In 2014, the campaign Munich is Colourful (German: München ist bunt) was founded to “help” restaurants avoiding “right-wing extremist” guests.
The definition of these extremists was vague from the very beginning. The line could run somewhere between conservative party AfD, fringe anti-immigration party NPD, neo-nazi groups, student fraternities or some other member of the wider populace. It is also perfectly unclear how people accused of “right-wing extremism” can legally defend themselves against such a characterisation.
In early 2016 a small group of Pegida participants started visiting Italian restaurant Casa Mia on a regular basis. Soon Ernst Dill of left-wing party SPD, one of three official embassadors against right-wing extremism in Munich, demanded that Casa Mia declined service to the guests. He went even as far as to give legal advice to Giovanni Costa, the owner of the pub.
To turn on the pressure on Casa Mia, Mr Dill organised letters demanding action, one by the Society of Hotels and Restaurants in Bavaria (German: Bayerischen Hotel- und Gaststättenverband) and one by the Mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, also of party SPD.
Still Giovanni Costa did not give in. The guests didn’t disturb anybody, so Costa, and behaved friendly. Dill denounced Costa publicly for cooperating not with the City but with Pegida.
Soon left-wing groups cried for boycotts. His revenues fell by 25%, graffiti was smeared against the outer walls. When Pegida called for a solidarity march for Casa Mia, Ernst Dell and the Counsil of Borough Sendling wrote an open letter, which says, ‘We don’t want brown beer in Sendling’. In German the colour brown can symbolise Nazism, alluding to the SA brown shirts.
Lastly, even the beer provider who had a long-term contract with Casa Mia, pulled out of the cooperation with the restaurant. Casa Mia went bankrupt. In a final letter, pinned on the door, Giovanni Costa “thanked” the Council of Borough Sendling and ‘those brave people who under the protection of the night smeared our walls’.
Needless to say that an office such as Ernst Dill’s, which is to ‘fight whatever extremism’, is unconstitutional as it breaches the term of neutrality of a public official. More dangerous for a democracy, however, is that the police is often asked to step down in left-wing controlled areas and the authorities allow their thugs to get away with everything. The Berkeley riots were a prominent US example of the phenomenon. Those who left vile graffiti on the wall of the restaurant had as little to fear as the SA during the Weimar republic.
More and more groups pop up to dissuade restaurants to serve people on the political right. One group, called ‘[City of] Fulda Objects’ (German: Fulda stellt sich quer) was awarded a price for such dubious activities by Harvard alumni and leading SPD member Ralf Stegner. ‘Fulda Objects’ explicitly targets hosts who serve members of conservative party AfD. Their leader is a member of fringe communist party DKP.
Since the end of the East German dictatorship dissidents in many dubious regimes hardly face direct legal prosecution. The tactics shift to messing up people’s lives and seek to hurt them where they are psychologically most vulnerable. Unfortunately, only German has a word for it: Zersetzung.
Democracy dies in the dark.
Thanks to Christian Erkelenz