Received on 15.09.17:
Translator’s note: This communique/report back appeared in the immediate aftermath of the riots and was translated from German
Sometimes it’s a small coincidence that determines the course of events. Nobody could have guessed as much beforehand, least of all those acting in the moment. Yet maybe they felt that what they were doing would take on a larger magnitude, who knows. If the few activists in Arrivati Park on Friday afternoon could have foreseen what they would unleash, would they still have acted the same way? who knows… They were probably were just frustrated by the constant police violence, by all the bells and whistles, by the incessant noise from the helicopters, that perpetual unnerving sound that burns itself into your head. Maybe the ‘yellow press’ was right to use the rhetoric of civil war. Yet as we watch the dystopia of an actual civil war transmitted live from the Middle East, this rhetoric seems presumptuous, foolhardy, however still best represented by the constant chopping of helicopters in the sky.
But they have yet to experience an actual civil war
Over at Arrivati Park, there’s an ongoing rally which was intended to be a resting place. But this is forbidden. As a result, the police stand prepared with a water cannon like they always do. One may not gather unpunished or unobserved: this is the helpless gesture signaling that the situation is already spiraling out of control. The usual political circus has been escalating for days on end. Yesterday the cops attacked the demo at the Fischmarkt. In return they got chaos, barricades, broken glass and a sea of roving bands devastating the city. In the last 24 hours, we Autonomen have kept our promise: we will paralyze the city, we will attack everywhere, we will be uncalculable. As a result, the forces of public order are at their end. Their promise was to secure the summit. In order to do so, they need an infinite number of personnel and resources. They definitely don’t have the resources that would grant them control over the entire urban space of Hamburg. This was already evident on Thursday night and by Friday afternoon it had become undeniable. The cops had prepared for people to be in one location: the fairgrounds. They would enclose people in their tiny castle, without calculating that people would go elsewhere. The courage of those fighting in the morning was impressive, but the amount of people fighting in the second wave was even more impressive. Very seldom does the communication and cooperation between different forces work as good as it did in these couple of days.
Here again in Arrivati Park, a few people have taken the initiative to fight back against the police provocation. They risk going out in the street, maybe someone throws a bottle at the water cannons. Banal and unimportant in this moment. The cops respond in the same fashion they always do: the water cannon sprays the people who are on the locked down street. Up above there are 2 bonus units staged in the direction of the rally. Someone else gets up and shoves a trashcan into the streets: another spritz from the water cannon, a couple more police batons. Somewhere the RT live-stream is running.
It’s early evening. We’re spent from hours and hours fighting on the streets. We head into the apartment. We come directly from the riot, we need a moment to rest. We look out the window: the water cannon revs its engine and sprays indiscriminately. In the apartment, we’re sitting on the sofa watching the live-stream with others. The live stream shows the Pferdemarkt: people are tipping over trash cans on the Schulterblatt. We lay down and eat something. After a half an hour of sleep, we look back at the live stream: on the Schulterblatt, people are throwing bottles at the police from all different sides, the water cannon is spraying in all directions, the mood seems to be escalating. Fuck it, we’re going out into the streets. We step outside the apartment and see dozens of people walking. We join them. At every intersection we gather more and more people. Soon hundreds of us are walking in the direction of Schulterblatt. It’s the absurd meta-level of our time. You fight, you look out the window and can see other people fighting and on the live-streams millions of other people see you take to the streets. Soon there are hundreds, even thousands of us walking together, ready to storm the Schanze district.
At the Schanze, where people and fire share the streets, something starts that we have not experienced in Germany before. We, the young generation, have never had such experience [Erfahrung]. In the Schanze, what we call politics- our identities, our actions- transforms into something that can best be described as a public conspiracy. It is not an insurrection, but just before one. It is a rebellion, an insurgency, initiated and defended by all of us who’ve been out on the streets for days now. The rebellion, however, is carried further by those attracted by the spectacle and by self-determination. This portion of society, having long ago been ostracized from it (ie. society) is lured by the promise of fighting against the cops. And that is exactly what happens in this instance. What began as a summit protest against the G20 becomes a revolt against the pigs, a social rebellion. In the glow of fire, everything becomes possible once again. The feeling of the riots, of self-determination was tangible for so many people. Of course, not seamlessly. But never so tangible as in this moment.
We take the Schulterblatt and hold it. Many different factors (the police protecting the concert of fools, too few police forces, people allegedly on the roof and on the scaffolding, the mixture between ‘us’ and everyone else becoming stronger) contribute to the district being completely ungovernable. Uncontrollable. It’s time for little girls to get themselves drinks from Rewe. Time for some dudes to try to work up to the cash box in the local bank. Time that we only made partial use of.
Every difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is dissolved. Not without contradiction. Not flawlessly. But more fluidly than we’d ever dreamed of seeing in Germany at this time. In the fights at the barricades, in the common sharing of champagne, we see differences disappear almost completely. The contempt for the authorities is visible in everyone’s eyes. Everybody’s doing it. You don’t have to sit in a plenum for months on end discussing this and that and then later discard the plans. You only have to look at your TV screen or your phone, come out and participate.
This is the big moment in Hamburg. We’ve stolen the show: the meeting of fools no longer receives attention. The social conflict takes center stage. The pent-up hatred for the police felt by an ever larger portion of the population, nourished over the course of a life time and incited repeatedly throughout the week finally forces its way out. The immiseration. The feeling, no, the knowledge, that this society has nothing left to offer. That we must take what belongs to us anyways.
The Rewe is looted. Everything for everybody!
Even if it felt like it for a couple hours, it wasn’t an insurrection. Our actions were too unplanned for that, too dependent on accidents from all sides. Not everybody in the streets wanted it. Dear readers, the vast majority is not ready for an insurrection. There’s too much fear about the individual consequences. It’s ok. Fear is a part of it as well. One day we hope to have more courage than fear.
Still there is much that we must learn. How to divvy up our forces better. How to think more strategically in an instance where there really is a zone, a territory that we want to defend. It was foreseeable that the cops would not have enough numbers, since their main priority was to protect the concert. Only the forces that weren’t defending the concert were available to attack. But there was certainly not enough to control everything else.
We should have forced our way further in the direction of the police station, in the direction of Stresemannstraße. Broaden the area under our control and use it as a potential gathering space. It seems absurd for us to hear people complain that sexist slogans were being shouted in the Schanze. As if we weren’t sexists, even if we claim the opposite, and do try to not be. But we are all free to discuss, to complain, to intervene and to agitate. We shouldn’t expect that people would be ‘perfect revolutionaries’ in such a situation. But we can explain that cops aren’t ‘cunts’, or that they’re shitty not because they’re cunts but because they’re cops. We told many people that bottles shouldn’t be thrown from 60 feet away, that you have to get closer to the police to throw them, otherwise they will hit other demonstrators. Almost everyone understood us. That being said, an unbelievable amount of people threw bottles, so many that we are happy to pay the price by feeling them break on our heads Next time we’ll wear a helmet
How we used to laugh when the old people told us how when they used to loot they would go for the high percentage booze first. Unimaginable. Now we know better, next time there will be champagne and beer, but no more drunk people throwing fire extinguishers into the burning barricades.
We don’t have much experience, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Build the barricades 3 meters in front of the resident’s cars, not next to them. This can make the difference between sympathy and rejection later. We won’t light any inhabited buildings on fire and will try to prevent others from doing so.
Almost exclusively chain stores were looted, stores that stood in solidarity with the protests were spared or defended without exception. We can only agree with our friends over at crimethinc: “Next time people open up a police-free zone, let’s fill it with the lives we all deserve.”
And to the barking dogs “Some have criticized the rioters who barricaded the Schanze district and drove out the police for hours as being ‘apolitical’, engaging in ‘mindless chaos’. On the contrary, nothing is more political than creating a space like this, in which we may once again become the protagonists of our own social and political lives rather than letting the authorities impose their order on us.”
Next time, we will get better. Try something out, fail, reflect, try again, fail again. This time was pretty good.
We’re walking home. On the way, a liquor store, beer. A pack of 100 Bavarian police are standing in the intersection without orientation, totally wiped out. The whole intersection cries out “All of Hamburg hates the police”. On any normal day, these police wouldn’t tolerate a single insult. Here everybody is throwing bottle caps, tobacco, garbage at them. People stand in front of the police and scream “Fuck off!” “Go back to bamburg”. The cops take off; their boss told them that another part of the city is burning. The person sitting next to us tells us that he speaks five different languages, but was never welcome here in Hamburg. Now he shows us a video he took on his phone of him throwing bottles at the cops.
Revolt, try new tactics, fail. Reflect, revolt again, try again, fail better.
This time we did pretty well. We’ll see you next time!
–The invisible friends