“Pro-Palestinian” gatherings in Hamburg have been banned by general decree for a month. There is hardly any criticism of it.
HAMBURG taz | So-called pro-Palestine demonstrations are currently not allowed to take place in Hamburg on any of the 755 square kilometers of land. Not in the St. Georg district with its many mosques, of course not in front of the synagogue on the Hohe Weide, but also not on the rural Borghorster Elbdeich just before the border with Schleswig-Holstein. The assembly authority, which is part of the police, has been banning this by general order for more than a month thus restricts freedom of assembly across the board. A scandal? The criticism of this hard Hanseatic line is not really loud locally.
On October 16th, the Hamburg police announced late in the evening that from midnight onwards all gatherings with “a content related to supporting Hamas or its attacks on Israeli territory” would be banned throughout the city. In brackets she added what was meant by that: “so-called. pro-Palestinian gatherings”. The ban was supposed to apply for three days – already Since then, the police have announced an extension of the general order nine times for three to four days.
As in the entire Federal Republic, there was great fear in Hamburg after Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel that the Israeli military reaction would lead to anti-Semitic riots and inciting demonstrations. In Berlin, shortly before the Hamburg police announced their general ban, the Hamas attacks were celebrated and dozens of crimes were recorded during rallies. On the sidelines of a solidarity rally for Israel in downtown Hamburg, there were isolated anti-Semitic attacks on demo participants – scenes of which there were similar reports nationwide.
But nowhere else has the fundamental right to freedom of assembly been so restricted. There is no such general order in any other federal state; in Berlin, too, only individual demonstrations have so far been banned. There have been 116 pro-Palestinian demonstrations there since October 7th, 22 have been banned, SPD Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) reported at the beginning of the week. In Frankfurt am Main, several demos were banned over a period of a few days.
Self-image of Hamburg as a liberal city
For Deniz Celik, the ongoing ban “does not correspond to Hamburg’s self-image as a liberal city.” Celik sits for the Left Party in the Hamburg parliament, the citizenship, and is the parliamentary group’s domestic policy spokesman.
“A ban on demonstrations must always be the last resort,” says Celik. “Many people who want to show solidarity with the Palestinian population at a demonstration and call for respect for human rights now feel excluded,” he says. “The ban undermines their trust in democracy and the rule of law.”
With Fatih Yildiz it sounded a little different. “We very much welcome the fact that it was finally possible to hold a rally,” said the chairman of Shura, the council of Islamic communities in Hamburg Hamburger Abendblatt. Previously, as an exception and with many guidelines, the police had approved a Shura demonstration – because the Shura had expressly expressed its sympathy for the Israeli victims and warned its members not to take part in rallies of extremist groups. Yildiz himself ended the rally with around 800 participants early: A small group continued to chant unapproved slogans.
Little support from the left camp
Unlike in Berlin, there was little support from the left camp for rallies that gave the impression that they were closer to Palestine than Israel. What still attracted the most attention was the inner-left poster dispute on the facade of the autonomous center Rote Flora in the Schanzenviertel: “Killing Jews is not fighting for freedom” was initially written there, before unknown people changed the lettering to “Killing humans is not fighting for freedom”.
The fact that around 750 people marched peacefully through the city last Saturday against the general order – and in exceptional circumstances – did not change the police’s forecast of danger. Finally, in the past few weeks there have been occasional unannounced meetings, which led to arguments when they were broken up.
The Hamburg administrative court has dealt with the demo bans twice in the past few weeks, both times supporting the assembly authority. First, the person who registered a demonstration under the title “Stop the war on Gaza and support human rights!” tried it. But from the court’s point of view, the title indicates a “one-sided pro-Palestinian orientation”, which is why the ban should be approved. And because the applicant also used the slogan “Freedom for Palestine” in the call for the demonstration, the danger was proven: “This slogan is typically used in circles that question Israel’s right to exist as a whole,” the court stated quite briskly – therefore violence is to be expected.
The court also dismissed a second lawsuit, this time directly against the official general order – “in view of the particularly charged atmosphere in Hamburg.”
Michael Wrase, Professor of Public Law at the University of Hildesheim, considers the ban to be constitutionally questionable. “It would require a special risk situation so that public safety cannot be guaranteed in any other way,” Wrase told taz. When you think of “threat to public safety” you think of street fights that last for days – images that we know from the Weimar Republic. He sees a “good chance” of overturning the ban if those affected take legal action through the courts against the general decree.
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Finally, any gatherings that are considered “pro-Palestinian” are currently banned: he does not see the legal principle of certainty as being fulfilled. Ultimately, this can also include demonstrations that demand simple solidarity with the people of Gaza or advocate for a two-state solution, as well as demonstrations that celebrate Hamas’ terrorist acts. “Only the latter justify a ban.”
Alone: An appeal against the decision on the general decree should have been lodged with the next higher instance, the Hamburg Higher Administrative Court, by Wednesday. Nothing has been received, says a court spokesman. And only those who can plausibly demonstrate to the court that they are affected by the ban on gatherings can sue against the order. The motivation for this is apparently low in Hamburg.
Except the left show Neither the SPD and the Greens as government factions nor the CDU in the opposition showed any visible discomfort with the weeks-long restriction of a fundamental right. And so all that remains is to wait until the Hamburg police independently change their assessment of the threat situation.