Europeans are storming the streets in unprecedented numbers to protest NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine and their own declining living standards. The Grayzone has covered demonstrations and interviewed protest leaders in several countries since the war erupted.
by Stavroula Pabst and Max Blumenthal
Part 7 - Antiwar protests face police violence, anti-free speech state repression
Europe’s cost-of-living and anti-NATO demonstrations are often sidelined by police brutality, mass arrests, and mainstream media silence alike. As they did to repress protests against the draconian Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, militarized French riot police dispersed protestors at October anti-NATO and cost of living rallies with violent tactics, including with truncheon beatings and tear gas.
During the February 25 mass demonstration in Berlin, German police deployed 1400 officers to enforce recently instituted speech laws criminalizing public displays of support for Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, forbidding everything from the display of the St. George’s Cross to the letter “Z,” the letter “V,” and the Soviet flag.
The German state is also prosecuting Heinrich Bücker, a leading Berlin-based antiwar activist, for criticizing his government’s support for neo-Nazi regiments of the Ukrainian military like the Azov Battalion. Bücker stands accused by the German state of having made statements with the “potential to shake confidence in legal certainty and to incite the mental climate of the population.” Because he is unlikely to pay the 2000 Euro fine, he will go to jail for a mandatory 40-day sentence.
When Western media has not ignored Europe’s antiwar protest wave altogether, its coverage has alternated between dismissive and contemptuous. German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle sneeringly characterized the February 25 demonstration in Berlin as “naive” while providing glowing coverage to smaller shows of support for the war by the Ukrainian diaspora. The New York Times, for its part, mentioned the European protests in just a single generic line buried in an article on minuscule anti-Putin protests held by Russian emigres.
For those organizing on the ground, the stakes are too high to submit to state repression or media demonization. “We are going back to the Dark Ages; our leaders are demanding we live without electricity. So, how can you accept this?” exclaimed Nikolaos Theodorakis of the Greek ΠΑΜΕ union. “For us, the only alternative to these conditions is to struggle, to organize, to demand better conditions.”
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