A protester holds a banner bearing the photo of Achidi John, a Cameroonian asylum-seeker who died in police custody in Hamburg in 2001, at the No To Racism rally in Berlin on 6 June/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Thousands join Black Lives Matter protests across Germany in historic show of solidarity

Tens of thousands of people joined Black Lives Matter protests across Germany on Saturday despite coronavirus containment measures that discourage such large gatherings.

Even though many wore masks, but social distancing rules were impossible to observe as protesters rally across 26 towns and cities in Germany to protest racial discrimination and police brutality. The passion of participants about racism was obviously stronger than the fears of a coronavirus infection.

Though the protests, tagged ‘NO TO RACISM – Silent Demos’, were motivated by the ongoing marches in the US and increasingly across the globe against the police murder of George Floyd on 25 May, protesters in Germany drew attention to racism and discrimination against people of African descent in the country.

From Augsburg to Cologne, Berlin to Fulda, Hamburg to Dortmund, thousands of people came out in large numbers to give a strong sign of rejection to racism in the country.

The massive rally in Berlin. According to the police, more than 15,000 people participated in the peaceful action even though organisers expected only 1,500/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

In Berlin, thousands of protesters packed Alexanderplatz, the biggest public square in the heart of Germany’s biggest city.

Organisers registered 1,500 people for the demonstration, but significantly more came – 15,000 people were there, according to the police.

It was like a festival for peace and justice as protesters from all communities – native Germans, Turks, Arabs, Asians, people of African descent, carry placards to drive their message home. 

Speaking to The African Courier at the Alexanderplatz, a German student, who would like to be referred to simply as Andreas, said it’s time that Germany tackled racism seriously. He considered the problem as still not being taken seriously enough.

Protesters at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin on Saturday/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

“From the words we use to denigrate Black people to discrimination they face in various spheres of life, Black people are really oppressed,” he added. His friend, joining the conversation, said it’s time to stand up and change society. “There must be change now, it’s long overdue,” she added.

A Black activist Arola said the issue of police violence against people of African descent doesn’t enjoy wide media coverage as Germany was still in denial about pervasive racism. He said many Africans had been killed in police custody, citing the examples of Oury Jalloh, John Amadi, Achidi John and “many others that we do not even know”.

“Look at the case of Oury Jalloh, he was murdered in police custody. Pure and simple. Until today, they still continue to play games and refuse to accept and bring those responsible to justice.”

Protesters at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin on Saturday/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

“So, you can’t tell me that you take the issue of police violence against Black people seriously!”

READ ALSO Migrant organisations launch campaign against anti-Black racism in Germany

Arola called for a more active Black resistance to racism. “Look around you, most of the protesters are non-Black people. This is good as it’s a sign of solidarity, However, I would have liked this place to be filled by thousands of Black people. We’re the main story and that should have been more visible here,” he noted.

Protesters chanted and clapped in unison and held home-made placards bearing the initials BLM and messages such as “Pandemic is Racism”, “No justice, no peace, “I can’t breathe” etc.

Protesters observed 8 minutes 46 seconds of silence in memory of George Floyd, which was the time the policeman knelt on his neck, leading to the death of the African American.

Protesters at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin on Saturday/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

According to reports, the scenes in Berlin were replicated across the country as society sent a strong message of solidarity with the Black community, which suffers most from discrimination and racism.

In a related development, leading migrant organisations launched a campaign tagged Aktion #beiunsauch (Action #samehere) against anti-Black racism in Germany on 1 June.

The campaign, an initiative of The African Network of Germany (TANG), in collaboration with the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), Each One Teach One (EOTO), German Dream, BAGIV and more than 100 other migrant organisations, was also inspired by the ongoing protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

Femi Awoniyi

READ ALSO Nationwide protests against anti-Black racism in Germany hold on Saturday

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