German police raid border camp

The sixth German anti-racist border camp which took place in Cologne between 31 July and 10 August 2003 was raided by around 2,500 police officers a day before the official end of the camp. 250 activists were arrested, video taped and finger printed

10.Aug.03 - On 9 August, the police encircled the camp, which had seen around 1,000 participants in 10 days of discussions and actions. They said that camp participants would potentially disturb the demonstration held in Cologne the same day by around 50 neo-Nazis. Police spokesmen claimed that around 70% of the camp participants were criminals.

Police were initially hindered from entering camp by around 500 camp participants, despite using tear gas and batons. The alleged legal basis for the raid was the police declaration that the camp was a "demonstration", then prohibiting it and arguing that all participants were therefore violating regulations on assembly ( Versammlungsrecht ).

In a siege lasting the whole day, the police cut off the water supply (despite temperatures of up to at 40 C, 100+ F) and telephone lines to the camp. The water was later restored after police were warned that they could be held liable for denial of assistance. Police then gave the camp participants an ultimatum: they could leave on their own accord after each individual's identity was recorded and a photo taken, or they would be forcibly removed and identified. A group of 300 people held on until the evening when, finally, around 250 people were arrested and detained in a nearby prison. The activists have reported heavy-handedness and several injuries; a legal team has been set up to record incidents and objects that 'went missing' during the police raid. Camp press groups have announced that to their knowledge all the detained have now been released.

In a press release (10 August 2003) Gerda Heck, one of the camp organisers, said:

"From the beginning, the police operation was excessive. There was constant filming, helicopters were circling in the air. The police systematically looked for any excuse to provoke and escalate the situation. The ultimate purpose for yesterday's attack was the identification and collection of biometric data (Video recordings) of all camp participants. The intention is to control and criminalise the anti-racist movement, they want to push us into the "troublemaker" corner. Yesterday, the anti-racists confronted the police at the entrance to the camp with banners. CS gas and the use of batons by police in battle gear caused numerous injuries.

Birgit - representative of the campaign "Kein Mensch ist illegal" [No One Is Illegal] " said: "This international meeting is a role model for many border camps all over Europe. The intention is to destroy our growing network. But out political movement cannot be intimidated by police state methods."

The police action is seen by camp participants and organisers as an attempt to criminalise the anti-racist movement in Germany and discredit the political message that the camp was conveying in the city of Cologne. The Cologne city council uses two boats for asylum processing in Cologne, one for newly arrived asylum seekers and the second as so-called Departure Centre. The latter houses around 200 asylum seekers, 88 of them children and most of them Roma, in inhumane conditions. Illnesses are rampant on the boat, with children being chronically ill and pregnant women suffering from early births and infections.