On the night of January 29th, 2013, during a spontaneous warm-up party for the campaign against the 16th International Police Congress (in February), five cars of Berlin’s Order Office in the district of Mitte were torched, and the building on Berolinastraße was paint-bombed.
If we would only see the police congress as a security industry exhibition, we would not have gifted this small present to the municipal police, a force that invites us to take a closer look at its operation.
For sure, most of the times, the so-called district patrols stir up anger because of the imposition of fines and their ruthless procedures even for trivial infringements. However, their most important task seems to be the ubiquitous presence of a state control function in everyday life.
Throughout Europe, the deployment of the military has been discussed after urban riots — in 2005 in the French banlieues, during the Greek December 2008, after the 2011 riots in London. There are various reasons that stopped this military intervention from happening; the respective governments are certainly aware of the fact that order is not symbolized through the massive presence of heavily armed forces, but can rather be achieved by an intensive interaction of police functions with normal everyday life. The participation of citizens in a public order force must thus be smooth, and reciprocal control must only be improved in constant fear of drawing attention through deviant behaviour.
Thus, many States have established a ‘soft’ police apparatus in addition to the usual forces. The Guàrdia Urbana in Barcelona next to the Mossos d’Esquadra and the Policía Nacional, municipal police forces across the hot zones of France next to the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, and also citizen-friendly constables in London who are more likely to find access to the population. A counterpart of the German Ordnungsamt exists in Athens, with the unarmed municipal cops. Only Italy has embarked here on an exceptional path, with army patrols in the cities.
The Berlin municipal police departments take action where police intervention is not deemed necessary, and still report back to the district managers, with whom the regular police and the municipal cops work closely together. The annual MyFest street party in Kreuzberg can be seen as a typical example of current counterinsurgency.
District managers and private security companies, together with the police, have penetrated youth institutions as well as schools. There is security cooperation of the police with housing construction corporations, schools, public transport services and private security providers. All this results into ‘Henkel’s little helpers’ (headline from the German tabloid ‘D.Z.’ in relation to Berlin Interior Senator Frank Henkel and 12-year-old security guards at MyFest) and a widespread acceptance towards punishment of norm violations. Then any officer of the municipal police, who checks with a ruler the correct positioning of chairs in outdoor gastronomy feasts or the order of tables at flea markets, appears to be an image in some caricature.
This German thoroughness is frightening when we think of today’s date 80 years ago. The quiet transition from the Weimar Republic’s police to the Nazis’ security organs caused moral issues only to the fewest cops; they had only helped to enforce an existing law. After that, they just slid themselves smoothly into the People’s Police (in East Germany) or into the West German police, always on the side of ‘law and order.’
Regardless whether these cops were involved in genocides at occupied territories under the name ‘Order Police’ (the uniformed regular force in Nazi Germany), or they barge into you as ‘Order Office’ because your dog is not on a leash, the same conviction is always hidden behind all this: that the individual freedom of one person is worth nothing compared to the construct of a statist common good, which unfortunately can only be achieved with violence.
With our warm-up party we wanted to point out that this belief of a necessity and justification of state presence in your very own life can only be broken if their vulnerability is proven. And vulnerable is the Power of Berlin’s district forces, that deal with the treatment of refugees, the displacement of drinkers and Roma from parks and squares, and a repressive youth policy, in many places.
LET’S MAKE THE EUROPEAN SECURITY ARCHITECTURE COLLAPSE!