Germany Goes Bananas – On What Spurious Grounds Opposition is Harassed

One of the goods that were not available in Eastern Germany’s socialist dictatorship was the banana and since then it has become a symbol of liberty and free markets. Most often this symbol is used in a humorous context. The banana stands for everything that the left hates.

At a recent pegida march, Madeleigne Feige of political initiative ‘Heidenauer Wellenlänge’ organised a picket, let’s call it a ‘banana in’, complete with banana cakes, banana juice, and banana flags. The event was a protest against a recent crackdown on free expression that curtailed the display of bananas.

On the 14th August, Ralf Etzold, 70, protested with pegida in the city of Dresden until he suddenly found himself surrounded by six police officers. He is a regular at the protests and has participated in the marches for the last two years. Etzold carried a special item with him, a flag, the tricolored banner of the German Republic grazed with a hand of bananas.

Under Merkel, so the protesters, Germany is descending into a banana republic. Until recently the police ignored the banana blasphemy and consequently Etzold was taken by surprise. Upon notice he followed the police officers quietly to their car. His friend Wolfgang Raum who joins Etzold regularly for the marches followed them.

When he told the police that he is the actual owner of the flag, his ID card was scrutinized by the officials and notes were taken. Under German law citizens are required to always carry their identity cards with them. A new law from this year activates the ‘online function’ of the ID card, which makes it in fact a hidden electric device.

After handing over the flag to the police Etzold was asked to sign a document that claimed he had denied to give away his friend’s flag. He did not sign the paper because he wilfully turned the banner over knowing that his friend wouldn’t mind anyway.

Mr Etzold, who grew up in the socialist dictatorship, felt a little queasy about dealing with the police. Worries, however, only materialised when he received a letter from the state prosecutor. He is charged for §90a, ‘insulting the state and its symbols.’ Punishments range from monetary fines to three years in prison.

Last Monday flags that show bananas on the German banner were shown by multiple participants. They were only flashed quickly because the police regularly moved in to remove the daring individuals from the protests.

Madeleigne Feige with her what I would dub a ‘banana in’ says, ‘We will fight to the end for freedom of opinion and freedom of art.’ The latter ended soon this day when her banana flags wrapped around some sculptures were removed by the police. Feige and other attendants of her little banana picket were taken to the police car to ‘take notes’ and pictures, many pictures.

She can also expect to be charged for ‘insulting the state and its symbols,’ but she says that she is not cowed. ‘It would be a betrayal of [the fall of the wall in] 89. We were once on the streets to fight for our freedom of speech and we will not let it being taken away from us again.’

Ralf Etzold is equally determined. He plans to tell the judge that he just tried to say with the flag that he is ‘a happy person because bananas are now available [in every area of] Germany’.

8 thoughts on “Germany Goes Bananas – On What Spurious Grounds Opposition is Harassed”

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