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“No deals with the henchmen of the capitalist state”

“No deals with the henchmen of the capitalist state”

Interview with G20 defendant Gabi Müller from Berlin

From Rote Hilfe

“There was no police violence”, declared Hamburg’s mayor at the time, Olaf Scholz, immediately after the end of the G20 summit in July 2017. There was also apparently no intention to criminalize the arrested participants in the protests. But by the time the current trial was opened in Hamburg, there had already been a total of 964 proceedings against 1,286 accused participants in connection with the protests against the G20 summit in 2017, as the Hamburg Senate explained in January at the request of the Left Party in the Hamburg Citizenship .

The trial against demonstrators who were arrested on Rondenbarg Street in Hamburg during the protests against the G20 summit in July 2017 is now running for ten days at the beginning of April. It is the third trial against participants of the “Black Finger” who were on their way from the protest camp in Hamburg’s Volkspark to the city centre to take part in blocking the access routes to the conference site. A small demonstration group that came together spontaneously, with a wide variety of people, some of whom had travelled far to protest, to express their dissatisfaction with the meeting of the 20 largest economic powers. They wanted to take part in the publicly announced road blockades that were intended to prevent delegations from Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, the USA and Germany, among others, from entering the conference grounds: using civil disobedience. Shortly after the trial began, the court and public prosecutor’s office offered a settlement: discontinuation of the proceedings in exchange for a small fine and a general rejection of violence – not by the state and the police, but by the protesters. Two defendants accepted the offer because of the stress of the process or their insecure immigration status. Another defendant dropped out due to illness, and her case – like the other 80 – is now on the back burner. Two proceedings had already been separated before the trial opened for various reasons: one due to childbirth in January 2024, the other person cannot be found. This leaves two defendants who want to see the trial through until the end of July. Here is an interview with one of the two, who appears publicly under the pseudonym Gabi Müller.

You and Nils Jansen, as defendants, have you decided with a trial declaration against the court and public prosecutor’s offer to stop the trial in return for a fine and to distance yourself from violence against demonstrators?

Yes, because the proceedings against us are politically motivated. We emphasized this in our explanation of why we were rejecting the offer. The criminalization of the protests against the summit of the world’s 20 strongest capitalist states remains in place almost seven years later. Our procedure, i.e. the attempt to convict demonstrators without individual accusations, is a long-awaited step by the conservative side, which, in view of the worsening crisis and the contradictions in this society, is gaining more and more supporters so that it is easier for them to take action against upcoming protests and can protect their wealth.

Instead of letting the repression befall us defensively, we want to counter the attack of class justice politically and emphasize and defend the need for protests against the conditions here. We wanted to respond exactly to this with the process explanation on the first day.

Specifically, the aim was to show that the misery that we were all protesting on the streets in Hamburg and that is being fuelled by the politics of the G20 is systemic. And that the violence with which they defend themselves and these circumstances is, of course, outrageous, but unfortunately it is also an immanent part of the whole thing. This also includes the continuous suppression of left-wing protests and movements.

Our trial is just one of the currently massively intensified repression against left-wing activists. We can only defy this class justice if we think about its various attacks and facets together and stand against them together—with a clear antagonistic position that does not bow to the blurring of the opposites: the henchmen of the capitalist state are the ones who oppress us, they ensure the exploitation of people and nature. We don’t make a deal with them.

“The basics of the script are written behind the scenes”

What exactly was the prosecution’s deal about?

Initially, right at the beginning of the first day of the trial, our lawyers filed an application for the immediate and unconditional discontinuation of the proceedings on the grounds that the charges violated the right to assembly protected by the Basic Law. The application was rejected.

This was followed by an offer to one of the defendants to stop the proceedings under Section 153a of the Criminal Code – in exchange for a fine and the distance from violence at demonstrations. The defendant rejected this. At the end of the first day of the trial, the same deal was offered to all defendants behind closed doors.

In order to have time to think through and discuss the whole thing, it was agreed that we would not announce our decision until the third day of the trial, which took place three weeks later. Three days before the hearing, the court made the deal more concrete. Explicit amounts for the fine were stated and it was explained that a general distance from violence was sufficient – which is absurd in view of the explanation of the process, since we clearly say in it that it is precisely the violence of the system that causes us to protest – the addition “at demonstrations “So it can be eliminated and if we accept the deal, we won’t even have to travel to the next day of the negotiations.

How did the offer of a plea deal for all defendants come about?

We discussed and speculated a lot about this. We haven’t gotten very smart. In any case, the judge was surprised that the prosecution offered the deal to all defendants. If it were up to her, she said, the offer wouldn’t have applied to everyone. Above all, she would like to streamline the process. Whether one can take every statement from the judge at face value remains to be seen. Some statements are certainly tactical manoeuvres. The entire process is somewhat like a play in which the basics of the script are written behind the scenes and each person puts on their show depending on their role.

Hopefully we will understand better later what their exact goals are – apart from the general political motivation to criminalize unpleasant protests – what specific plan they are pursuing and what they are up to. The private interests of the people involved should not be forgotten. Who knows what personal plans the public prosecutor or judge have?

But you and Nils want to see the process through to the end?

Yes, and we can state the following – Firstly: Some possible accusations, such as masking, are already statute-barred. Second: The proceedings against Fabio V, which consistently rejected every deal despite being in prison, were dropped last autumn. Third: A conditional dismissal is a kind of admission of guilt. What guilt? To have been at a demonstration? Not to accept the exploitative and violent system in silence?

80 other people have the same indictment in their homes. Only specific allegations, such as assigned bags or clothing and the initial conditions such as residence status or criminal record, differ in some cases. What will happen to their proceedings if we, against whom there is nothing at all, are already discontinued against conditions? Do they simply receive a punishment order tailored to this basis or will their proceedings then be opened in court with the standard that we have set with the dismissal? Will we then be called as witnesses and have to give up our attitude of refusing to testify unless we accept detention? Do they want to divide us into good and bad protesters?

According to the judge’s opening speech on the first day of the trial, no high penalties are to be expected. She also doubted whether the effort would be proportionate to the process. But she wants to clarify the fundamental question of what protest is allowed, what a supposedly normal demonstration is and where the limit has been crossed.

The process is being reopened after almost seven years – at a time when the crises are worsening. From a class struggle perspective, the whole process reads as if the ruling class wants to create the basis to more easily suppress upcoming protests against intensified exploitation.

How has the evidence taken in the trial been going so far?

The file is a large collection of all kinds of documents relating to the G20 protests. One gets the impression that they took everything they could find, no matter how small the connection. This so-called evidence was processed from the second day of the trial onwards without much embedding, contextualization or comment on the part of the court. First, various videos were watched, including video material about the demonstration at Ronden barg, the blockade of the green and blue fingers, the large demonstration on Saturday and interviews with the Bonn ver.diYouth. In addition, visual material was viewed, such as bags that were found at Ronden barg, but also notes from house searches of activists. A two-page flyer entitled ‘Fight G20 – Building Counterpower’, which several groups had signed and which criticized the capitalist system in detail and in a very well-founded manner and called for protests against the G20 summit, was also read out by the judge without further comment. There was also huge applause from the audience.

demo in Gernany
Images: Rote Hilfe

Witness hearings began on the fourth day of the trial. First of all, civilians, such as drivers. It was interesting to observe how memory works. And of course all perceptions are massively influenced by previous and subsequent reporting. Their statements today sometimes differed greatly from the original protocols, which were usually prepared after six months. As a rule, they were ambivalent and contradictory. For example, when asked, some described fear, but still followed the demonstration closely or drove to the Schanzenviertel in the evening out of curiosity to see the clashes. Others say explicitly that they didn’t call the police because nothing happened.

How is the public prosecutor’s office behaving – their charges are being questioned more and more?

At first the public prosecutor’s office was surprisingly quiet. She held back very much and said little. That has changed somewhat in the meantime.

In addition, she has extremely reduced the allegations against us. The public prosecutor’s office officially only speaks of a simple breach of the peace. They originally accused us of committing a communal breach of the peace in a particularly serious case, in unison with physical attacks on law enforcement officers in a particularly serious case, attempted grievous bodily harm, forming armed groups and damaging property.

In principle, however, it still does not deviate from the argument in the indictment, which states that Rondenbarg street was not a meeting within the meaning of the right of assembly. The reasons given by the public prosecutor’s office are, firstly, that the demonstration was not registered and secondly, that the aim could not have been the formation of public opinion, because the banners and chants and thus the political concern in view of the external appearance and the Route through the industrial area would have been pushed into the background. However, she ignores the fact that you inevitably have to walk through the industrial area when you come from the camp there.

“A sleepy early-morning stroll”

Another key point in the indictment’s argument is that violence can be attributed to all demonstrators present, since there is said to have been an organizational structure and an alleged uniform plan of action, which they justify, among other things, by the fact that different blocks were coordinated in time and well They are said to have set off from the camp mostly dressed uniformly. This argument can therefore also be transferred to other fingers and assemblies and is therefore extremely dangerous; the black finger is simply the first to be attacked here.

During the review of the evidence, many of these arguments have already been refuted. The videos showed that the demonstrators were neither uniformly dressed in dark clothing, let alone masked, and that their appearance was in no way like an “ostentatious march,” but rather a sleepy early-morning stroll. In principle, the evidence taken so far has been exculpatory. Without throwing stones at police officers?

At the end of the sixth day of the trial, our lawyers demanded a dismissal in accordance with Section 153 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a dismissal without conditions. In particular, since a key argument of the public prosecutor’s office was refuted by the civilian witnesses: the attack on the Eutin police unit in Schnackenburgallee obviously did not take place, nor could it have taken place due to the long distance. Police witnesses are now trying to refute this. The alleged accusation serves as a justification for the brutal police operation and as an argument that every demonstrator has committed a criminal offense.

Prosecutor Helfen replied that he could also end the proceedings immediately – with a verdict for breach of the peace, after all, all the witnesses were afraid. There are two things that are interesting about this: Firstly, as already mentioned, it is “only” a simple breach of the peace.

The second notable aspect is the justification for the accusation: fear of selected passers-by. A really strange interpretation of paragraph 125. It should also not be forgotten that it was about fear, which was partly directed at both the demonstration and the police units. Anxiety that has been shown to be significantly more pronounced in memory than in its original protocols. And above all, we are talking about a fear that was extremely stoked politically and in the media before and after the fact – as the witnesses themselves also confirm. The eighth day of the trial was followed by a so-called legal discussion, a discussion of the current factual and legal situation. The judge gave an assessment of the current status of the proceedings and which aspects should be focused on. She screened out the coming witnesses somewhat, so that the trial may not last until August. And this is what she recorded: our presence is not in doubt. Provocations by undercover investigators are not relevant, nor are what happened at Rondenbarg. The police operation was disproportionate, but that wasn’t the point. But rather the question of whether the character of the gathering, which was initially defined as peaceful, had already changed before the Rondenbarg and to what extent all participants can be held responsible for this. This is further justified by predominantly uniform clothing, which allows the so-called “troublemakers” to go into hiding, as well as by a possible common consensus for action, which everyone knowingly supports during blockade actions. That means: the planned tightening of the right to demonstrate remains.

What’s next?

The police witnesses have been questioned since mid-March, the tenth day of the trial, and on April 12th, protest researcher Sebastian Haunss will be questioned about the five-finger tactics. Furthermore, we defendants are not accused of anything other than being present. The process protocols are available to everyone on the Community Resistance campaign website: On every day of the trial there is a rally in front of the court and the auditorium is always well filled. Since the process may end earlier than planned, possibly before the summer, we are now considering in various circles how we can accompany it there and arrange its conclusion. So we have incredible solidarity support from many people.

Do you still need a lot of stamina?

Yes, but that’s how it is. What must, must. Which part of the fight towards a solidarity-based society in which everyone can live well is a piece of cake? The majority of the oppressed have to show a lot more perseverance every single day. One goal of state repression is to wear us down. We have to turn this attempt around and use it instead of just avoiding or giving in. Effort is not the guide.

~ Gaston Cherry

A good overview of the protests and police violence can be found in the documentary “Hamburger Gitter” – available on YouTube with English subtitles.

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