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John Riceburg: The Green Party is going after the refugees, again

While a chunk of Berlin's left-wing scene is in Frankfurt setting police cars on fire, a tragedy looms much closer to home: Kreuzberg wants to evict the refugees from the Ohlauer Straße school again.

Image for John Riceburg: The Green Party is going after the refugees, again
Photo by Erica Löfman

Today, a chunk of Berlin’s left-wing scene is in Frankfurt, setting police cars on fire and protesting against the brutal austerity imposed by the European Central Bank, which opens its new central branch there.

While many activists will be breaking their fingers with euphoric high fives, much closer to home a tragedy looms. The refugees in the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule on Ohlauer Straße in Kreuzberg are set to be evicted tomorrow.

One month ago, the refugees got a letter from the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg officials and police informing them that they have to leave the building by March 19 – tomorrow. Otherwise, they are subject to forcible eviction.

The abandoned school was occupied in December 2012 by refugees who had previously set up the protest camp at Oranienplatz, shepherded by the dearly departed Sista Mimi. They needed somewhere to survive the winter. Now, the local government claims they want to renovate the building and turn it into a refugee center. But they don’t mean the self-organised center for organising protests that the residents of the school demand – they want a centre run by the Protestant Church.

The local government of Kreuzberg, led by the Green Party, claims the refugees are costing too much money. But the Greens are the ones who insisted on round-the-clock security to prevent visitors or new refugees from entering the building. They are the ones who closed off the roof and installed alarm systems. They are the ones who, last summer, brought in almost 2000 police to shut down the entire Kiez in an attempt to force the refugees out. That unsuccessful operation cost over €5 million.

At the end of that week-long standoff, Hans Panhoff from the Greens signed an agreement with the 40 refugees still in the building: They would be allowed to stay on the third floor while renovations were going on. Now the Bezirk has changed its tune.

Their letter claims, in untranslatable bureaucratic German, that the agreement was: “Keine privatrechtliche oder öffentlich-rechtliche Rechtsposition zum Verbleib auf dem Gelände”.

Translated into human speech, they’re saying: “We promised you could stay, but we were lying.”

The Greens have offered the refugees a coupon to stay in alternative lodging for four weeks. But these refugees have been lied to by the state for years. They were told their asylum applications would be reviewed – but of 540 refugees covered by the agreement, a grand total of three were given asylum. They were told they could stay in hostels after leaving Oranienplatz, but shortly thereafter the police threw them out, leading to another rooftop standoff.

The refugees of Oranienplatz and Ohlauer Straße have inspired lots of people with their courage – they have fought like lions to oppose racist laws and get their basic rights as human beings. But all the political parties, and especially the Greens, have beaten them down for years with a mixture of false promises and brutal repression.

In the next few days, we will hear a lot about the left-wing extremists in Frankfurt who unnecessarily damaged so much property. How dare they break the the glass at a bus stop? But I never hear the same level of moral outrage against forcing people out of their homes just because they don’t have the right piece of paper. Why is this violence by Green Party politicians supposedly okay?

German comedian Marc-Uwe Kling once had a conversation with his kangaroo: Kling didn’t see a difference between left-wing and right-wing violence. But the kangaroo objects loudly: “There is a difference. The latter burn foreigners. And the former burn cars. And burning a car is worse. Because it could have been my car. I don’t own any foreigners!”