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Protest in Bonn: Activists demonstrate against new legislation on the right to assemble

Protest in Bonn : Activists demonstrate against new legislation on the right to assemble

Many people demonstrated in Bonn city centre on Saturday against the NRW state government’s plans to tighten the Assembly Act (Versammlungsgesetz). The activists are concerned about anonymity.

It was another weekend of demonstration in the centre of Bonn. But on Saturday afternoon, the focus was not on climate change, peace or anti-capitalism, but about the demonstration itself: The participants, among them environmentalists, anti-fascist groups and other representatives from the political left, protested against draft legislation to revise the Assembly Act, which the NRW state government introduced in January and which is currently still in discussion.

Organiser Jürgen Repschläger, who sits on the city council for the Left Party, criticised the draft law for restricting the constitutionally guaranteed right of assembly in a democracy. “We are afraid that the screw will be tightened,” he said. The black (CDU) and yellow (FDP) state government is planning far-reaching changes with the justification of being able to take better action against right-wing and radical right-wing marches. However, such regulations would mostly affect left-wing events.

Demonstrators believe that the regulations go too far in giving the police the right to demand the names of stewards at demonstrations. “A key point of the German Assembly Act is anonymity: The state does not intervene," Repschläger explained. From this perspective, he also criticised the fact that under the draft legislation, the police are also allowed to take pictures and recordings of demonstrators. This could prevent people from exercising their right to assemble. “This must all remain free of repression,” he said.

In addition, the demonstrators criticised the planned police checkpoints, which are allowed to be used on suspicion of a criminal offence for recording identities and searching bags. Repschläger also considers the ban on militancy to be unacceptable - this is intended to avoid a uniformed and thus possibly intimidating presence at demonstrations, but is not clearly formulated.

The timing for introducing the draft legislation was also an issue. “Shame on anyone who thinks evil of it," commented Jonas from the Bonn Fridays for Future movement. “Behind the scenes of the corona pandemic - that for me is a very fatal signal.” The group Young Struggle, which is mainly made up of youths and young adults, and has been in existence in various cities, including Cologne, for ten years, is worried about the future of demonstrating. “We are showing that young people have a right to protest,” explained activist Sarya. As the future generation of demonstrators, they would be affected by a tightening of the law.

Repschläger counted around 600 participants, the police spoke of 300 at first and later of up to 500 people at the demonstration. Arranged in thematic blocks and keeping to distancing rules whilst wearing face masks, they walked from Münsterplatz via Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz to Frankenbadplatz and also blocked the traffic. (Original text: Stefan Knopp, Translation: Caroline Kusch)