FU Berlin: The U stands for Unreasonable 

by the editorial staff

8th May

If the university management had not called the police, most students would probably not even have noticed the protest camp. Certainly, the tents set up in the middle of the inner courtyard would have caught the eye of the students walking past them. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that in most cases that would have been the extent of the attraction the camp would have caused. A simple glimpse and nothing more.  In a bad judgement call, however, the university felt the need to call the police the instant the encampment was set up by students at around 11 am on the 7th of May. The camp was sealed off by a ridiculous amount of police officers preventing additional students from approaching the camp and its residents. Furthermore, individual police officers were positioned on the rooftops of the buildings that enclosed the courtyard. The imagery would have been quite laughable had the protest not turned as violent as it did.

Unsurprisingly, students flocked towards the site as much as they could, eager to see what all the commotion was about. Soon the epicenter of the protest shifted from the camp site towards the flanks of the courtyard along the barricades the police had set up. As with the occupation of lecture hall 1a on the 14th of December last year the situation quickly escalated. First the students protesting on the flanks of the courtyard were escorted outside of the premises of the campus and not allowed back on the site. Shortly thereafter, the students within the protest camp, who had formed a human chain, were dragged off one by one by a minimum of two or more police staff. Meanwhile students on the outside were banned from entering the buildings belonging to the Rostlaube. However, a great number of them had gathered in the halls of the Silberlaube (the neighboring building) from where they protested against the presence of the police officers and the exorbitant use of force utilized to drag off the students from the camp site. After most of the students in the camp had been dragged away from the courtyard the demonstration shifted to Otto von Simson Straße in front of the university where the police violence escalated even further. Throughout the entirety of the event the police were seen using excessive and brutal force to tackle down and restrain students who were protesting.

Mainstream media framed yesterday’s protest with words such as Immer wieder Judenhass an der FU (engl. Hatred against Jews again and again at FU), Kai Wegner (CDU) Berlin’s Governing Mayor has spoken in favor of the university’s conduct and the university itself has only responded superficially to the events echoing the exact same rhetoric as after the protests in December. As we were not permitted to speak to those who had initiated the protest, we talked to the students positioned beyond the camp site. With so many voices delegitimizing and defaming the protest alongside the students protesters the question of why so many students came to show their solidarity for those within the camp site, is not only left unanswered but seemingly regarded as not being anyone’s concern.

“I saw the [police] vans parked outside and asked my friends if they knew what was going on. As soon as they told me, I wanted to join the protest.”

Many students not only came to support those who had set up the camp, but because they wanted to show their support for the people in Palestine, especially the civilians in Rafah, who have come under attack in the recent aggression of the IDF, which was the original reason as to why the camp was set up by the students in the first place, as is being done by students protestors in the United States:

“I am here right now, because Rafah is under attack, under the Israeli attack, and we are here in solidarity with Palestinian people. We are here to show all the world that we are here, hearing the Palestinian voices and we are not going to stop until Palestine is free.”

Frustration and anger have taken center stage in the minds of the students who witnessed or were subjected to police violence. Although already a day after the protest, things seem to have been gone back to business, in the eyes of many students the reputation of the university is irrevocably tarnished.

“I used to enjoy going to university. Now I don’t feel safe here anymore. Seeing this makes me sick.”

“People should be ashamed of this.”

“This is so ridiculous. A few people set up a camp… why is there so much police here?”

If the U in FU Berlin stands for unreasonable then the F stands for Failing to uphold the promise that constructive and respectful dialogue on campus is facilitated regarding the topic of Israel and Palestine by the university administration. Not a single member of the university administration showed up for the entire duration of the protests. Instead of attempting to talk to the students from the protest camp protesting peacefully the police were called and the situation escalated completely. The way the university administration deals and has been dealing with pro-Palestine demonstrations on campus makes it seem as though they are out for blood. The university has sullied its own values of free and equal dialogue thereby robbing itself of its own integrity.

It has scared and intimidated its students. It has charged its students with criminal offences. It has rolled out the red carpet for the police to beat its students. However, to think that this will stop the students from protesting is beyond naïve. The next protest will come sooner than later, and the university needs find a better way to deal with this issue before someone gets seriously hurt.