Germany: Solidarity to the Park Bench 3 + Letters from Inside
BURNING HEARTS CANNOT BE LOCKED AWAY
FREEDOM FOR THE THREE ON THE PARK BENCH!
On the night of 8 July 2019, three of our comrades were arrested on a park bench. On the same night there were several house searches in various districts of Hamburg, during which some of the people were forced out of their beds with weapons. The suspicion, according to the Attorney General’s Office, was the preparation of an arson attack. On 9 July, the three were brought before the magistrate. Two of them were remitted from custody and the third had her arrest warrant suspended, with conditions – she has to report once a week and is not allowed to leave the country – and she has been on the outside ever since. A evaluation trial for the pre-trial detention was requested by the defence and then withdrawn two weeks later. A new date is not foreseeable at the moment.
Currently DNA was taken from the two prisoners for comparison. The person outside did not have to give any DNA, since the alleged traces found are only male DNA. The two in custody are doing well, considering the circumstances. Since the LKA (State criminal police office) officials are present at every visit, the visits that take place twice a month for one hour depend on the LKA calendars. Telephone calls (1 hour per month) and letters are also monitored, listened to and read by the LKA,
the prison and the General Prosecutor’s Office. Accordingly, there is never a moment of private communication between the two and their friends or family. It is clear to them what this place should do to them – but they keep their heads up and share solidarity and contact with fellow prisoners.
The third person is also doing well, considering the circumstances. All the manifestations of solidarity, from both near and far, give her the strength to get through all this shit.
She may not be in prison, but she is outside under conditions which also culminate in the deprivation of liberty. In particular, reporting-in requirements are a way of disposing of a person’s body. All coercive measures, no matter whether footcuffs, house arrest or registration requirements, are instruments that the state uses to make it clear that one cannot can escape this system and that one is apparently at the mercy of it.
The press and the cops have always made a reference between the accusations against the three and the G20 summit. It must be clearly stated that this is a construct of the organs of repression. And yet the arrest and detention of the comrades cannot be considered without the special situation which arose after the G20 in Hamburg and the current atmosphere in the city. After the practical defeat on the street in the days of July 2017, a media and a counter-attack from the side of politics and police followed. This took the form of several public searches, the establishmentof the Soko Schwarzer Block etc, which prepared political and legal agitation. A climate of division, depoliticisation and denunciation was specifically created in order to make possible and to implement the “hard sentences” demanded by politics in the courts.
State security and investigative authorities have been given both additional funding and a largely free hand to attack and investigate the radical structures in the city. Observations, video surveillance, facial recognition software… this list could be continued very far. And we have to assume that these methods are being used again right now.
This description of the situation should not be misunderstood as a complaint. If we have successful struggles and mobilisations, there will always be a reaction from the state. Nevertheless: the need for revenge from the state is still current and it is not only about alleged acts per se, it is as well about research and the destruction of any antagonistic movement, as well as the criminalisation of ideas of liberation. So there are still ongoing trials and other prisoners – such as the “Elbchaussee-Process”, as well as the large-scale trial against the comrades of the Rondenbarg complex due at the end of the year. Show solidarity and don’t leave the accused alone!
This post-G20 situation is further framed by an authoritarian formation and a shift to the right in Europe. Isolation from the outside and repression from within, the ever louder call for law and order, special laws such as the new police laws of the countries and camps for the detention of refugees, the militarisation of society… all this makes our struggles more and more urgent. So let us not lose courage! We will find ourselves in the places of resistance and we will challenge the ruling order!
The fight against detention centres and the prison system cannot be seen in isolation from the social question. Not detached from the social logic based on domination and authority, discrimination, competition, exploitation and injustice.
Prisons are one of many, more or less clear and perceptible elements of a totality of power structures that support, condition and legitimise each other. And so the logic is followed, that the majority of prisoners end up being poor, PoC and/or black people.
Laws and rules passed by a few in this world for the rest of the world determine what is wrong and what is right, who and what should be protected and who should be punished. These norms, according to the logic of the state, must be subjected. We do not care whether the three comrades or any other prisoners are regarded as “guilty” by the henchmen of the state. What we know is that the rulers have always imprisoned people everywhere in the world for their ideas. People who oppose them unpleasantly, unadaptedly or antagonistically, people who oppose this system and denounce its lust for power.
Prisons function on several levels. On the one hand, they should serve as a deterrent memorial to the outside world and at the same time present the “successes” of the state in the fight against its enemies. On the other side (of the the walls) prison is supposed to break individuals, make them obeisant and docile or simply bury them alive if necessary. Everything gets a coat of normalcy, the cell is then called prison-room and the courtyard is called leisure-hour. Here it is to be concealed that this is a direct exercise of domination, this 23-hour cell, walking in circles. In addition to these functions of securing power, however, prisons serve capitalist profit interests to the same extent. For example, prisoners are exploited to produce cheap labour and this is sold as “re-socialisation”. The rapidly increasing number of new inclusion institutions, whether to remain local or to look at the expansion of the so-called “deportation custody” at Hamburg airport, the planned deportation prison in Glücksstadt, or the new youth prison as an extension
to the existing Billwerder prison, legitimises having more and more prisoners. This serves not least to maximises profit and rule but as well goes hand in hand with the expansion of social control, which is primarily driven by the development of technology.
It is clear that prisons do not make people better. They do not contribute to solving conflicts and social problems. We are very well aware that their destruction does not automatically mean that social conflicts will not occur. We would be forced to deal with each other – as well with the difficult and hard issues. But precisely this confrontation and encounter is part of a life and a world based on freedom and solidarity rather than on money and profit.
For this we need self-organisation instead of border systems and parliamentary channels. For the attempt to lead a life without domination, but in self-determination, with the goal of freedom for all. To this end, we need new, different relationships that are free from the constraints and the logic of rulers and the ruled. And clearly we will make mistakes and no, we have no master plan.
Above all, we are concerned with the joint development of our ideas – and we assume that this is not an easy process. Nevertheless, we have to ask ourselves which expectations we actually want to meet and then fight for the space. This path is difficult and requires courage, but may also involve new discoveries for oneself.
What helps us is solidarity and mutual aim instead of competition and exclusion. The goal is a world in which it no longer matters what skin colour we have, what gender we have, where we come from or what we own. Yes, we dream of and fight for another world, because we see no other way and notice already now, in the small things, which strength we can unfold with our hearts and our passion for freedom, which is stronger than their repression.
Repression is always meant to scare, paralyse and isolate. We do not want to pretend that we are not afraid, that our lives are not influenced by it. However, this cannot be our only reaction. In the face of all this shit there are as well moments of cohesion and support and we gain from this our unique strength, one that the other side would never be able to experience. We stand closer together, we support each other when we are afraid, we laugh together, we get support from a thousand places and we don’t let ourselves burn out. We remain angry and militant. And even if we sometimes miss two people at our side unbelievably, they are always with us.
In the decisions that we make and the struggles that we carry on. Not having them with us tears a big hole in our hearts, knowing that they are in prison makes us incredibly angry. We are also angry about the pigs who hang people like blowflies on their arses and try to make their pathetic, boring and inferior lives more exciting by observing us. What do they see? Perhaps the unbelievable solidarity that we share, and a humanity that they have long since lost. Be it the stamps donated at the kiosk when the seller sees where the letter is sent or the many people who offer and express support in so many different ways.
The messages, greetings and acts of solidarity that have reached us in many different ways have often overwhelmed and always supported us. This solidarity has helped us over the first, often chaotic weeks and has shown us that we will not continue to fight alone. Solidarity means many things, but also always the attack on the existent and the continuation of our own struggles and projects.
We greet the comrades who cannot stand at our side and assure them that they are always with us. We are not alone. You three are not alone.
Another greeting to all those who are in similar situations, wherever you are in the world!
They can take our friends away from us, but not our ideas.
Fire to all prisons – freedom for the 3 from the park bench and all other prisoners!
Letter from Inside
Hello out there!
Now it is a little more than a month ago that we 3 were arrested on the park bench and in further course 2 of us were taken into custody. In this letter I would like to describe a little my individual situation here in the prison. I cannot say anything about the accusations or the status of the proceedings, as we the affected, cannot communicate amongst ourselves. I can only agree with the advice to not engage in speculation, gossip and scaremongering. The solidarity and support which we have received in here is wonderful and overwhelming. The many post, the greetings, the photos and the rallies give strength and confidence. You are great!
Now then, custody. That means here, at least in the first months, 23 hours of confinement on 10 square meters with bed, table, chair, cupboard, toilet and washbasin. 1 hour of courtyard walking – in my case together with the other prisoners on my floor, alternately in the morning or in the afternoon. We wake up at 06:30 with a shrill alarm bell, lunch is at 11:30, dinner is served at 16:30, which is also enough for breakfast, in the morning there is only hot water or tea. The catering is usually sufficient to make ends meet to some extent, but those who want to have a balanced diet depend on shopping at the institution. Every Wednesday, German-language order shopping lists are distributed and collected the next day. On Saturday you pick up your order. The not exactly inexpensive items are paid by the money on your personal liability account. On this account is the money that was in the pockets at the time of delivery, cash transferred from the outside and the lousy wage received if one works during the detention. In contrast to imprisonment, work is not a coercion and one basically works in jail – kitchen, housework, painting, laundry…
Other “privileges” – a rental radio, rental television, participation in sports groups, discussion groups, courses, etc. must be applied for from the institution management and of course the entire prison bureaucracy works only in German. The processing of these applications takes at least a few weeks. The civil servants are very brief, any information about their everyday life in prison has to be pulled out of their noses, questions annoy and are reluctantly answered, English is spoken only by a few.
The admission procedure included naked squats, the first night on the “observation station” – your civilian clothes are taken away and you are put in a cell in which the light stays on the entire night and this confusing run through the institution creates the character of an initiation. An initiation designed to make clear that from now on, you are part of a judicial process to be administered, and nothing more. A humiliating experience. After the night in the observation station you get your private clothes back, that’s probably an exception though, in many other detention centres, institution clothes are common.
The clear majority of the people I get to know here are imprisoned for drug offences or so-called procurement offences and either have no German passport or another citizenship besides the German one, their detention being to prevent the danger of flight. The non-German-speaking prisoners are often exposed to a condescending ignorance on the part of the guards, who often transmit racist undertones. The prison bureaucracy was already very opaque in the first days for me, despite my being accustomed to the German delusion of order. It becomes completely obvious that the alleged legal purpose of pre-trial detention, i.e. knowing the persons concerned in the sense of “procedural safeguarding” on the spot, is only one aspect of the benefit of pre-trial detention.
The point of these harassing conditions, the extent of which I can only describe in some detail here, is clearly the maximum uncertainty, humiliation, isolation and discipline. This is especially true for the first few weeks – until you can make phone calls, write letters, receive visitors, you are in the sticks, left to yourself, with only pen and paper, for 23 hours. The earliest possible opportunity to get out is always two weeks after imprisonment. If you don’t pay bail, you’ll get
a warrant at some point, and the next police check will take you in. A day in detention corresponds to a fixed daily rate, I have heard numbers between 6 – 10 Euro per day. The lucky ones can reach friends or relatives, who can pay the whole punishment or at least a part, that can probably be taken into account. Those who have no-one are sentenced to prison. People in substitute detention are not allowed to work, even if many want to do so in order to exchange the starvation wage for a few days of freedom.
The list of possible examples and anecdotes that can only make people angry, is of
course very long and would go beyond this framework.
If you take a closer look here, you will notice that the often formulated thesis that prison is a mirror of society is without a doubt true. Not only does one encounter with the same perfidy, the same racism, the same lack of solidarity and indifference that can be found outside. Likewise, one encounters in here the same mechanisms of exclusion, privilege, discipline, coercion and exploitation, epitomising the characters which are structurally embedded in the world, but now concentrated like burning glass, as if the people imprisoned here were to be inoculated in an intensive course on how the rabbit should actually walk.
The fact that concepts such as integration, discipline (or disciplinary measures) or good leadership – which are to be found in almost every coercive institution of this society, be it school, office, work, social work (in many cases, certainly not all of them) or even prison, and which are all of military origin – reveal themselves here shows that none of these aspects of domination or control can be seen in isolation from other measures.
Those who have a fundamental problem with authority and domination, unless they have in mind an ideologically different variant of a coercive and disciplined society, should not remain silent about these contexts.
When the state imprisons us as opponents of its rule, it does so for the same reasons that it insists on imprisoning the homeless who did not pay their fine for a gamble of vodka at the supermaket or the one who is imprisoned because of a grass plantation and the surname of the fake “large Arab family” to a much higher penalty than his blond accomplice.
To feel differently connected with individual prisoners, to feel solidarity is understandable. For me, however, a fundamental element of this solidarity, is that is must be mutual. A culture of prisoners support and the support of those who are affected by repression would nevertheless be better placed if accompanied but a more general analysis of the relations of power and domination and if it is in this context that attacks to the state take place.
Our imprisonment is not a singular injustice, but a necessary consequence of the logic by which this world functions. And we should break with this locomotive, for the liberation of all!
A warm, solidary embrace! Until everyone is free! One of the PB.
Letter from a prisoner in Hamburg
The sound of keys and metal
The sound of keys rattling, metal hinges clinking, locks locking and doors are present from the first moment of waking at 6.45 a.m until late into the night when the screws turn their rounds in the stadium-bright courtyard. It’s an ubiquitous noise, one that quickly gives the feeling that an industrial soundtrack is running on a continuous loop in the background and is being turned quieter or louder from time to time. When prisoners work here, they can “even” get a key for their cell at some point. A cynical move of pacification that can hardly be surpassed. Like many other of these moves in the cycle of the carrot-and-stick, it unfortunately works very well. It starts already with the small things. If, for example, the cell is no longer called a cell but a “prison space” or as it appears on some forms to be filled out, a “workplace”. This logic is consistently applied here. So the usual sanctions besides cell detention and hostile treatment are mainly the cancellation of e.g. the “permit to work”, “permit to shop” or for a higher price a “rental allowance for television with channel subscription”. I understand that many prisoners want to work because it gives a possibility to get out of the cell or to finance buying things which are necessary for survival. But I think it is important not to blur the boundaries between prisoners and human guards. I think it’s wrong for a screw to actively participate in so-called “leisure activities”. In the same way that I will not have any personal conversations with them, just because I am permanently forced to share rooms with them. I am not here voluntarily and I am locked up by them every day anew. I hear far too often here: “They are just doing their job”. There can be no eye level in here and I don’t have to work out a non-hostile treatment. Of course it can be too exhausting and sometimes dangerous to permanently seek open conflict with the civil servants, but it is possible to limit communication to the technical necessities necessary for survival. As everywhere, responsibility is delegated elsewhere in here, but in a place like prison the permanent exercise of dominion over other people is very clearly visible. If once again a prisoner is yelled at by a guard because they have to ask a very common question in order to affirm their own existence. If once again a person has to ask something because they do not have the linguistic ability to understand the commands, which are basically only given in German and rarely in any kind of fantasy English. When the human guards become aggressive and racist as a means of deceiving beyond their own ignorance. If the prisoners are escorted once a day to a yard to walk in circles for an hour and then locked back in their cell for 23 hours. All the perfectly normal and vital things such as mental stimulation, seeing pictures, being able to read something, having a conversation with another person or even just receiving information and news from the world outside the walls, for those without a clock, receiving the current time is presented and handled as a privilege for which the prisoner should be grateful.
There is no justification for prison, for even those who sit here due to deeds incompatible with a free life, do not change in here. Every person who works on this machine, be it as a technician, doctor or social worker, contributes their part to the functioning of the whole, closes the lock behind them with their own hand.
A prisoner, Hamburg, July 2019
Subject: Letter from inside
… about words
Many people know that something is going terribly wrong in our world, but they think they cannot do anything alone or as a small group. This thought is wrong, because history has taught us countless times exactly the opposite. The greatest changes or innovations of our time have not been the work of many large groups. No, mostly it was the effort of just a few or even of single individuals who have positively impacted this world. What counts the most is knowing that when we die, we have left the world in a better state than when we found it.
Words are human kind’s most powerful tool. Words begin wars, words bring peace.
Words make us hate and also make us love. Every word in itself is so objective, so insensitive, so meaningless. However, just a few of these words in combination are enough to trigger strong feelings in so many people, which paradoxically cannot be expressed in words.
You manage to give people strength and make them happy, people that you don’t even know and who don’t know you either. You manage to make people happy, people who don’t even have enough knowledge of German to fill out a shopping card or an application form, yet they understand exactly what you are saying. Happiness is free, but still such a rare commodity.
Thank you for the right words!
A prisoner, July 2019
This entry was posted on Saturday, September 21st, 2019 at 10:24 am and is filed under Prison Struggle.