If You’re Happy and You Know It, Make a Demo

One of my first brilliant conclusions almost upon arrival on my first time living in Germany, was that Germans are undeniably active when it comes to politics. Of course all of my appreciations came from what previous first-hand experiences I had had in the past, being a young adult in Mexico, my home country, where it’s perfectly acceptable to simply state that politics bore you and you don’t know anything about it, successfully avoid the topic and nobody bats an eyelash. In Germany, it’s quite normal for most of the population over a certain age to follow what happens in the political scene, and it’s rare that said scene is limited to Germany alone. The intensity of this interest and the understanding of what it entails is, of course quite varied, but six years later, my original conlusions still suffice to sustain my opinion: Politics is definitely a thing in Germany.

When you live in Germany and you don’t like something, you have the option of organizing or taking part in a “Demo” to make your opinion known and spread the discomfort you feel.

That sounds nice, but how to Demo the German Way? (See what I did there?) Well, I first had to forget what I knew about demonstrating because as far as I was concerned, Demos could be done at any time, day or night, and it was enough to get a couple of angry neighbors and some scribbled placards to suddenly close some highway without any hope of finding out what the deal was about and, most important of all, when it would finally be over. To me it’s also an everyday thing to turn on the news some random morning and find out that the central square in the city is now occupied by dozens of camping tents with people who are living there in protest against something, and they will stay for as long as they want. Great.

The police keeping a Demo’s route from breaking. And some curious bystanders. Foto by LauraV

Bringing a baby to a Demo. Foto by LauraV

I find the German approach very likeable, maybe because of the countless times I was stuck in traffic for hours thanks to an impromptu Demo, maybe because people in said spontaneous gatherings fancy to be destructive and disrespectful to what does not belong to them. In Germany you have to schedule your Demo in advance. This nice schedule must include start time, finish time, the route it will follow and probably more. You must inform the authorities about all of this, in writing.

This means that all neighbors on the route your Demo will cover, will receive a nice letter at least a week in advance to infom them about the situation and provide them with some details. It will also mean that the police will take care of patrolling the route. Depending on the size of the Demo and it can mean just some Polizei around a small bunch of protesters, or some really impressive displays of public force that include extremely sturdy looking vehicles, normal police mixed with special units quite well armed, trained dogs and even motorcycles that follow the Demo the whole way and open and close the way for the protesters. If it sounds like when I witnessed all this I was very impressed, it’s because I was.

I caught this one from my window. Foto by LauraV

So that’s chaos the German way: Even for stressing discontent on their own streets, Germans follow a carefully crafted schedule that ensures it will be a nice experience for all parties, those who willingly take part, and the average citizen or visitor that just happens to be along the designated route.