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March of Entschlossenen in Berlin

Among the construction sites that have littered Unter den Linden for years now, the signs of progress in Europe’s biggest economy, protesters gathered, moved by the work of the Zentrum für Politisches Schönheit (Centre for Political Beauty) in their Die Toten Kommen (The Dead are Coming) project. The protesters gather to demonstrate against the European Union’s treatment of refugees attempting the treacherous crossing between northern Africa and southern Europe in which thousands of people have lost their lives in recent years.

The protesters began to gather from around 1pm, scheduled to leave Unter den Linden at 2pm and head for the Chancellery. Their aim? To dig graves to symbolise the burials that so many refugees never got, following the failure of European Union policy to adequately address the influx of people coming from crisis-torn countries in northern and sub-Saharan Africa, instead dying on the crossing. The protesters, many adopting the smudge-mud warpaint that has underpinned the publicity around the campaign, came equipped: shoves, crucifixes, pickaxes and alike. This equipment was intended to dig graves as part of the protest, but following federal action after the funerals of exhumed and reburied refugees on German territory (in line with consent and the wishes from family members) in the week leading up to the march, the the Zentrum für Politisches Schönheit released a statement on their Facebook page asking protestors not to bring such items:

“Wir würden sehr gerne ein bleibendes Mal in der Hauptstadt hinterlassen. Aber das ist uns nun unmöglich. Wir fordern Euch deswegen auf:
Bitte bringt zum Marsch keine Holzkreuze, keine Särge, keine „sargähnlichen Behältnisse“, keine Bagger, keine Schaufeln, keine Grablichter, keinen Schnellzement oder Presslufthammer mit, sondern allerhöchstens Blumen, die sich auf der Marschroute zum Bundeskanzleramt.“ 
We would love to leave a lasting mark in the capital city. But that is now impossible. That's why we urge you:
Please do not bring wooden crosses, no coffins, no "coffin-like containers", no backhoes, no blades, no candlesticks, no quick cement or Jackhammers to the March; bring flowers, along the March route to the Federal Chancellery.”

This is Berlin, of course, and naturally the protestors brought all of the above. The total number of protestors is unclear, but looks to be between 5,300 and 5,600. Plenty, it seems to climb the fences which had been erected to prevent graves being dug there and dodge police to successfully storm the lawn outside the Bundestag.

The group’s initial plans had been to construct a site dedicated to ‘The Unnamed Refugee’ on the doorstep of the Chancellery. By Friday evening, it was clear that this was not going to happen. Instead, protestors took to the streets and arrived, bearing flowers, wreaths, spades and determination, to honour the memory of those failed by shortsighted European Union policy. In the event, the protestors dug graves on the lawn opposite of the Bundestag instead; a rubble of destruction laid to rest at the feet of the powerful.

While the loss of life at the hands of EU policy making is appalling, some have questioned the inflammatory tactics employed by the group, and particularly the burials which were the prelude to the march. SPD minister Aydan Özoguz commented, in an interview with BZ-Berlin:

“Bei allem Verständnis für die Wut der Aktivisten angesichts der vielen Tausend ertrunkenen Flüchtlinge im Mittelmeer, ein Spektakel mit Leichen zu inszenieren, überschreitet eine moralische Grenze” (“With respect to all the protestors and the many thousands of refugees which have lost their lives on the crossing, the use of corpses in such a spectacle exceeds the moral limit.”)

As the protestors took over the lawn, their battle cry rose to a crescendo: “Grenzen auf, überall, kein Mensch ist illegal” (“Borders down, above all, no man is illegal”) and the digging began.  As night fell on their newly created cemetery last night, it was unclear for how long the memorial will stand, but it seems unlikely to last long given the heavy-handed approach favoured by the German authorities. Yet, it seems that while it does stand, politicians like Aydan Özoguz should take the opportunity to consider what it is exactly that exceeds the moral limit.

By Sarah Coughlan
Sarah Coughlan is the managing editor of Berlin Logs.
You can find her at: www.bulletproofed.org where she hides her academic proofreading business.

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