The summer is not yet here, so the chills of the autumn-like breeze dominate the air. It is the first of May, Berlin is going to be at a boiling point today, with demonstrations in every bobble.
Dortmund seems quiet.
Listening carefully, this is not ‘quiet’!
There are the usual car engines, there are the trains passing through the nearby station, the strollers, and the coffeeshop weekenders.
Yet, there is a deep resident silence, a silent space, a white noise caused by caution, or maybe it is just my eight-years-of-war adopted reactions to any unfamiliarity, that train your adrenalin to be ready to rush!
I am on my way to the nearby main station. It is May first, and the summer is not here yet. One cold breeze made the ground leaves scurry toward a corner; behind what was a gas station and now the Bergmann Kiosk. At that random corner, between two main streets, a hundred or so people gathered. Carefully and quietly approaching the crowd from behind the grass of the sidewalk, like a cat, is a police car. Then another police car sneaks in!
“Intchuldegun! What is going on?”
The policeman who tried to ignore my presence and look afar has to acknowledge me now as I placed my body directly within his sight range, two steps closer to his car.
“Demonstrations,” he gave the one-word answer in a tone of take this and go! As policemen usually do not prefer to chat much, especially with civilians, especially nosy civilians.
“First of May?” I insist as it is good to know.
My heart takes a small excited jump! My nosy-writer-heart.
Some adrenaline rush runs through my veins! My trained-to-jump nerves.
Most likely my eyes are sparkling at that point, thus the policeman’s eyes dim and narrow as to say “now you really have to go!”
“Enchuldegun! What is it here?” I ask a young couple standing by the corner with the demonstration. Their smiles looking at me not what a neo-Nazi should react to a brown stranger jumping in their face!
“Demonstration against the neo-Nazi’s demonstration.”
“Ach So! Where are they?” I ask.
“They are going to pass in the main street right here.” The man is pointing to the street I came from, where my temporary Dortmund house is.
“And why you are here in the back street?”
“Police made us,” he smiles, “as not to have a collision between the two groups.”
His girl raises her hand to point at the end of Möller street but the street is so long and it heads uphill, thus her hand was pointing to the sky, she says, “but we are going to a parallel street, meeting probably there!”
“Ah, you sound like you are looking forward to meeting them!”
I say so she laughs with a sparkle in her eyes.
(Next day, the report will say that many encounters of anti-fascists took place, trying to block the neo-Nazi march! Two were taken custody.)
“Does this happen every year in Dortmund?”
“It’s the first demonstration of neo-Nazis!” the man says raising his shoulder as in “we are sorry for this shit”.
“As Dortmund is the capital of neo-Nazis,” the girl jumps in.
It is good to know, I think to myself.
“Ja, aber, many of them are from different places around Dortmund,” a man with a professional camera and a big lens and a bigger smile, standing at the opposite corner of the U-tower where the bizarre group will pass.
“Not from the city?” I clarify.
“Some are,” he replies.
It is always good to know, I think to myself.
“Is it like that every year on May Day?”
“Noooo!,” he says, then tries to explain to me in English that this is the first time.
“Sorry my English is so bad,” he says smiling.
“I am sorry my Deutsch is worse, it is scheiße!”
We both smile.
“Schonnen tag noch,” I say.
“Schönen Tag,” he replies, still smiling, still standing and waiting for the march to start, to take a picture to remind the history of its deeds, as history tends to forget a lot.
I leave him to another corner where a small group of anti-fascists is standing with loudspeakers and a microphone carried by an elegant elderly man with long silver hair and a scarf, standing next to a black old car.
A woman says
“We will take our stand, and they will be put in their place,”
(Next day the report will mention that opposite corner of where I met the smiling man with the camera, 25 people blocked the outer ring of walls and the police managed to lead the neo-Nazi past them.)
Big numbers of policemen in front of the main station stand in squads, besides a dozen of cars – but this is not bizarre, not abnormal, as they more often do that after every football match, greeting the football fans.
The chef, or the elder, dedicated another policeman to answer my civilian-in-concern questions in English.
“What is going on please!”
“Neo-Nazi demonstration, organized and authorized presentation of neo-Nazis.”
“Where are they now?” asking simple short questions, so as not to provoke the patience of a policeman.
“On the corner here,” the tall policeman stretched his hand to the left
“And on the far corner there,” he stretched his arm to the right.
It is always good to know!
At the traffic light, on the way back home, watching the march by the U-tower, a woman with a hijab and a dark gray modest dress is pushing her little daughter to hurry up, leading her towards a side road away from the hot spot, the mother looks worried, the daughter looks confused.
As I watched them with a friend standing by the traffic light, and behind them, the neo-Nazi march is just starting, the friend says, “I am sorry you have to see that” and a cold breeze blows one more time.
“Not at all,” I reply, “better out than in. It is always good to know, so one can act better!”
“Not worried?” she asked me, watching the mother and her daughter disappear. I wanted to tell her that a long time ago I replaced fear with anger and spite of the stupidity of the human collective mind, but instead, I say,
“Not at all, the police are everywhere.”
“Yes, good to know,” she smiles.
“Ah, it is always good to know,” I smile back.
Did I say “my friend“? Excuse me, I just met her by the traffic light, united by being witnesses of the moment some might argue that it shouldn’t exist, but it does. I cannot recall her face now, and most likely she cannot recall mine, but for a moment, standing on the same corner, taking the same stand, watching the black mob at the opposite corner on the verge of march, we became comrades.
By the same traffic light stand some other men and women, looking in concern, some coffee shop weekenders leave their cups of coffee and stand by their chairs, and the Trinkhalle owner I usually buy my cigarettes from leaves his kiosk to stand outside, looking uncomfortable.
The street grows more electrified, the number of police cars is more than the number of the trees in the Westpark, maybe more than the number of the trees in all of Dortmund city! A long, long, long line of police cars, walking slowly behind almost silent -with a few banners- neo-Nazi march. On the other side of the sidewalk of the same street, a handful of protestors, protesting the neo-Nazi march.
The handful sounds louder than the careful neo-Nazi march!
(Next day reported that the neo-Nazis were not allowed to have but 20 flags, as ‘“The Dortmund police will not tolerate an intimidating and frightening appearance by right-wing extremists in our city,’ says the official police statement.)
A couple of hours later, the anarchists with their carnival-like colored banners and clothes, hair locks, and nails, gather for their official demonstration in the west park.
Two musical bands, four loudspeakers, and three short speeches shouted against neo-Nazis as hard as they shouted against corona.
Or against the registration of coronavirus.
Maybe against the virus itself. I cannot definitely tell as my Deutsch is “scheiße!”
One big painting of many people of many colors, and clearly many different religions, happily sharing the same smile and the same place on the canvas. And on it is written “Alles…”
I love the message, I love the ‘gatherness’, Yet, I have to confess, I don’t really know how to feel seeing myself drawn on a canvas calling to live together, do we really need banners to recognize that?
Humans! Disappointing humans!
The anarchists leave the park with music and cheers, accompanied by a couple of police cars for protection, then one band marches with them, and one band stays behind for a second colorful carnival march.
Happy angry carnival!
(Next day a blog will write about the 4 pm loud and colorful anarchists’ demonstration)
In the evening I go back to the park, to the boccia playground, where one can share Weekend beer and cigarettes in peace.
A man named Marcio, always with a cigar, always shouting, always laughing, always missing the ball waves his hand at the mention of the 1st of May saying “Eh.” and continues missing the shots.
Pissing off one particular player who takes the game seriously, as his days cannot handle more fails on the boccia ground while he is failing in other places in his life.
Marcio laughs, smokes, fails, and smokes, and laughs.