It is a noble constitutional right, freedom of assembly, which is why the courts are generously protecting it. This is a good thing, especially in times of pandemics, when the motto “thinking outside the box”, like this weekend in Munich and recently in Berlin, drives people into the streets. Demonstration, that is special, is that politics uses their own body. Banners, chants and megaphone speeches are more of an accessory. It is the actors and their physicality that count. Until now mainly in bulk.
It can hardly be overlooked that something is changing here. It has become rarer for hundreds of thousands to gather as they did in Bonn’s Hofgarten for nuclear disarmament or later millions worldwide against the Iraq War. The Love Parade, a political format for short, is considered a German record demo with over a million followers – songs from a bygone era.
A document with impressive support for mainstream pandemic policy
In a way, the anti-coronavirus outbreak in Berlin in early August should be seen as a disappointment in view of the public discussions and political struggles. There are said to have been less than 40,000 participants, of which – says the Office for the Protection of the Constitution – up to 3,000 right-wing extremists and citizens of the Reich, who, as is well known, allow themselves to be pursued as long as they destroy democracy. can drag in. If one further downsizes those who have retired from esotericism or who feel notoriously victims of superior powers, the demos of ‘lateral thinking’ due to the objective non-participation of others are a document of impressive endorsement of the regular pandemic policies of parliament and government.
Mass no longer matters
But mass is not everything anymore. Just as a dust mite appears as a monster under the microscope, smartphones and breathless live reports transform some demo scenes into popular uprisings. The new edition of the takeover ended as a kick-ass joke in Berlin, but went viral on the Reichstag like a storm. The organizers of demonstrations know that they can take pictures and stories; you have to move people to move them, with indignation, excitement, compassion. Walking through a street or meeting on a square is not enough for that.
The judiciary and the administration are at stake when they are faced with new forms of protest
The smaller the demos, the more extensive they become. The judiciary and administration are somewhat lost when faced with protests that are protracted and for which their own infrastructure is being created; “Protest camps” are an example or, as planned in Berlin, a “permanent vigil” on Strasse des 17. June. Instead of a parade, a siege is held. Where should the boundaries be here? The Basic Law seems speechless.
Doubts about Berlin’s injunctions
Thanks to the Federal Constitutional Court, Berlin was spared the “permanent vigil” for the time being. The Karlsruhe decision (Az .: 1 BvQ 94/20) is worth remembering because it casts doubt on the decisions of the Berlin administrative judiciary, which defeated the demonstrations against the ban by Domestic Senator Andreas Geisel (SPD) allowed. The local judiciary relied on the country’s Corona ordinance, which provided a lot of freedom for demos. The Federal Constitutional Court found it a wrong focus, emphasizing the fundamental right of third parties to life and physical integrity in times of pandemics as “basically equivalent” to freedom of assembly. Again, the state has a protective mandate that can even justify a ban on demonstration.
A perspective that seems important. Good reasons will continue to be necessary in the future to restrict freedom of assembly. But there is. Demos are an enrichment for many, a burden for others. What they shouldn’t be is a risk.