ERITREA FESTIVAL 2023: MAGISTRATIVE SURRENDERES TO ETHNO-FASCIST VIOLENT OFFICERS
Freedom of assembly and “fortified rule of law” in Gießen suspended
So now it has happened. With an order dated June 28, 2023 (yesterday), the magistrate of the city of Gießen, represented by the regulatory office, banned the "Eritrea Festival 2023". At the same time, the immediate enforcement of the prohibition order was ordered “in the overriding public interest”.
Thus, just 9 days before the start of the major event - a higher four-digit number of participants was expected - the magistrate gave the organizers a shambles, in which the social and political damage was also accompanied by financial damage; and it is evident that this damage will be considerable if the substantial costs of preparation and implementation are not matched by revenues. Not to mention the numerous festival participants who planned and organized travel, hotel accommodation, stands and other forms of active participation with regard to the event.
So far so bad. In the long term, however, the greatest damage of all is likely to occur for the reputation and reputation of the university town of Gießen, which flirts with its cosmopolitanism. Because the approx. 7-page justification for the festival ban can only cause dismay in any reasonably unbiased observer, it is adventurous and amateurish to an extent that is also likely to be unrivaled in administrative practice for so-called "problem events". In its "subsuming" passages, which each precede the referenced legal bases (esp. Hessian law on public safety and order, HSOG), the justification for the ban reads like the instructions for preventing a politically undesirable event:
Step 1consists of linking the requested approval to such exaggerated "security requirements" and precautions regarding the security of the event location that these are either unattainable for the organizer (here the Central Council of Eritreans in Germany) or are linked to such high economic expenses that the eventual execution of the event becomes a financial disaster with announcement. The Gießen magistrate has already "successfully" practiced this approach towards the Eritrean community several times, most recently when attempting to rerun the cultural event that was raided on August 20th, 2022. Not even commercial organizers of rock concerts or the like are able to secure the fences of a spacious area with technical precautions (Nato wire?) in such a way that without
adequate police protection, intrusion can be ruled out one hundred percent.
The same applies to other safety-related questions, for example the number of available medical rescue vehicles, appropriately trained personnel and the necessary equipment such as the supply points (tents, etc.). Other topics such as admission controls, escape routes, technical precautions, etc. are added. The list can be extended at will. For the approval authority, in this case the magistrate, the great attraction lies in being able to enforce a constitutionally untenable - because illegal - ban on an unwanted event by excessively extending the conditions imposed on the organizer de facto even if it would have to fail de iure. As in 2022, the magistrate has tried again
step 2is to allocate the responsibility for guaranteeing public safety to the event organizer in general and without exception, without even raising the question of how the key role of the state security forces (sufficient police presence, etc.) could help to minimize safety concerns. Although the magistrate's justification repeatedly makes a direct reference to the violent excesses of the group "Brigade N'Hamedu" on the occasion of the Eritrean cultural event on August 20th, 2022, it is not mentioned at all that the situation in summer 2022 was completely different: police forces were not actually present at the beginning because the threat situation was said to have been "unpredictable". That now, in 2023, the situation is completely different due to the announcements on social networks,
Of course, it is also clear to the magistrate and his regulatory office that ensuring public safety and order is primarily a task of the police, i.e. the state. This is the case with every major event, be it a football game, a rock concert or – as here – a (cultural) festival. The justification for the ban therefore focuses to a large extent on the question of admission controls and accuses the organizer of not providing for the security concept to prevent the potential entry of (violent) troublemakers. This can also be found in the press release from the city of Gießen, which is now available. The calculus is to put a point in the foreground where the organizer is primarily required and the police forces would only be involved in the event of an incident.
First of all, as was the case at previous festivals, the people seeking entry will be checked at the entrance to see whether they can be considered as potential disruptors. Of course, this does not completely rule out the possibility that individual disturbers could still get onto the site, but it does minimize the risk overall. And secondly, no event organizer in the world and no security concept, no matter how profound, can guarantee 100 percent that sporadic disruptors will not manage to get past the admission controls. Using this fact as a central justification for the pronounced ban is therefore disproportionate per se, illegal and ultimately unconstitutional - a ban cannot be based on the non-fulfilment of an unfulfillable condition.
step 3is to justify the ban on the event with statements and announcements that the organizer absolutely cannot influence - at least not at short notice and in relation to the event. "There are increasing calls against your event on social media." With this sentence, the justification for the prohibition order introduces a longer passage in which the regulatory office of the city of Gießen reproduces statements from various platforms extensively and in detail, in order to then come to the conclusion that "it (appears) to be realistic that up to several Hundreds of people who feel they belong to Brigade N'Hamedu and are only traveling to disrupt the Eritrea Festival will be in Gießen between July 6th, 2023 and July 9th, 2023." It can be assumed that "both the oppositional,
Apart from the fact that the "Brigade N'Hamedu" and their thugs are not "oppositional Eritreans", but a Tigray group that has committed itself to Tigrayan ethno-fascism, the derivation of the magistrate raises very fundamental questions, such as:
Since when and for what reason are martial announcements by crazy violent criminals in social networks the benchmark for how state administrative authorities deal with constitutionally guaranteed basic rights such as freedom of assembly (Article 8 of the Basic Law)? Where is the “fortified democracy” or the “fortified constitutional state”? Can and may an administrative authority allow itself to be instrumentalised in order to enforce the desired prevention of a major peaceful event by decree? The magistrate as a vicarious agent of the "Brigade N'Hamedu" when this is only sufficiently immoderate, violent and infamous on the Internet? If there were such an almost mechanistic causality ("We just have to really bang on the plaster, then the city of Giessen will do the rest for us!
No of course not. Not in football, not at open-air festivals or rock concerts, and not at other "problem" events in the political sphere. Rather, the drastic extent of threats in advance would be reflected in the even more drastic deployment of state power, namely the "well-fortified" constitutional state. Just imagine an event organized by exiled Ukrainians being threatened in a similar way. The state and local authorities would deploy everything they have to protect them. ban? Unthinkable, not only because of the professional and political careers that would end as a result. And wiser, farsighted officials in government agencies would of course also raise the question and answer (through measures) what can be done preventively, to prevent disruptions in advance. Not so with the city of Giessen. And this despite the fact that most of the people who are likely to be violent disruptors have either been known to the authorities since the incidents on August 20, 2022 or - due to the large amount of input that the state authorities have received since then - could be known.
This prevention, this prudence and this form of cooperation with the organizer is simply not wanted in the case of Eritrea, because the conflict is reduced to alleged hotheads on both sides (“highly emotional”, see above), and simply forbids. And is not squeamish about once again pinning the vague legal concept of “unreliability”, which is significant in administrative practice, on the organizers, although they have proven year after year, a total of 10 times (!) from 2011 onwards, that they are not only willing, but also are competent in every respect to organize and carry out absolutely peaceful festivals in the Gießen exhibition halls without any serious disruption or incidents! At none of these festivals, which with the exception of the Corona years 2020 and 2021 took place annually, most recently in 2022, someone got hurt. Since the festival always takes place in midsummer, at most individual participants had to be treated as victims of the heat, all events could not be surpassed in terms of peacefulness. Unreliable??
On behalf of all people who were looking forward to a peaceful, happy and culturally invigorating festival, we appeal to the city of Giessen, the magistrate and the regulatory office to reconsider their previous position, as expressed in the ban decree, and with those responsible, the organizer and the festival management, to contribute to the fact that the attack on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly is ultimately unsuccessful.
There is still time to avert a far-reaching undesirable development!
Frankfurt, June 29, 2023
Board of the GERMAN-ERITREIAN SOCIETY (DEG)