the finger, which in my opinion, is a reaction that one can understand. 

The police announced, that they will not proceed with any investigations against their policemen, even though over 50 people pressed charges against the officers. They said, they are going to open cases against at least four of the refugees, if they are old enough to be held liable, for making gestures and not leaving the bus.

This is an unbelievable statement after the videos we have seen of the incident, leaving me with the impression that the Saxonian police is part of the problem and not part of the solution. 

The director of the refugee shelter in Clausnitz

Is he affiliated to the AfD?

It has now been confirmed that the director of the refugee shelter is a member of the right wing AfD. Not only that, but he has actually spoken on right wing rallies against refugees, for example in November 2015, when he made remarks indicating that he does not trust in the government of Germany, and that he thinks the refugee crisis shows how Germany has failed as a state.

I honestly do not know how such a man with such ideas and opinions can be appointed to a position as head staff of a refugee shelter. Possibly, he applied for it, I do not know.

Let’s talk about #Bautzen!

Bautzen in 2006. Wikicommons/ Stephan M. Höhne. Some rights reserved.Alright, but wasn’t there another hashtag in the title? Let’s talk about #Bautzen!

In Bautzen, another town in Saxony, Germany, people set a refugee shelter in its planning stages on fire. While the building was on fire, there were people laughing, cheering and shouting racist chants. Some of them even tried to deny firemen access to the burning building. Two of them were arrested that night.

You have to realize that Bautzen is a centre of right wing activities in Saxony and throughout last year, a lot of refugees and people who work with them have been threatened.

There have been attacks on people running information events about refugees. Also, and probably more pertinently, there were threats to set this building on fire on Facebook as early as December. This was published by a local blog back then.

The police however, did not react. And let me make one thing really clear, the people cheering and applauding, while a building earmarked for a refugee shelter is burning down - this is Germany’s problem, not that of the refugees. 

The politicians and the police need to start taking this seriously, because the next step in the escalation is that they will attack shelters with people in them. And with the next step in this escalation, we could easily be talking about deaths. 

The reaction: public and politicians

There was a public outcry after the events of those few days. These events are nothing new or surprising, even though the police said they were surprised. These kinds of attacks on refugees on arrival have happened numerous times over the last year. For example in Freiberg and Meerane, Saxony. It is a common strategy of right wing activists to make the worst possible first impression on the people who are arriving in order to intimidate them straight away.

They are looking for an escalation in hostilities. So the people here are of course still shocked by the inhumane behavior towards other human beings, but not really surprised that this has happened again.

The politicians have made statements, about how cruel this was. However, they defend the police operation, which shows that they are not really willing to deal with the problem that is racism. Condemning such horrific events in a statement: yes. Acting against racism: no. Them endorsing the decision to legal action against the refugees while not actually using force against the aggressive mob, further strengthens the convictions of those people who think that is ok to act like this towards other human beings. It strengthens them in their understanding that they own the street and that they do not have to partake in the democratic process in order to get their voices heard. This is dangerous. This is Saxony. 

Willkommenskultur

So what about ‘the welcome culture’(Willkommenskultur)? Do people still believe in that? 

Welcome culture is a term often used in this context. I would like to get away from it and call it decency and the belief in human rights.

Everyone has the right to be treated equally as a human being. Believing in equality and in a society where we live together peacefully is not necessarily a welcome culture. It is a strong belief in our democratic system. It is a strong belief in the values that our society is built upon, and it is a strong belief in the fact that we can learn from one another, that we can learn as well from the differences that we might have. A strong democratic society is built upon these differences and on the fact that we can have them and discuss them without treating one another like animals. 

Let’s talk #Saxony

Racism is not only a problem in Saxony. However, it is particularly visible in Saxony, because ever since the reunification, there has only been one party in power in Saxony. This party, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) has tried to deny the problem of racism.

A former minister president of Saxony, Kurt Biedenkopf, for example, simply declared: “Saxony does not have a problem with racism“ and with that, the problem was dealt with.

Let me give you another example: in the 1990s already, Saxony had a problem with racist attacks and the reaction of the CDU was to try to fish for votes on the far right in order to avoid them voting for more extremist parties. They drifted to the right. You have to ask yourself the question: was this the right way to deal with these emerging problems? 

Here is another theory: The reunification happened and people expected great things, ‘blooming landscapes’, jobs, a better life. They expected something far more glittering than what they got.

Johannes Filous, Straßengezwitscher

Johannes Filous, StraßengezwitscherI do not know. All I know is that we now have to deal with a huge problem, called racism. We can deal with it, we need to shine light on it, we need to make sure people cannot ignore it any more. It is time to educate. It is time to put it out for public debate and it is time for politicians to acknowledge it and fight it, instead of institutionalizing it. 

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