July 13, 2006
"Not Welcome, Mr. Bush" in Hamburg

(Crossposted to the Daily Kos.)

In protest of Bush's visit to Germany (he arrived Wednesday and leaves on Friday), peace protests are already taking place throughout the country under the banner "Not Welcome, Mr. Bush" (as I wrote about earlier). The largest demonstrations are expected at his visit to the Baltic city of Stralsund on Thursday, but local protests throughout the country began this past weekend and will continue until the coming weekend. On Wednesday I attended a demonstration in Hamburg and took pictures. More details below the jump.

The demonstration in Hamburg was organized by the Hamburger Forum, a local peace activist group. Like many peace demonstrations here, it began at a Nazi-era war memorial that is pejoratively called the Kriegsklotz (the "war block"). The Kreigsklotz is an enormous and stupendously ugly block of concrete with images of anonymous marching soldiers sculpted into the side, along with the text "Germany must live, even if we must die!", a chilling reminder of the militaristic hysteria of that time. After the war, the memorial was left standing, to remind us all of that period (and, I presume, because the damn thing would be a bitch to destroy). A counter-memorial was built nearby, depicting the Hamburg firestorm and dying inmates of concentration camps. Ever since then, it's been the site of much public peace activism, including a large demonstration against the Iraq war in 2003.

The demonstration proceeded down from the Kriegsklotz past the G?nsemarkt (an inner city square), over Jungfernstieg past the Alster lake, and down to the end of M?nckebergstrasse (the city's main downtown shopping promenade), just before the main train station.

At the end of the walk, peace activists gave speeches to the crowd. The first speaker raised various grievances against Bush, especially concern about an upcoming war in Iran, and she spoke at length about Guantanamo: She talked about the conditions in which the prisoners there live, discussed the legal issues and the potential for abuse, and even mentioned the Hamdan decision -- not by name, but she described how the Supreme Court had largely invalidated the Bush administrations legal justifications. The next speaker represented woman living in exile from Iran, and was strongly critical of the Isamlic Republic of Iran, especially the way that women are treated there, but was decidedly opposed to any war led by the United States.

Hamburg has a fairly large number of residents from places like Iran and around the Middle East, including Afghanistan and Palestine, and they were quite visible at the demonstration. Many of them live in Germany for a better opportunities to work or study, but not a few are here to escape the oppressive political conditions of their homes. These demonstrators made it clear that they do not desire US intervention and war to bring "freedom" to their countries. The protest was also attended by German peace activists both young and old -- the older demonstrators seemed to be having the most fun. And as always, Communists of various stripes were out in force -- Marxist-Leninists, Spartacists, what have you. This would probably be a jarring sight in the United States, but it is not at all uncommon in Germany and the rest of Europe, and they can always be counted on to attend every protest.

The demonstration in Hamburg was peaceful, low-key and relatively modest in size -- I would guess about five hundred people, maybe more. Quite a few of these will get on the bus to Stralsund tomorrow, as will thousands of others from throughout the country. So if you're interested, keep an eye on the news on Thursday. The media in the US and Germany are likely to report on Bush's visit, and the peace protestors might make for some loud, colorful, fascinating political theater.

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