Synagogue attack leads to protest and debate on hate speech laws

Peaceful Assembly

Extinction Rebellion host ‘funeral march’

On 13th and 14th September 2019, climate activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) protested against pollution from cruise ships at the Hamburg Cruise Days, which features a parade of cruise ships that sail along the city's Elbe River. Using civil disobedience as one of their main tools, they organised a ‘funeral march’ for the planet and poured red liquid - representing ‘the blood of our children’- down the white stairs of the Elbpromenade (promenade). They also blocked a major traffic intersection and staged a die-in in a square.

Police were not notified of the XR protest in Hamburg. However even after discovering the plans, they did not take any action to prevent the protest from taking place. While the XR movement openly tries to test the limits of civil disobedience, their protests are always non-violent. The organisers of the Hamburg protests declared that the goal was to be arrested, yet no arrests were made. However, one protester was physically injured when the police forcefully cleared the road block. 

Right-wing extremism leads to protests

On 9th October 2019 a gunman tried to enter a Synagogue in the city of Halle during a celebration of Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day. The synagogue hosted about 80 people on the day. After he was unable to enter the synagogue, the man opened fire on a woman in the street and a man in a nearby kebab shop, killing them both. The attacks were streamed through an online video streaming platform. The perpetrator was identified as a 27-year-old German, who expressed anti-Semitic and misogynist views, which were captured on the streamed video.

Following the attack, Human Rights Watch issued a statement, calling for 'comprehensive efforts to combat rising hate':

“…Tackling the hateful beliefs that divide societies requires so much more. Authorities at the local, regional, and national level should invest substantially in efforts to counter dangerous speech, and to promote inclusiveness and respect, - Judith Sunderland Associate Director, Europe and Central Asia Division.

On 13th October 2019 over ten thousand people took to the streets of Berlin. Protests were also held in Hamburg and Marburg. The demonstration was organised by Unteilbar (Indivisible) under the banner “We stand united’.

Expression

Synagogue attack sparks government reaction on hate speech law

Social media platforms were inundated with complaints on digital abuse after the synagogue attack- which was streamed online by the perpetrator. Following this, the government published proposals to force social media platforms to report illegal content to law enforcement. The proposal will require parliament’s approval before becoming law. As previously reported by the Monitor, concerns were raised around censorship of social media in 2018, when Germany passed The Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG). The law aims to combat harmful speech and verbal attacks in online communications. Many opposed it on the basis that it may limit freedom of expression.

Association

On 30th December 2019, cabin crew of Germanwings, Lufthansa’s budget airline, started a three day strike over the New Year period. This led to the cancellation of 180 flights, most of which were domestic flights. UFO, the German trade union for cabin crew, called the strike after talks about opportunities to work part-time for Germanwings broke down. The union demanded higher pay, better benefits for cabin crew and to make the process easier for staff to get long-term contracts. This was the fourth strike over this issue in a year. In November 2019, about 1,500 flights were cancelled, affecting about 200,000 passengers.