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Berlin protests against far-right politics draw thousands

Over 200,000 people have taken to the streets of Berlin to face down the rise of far-right populism in Germany and Europe. The protesters were demanding more solidarity with marginalized groups. Berlin produced an absurdly hot and sunny fall day on Saturday to welcome an estimated 240,000 people demonstrating against racism and calling for solidarity against the rise of far-right populism across Germany. A 5-kilometer (3-mile) stretch of the capital city's center, from Alexanderplatz through the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column, had to be closed down to accommodate the huge parade, which was united under the hashtag #unteilbar ("indivisible"). The crowds were punctuated by 40 trucks mounted with loudspeakers, some delivering political messages, others pumping out music of all genres. They also included the traditional Berlin staple: the techno truck surrounded by semi-clothed dancers. The march was bookended by two concert events, the second of which was expected to stretch into the evening. All kinds of organizations joined in, including trade unions, NGOs, political parties (both mainstream and fringe), gay rights groups, schools and theaters, all carrying a variety of banners, each with their own cause to promote (Ryanair workers were a conspicuous presence), but all united behind the slogan: "Solidarity not marginalization." A necessary reaction The number of people who made the original call to join Saturday's demo would have made an impressive crowd themselves — some 10,000 organizations and individuals signed the declaration last week, which began with a note of alarm at the current trend in Germany's political debate: "A dramatic political shift is taking place: Racism and discrimination are becoming socially acceptable," it read. "What yesterday was considered unthinkable and unutterable has today become a reality. Humanity and human rights, religious freedom and the rule of law are being openly attacked. This is an attack on all of us." The declaration went on to attack the effects of global capitalism: "Millions suffer the impact of an underinvestment in basic care, healthcare, childcare and education." There was a widespread feeling in the crowd that such a mass statement was a vital correction in a country that has seen ordinary people joining far-right, even neo-Nazi protests, and several conservative politicians adopting anti-immigrant rhetoric. "There are people here who want to show that they don't support what is going on in Germany, including from established politicians, all this hate, this whole debate about immigration," said Rola Saleh, a social worker who helps young refugees in the eastern city of Chemnitz, where far-right violence made international headlines in late August. Criminalizing refugees Saleh, who was in Berlin to give a speech for her group Jugendliche ohne Grenzen ("Youth without Borders"), told DW that refugees and people helping them were being "criminalized" in Germany. "At the moment, a new police law is being planned in Saxony that would allow our advice center, where we give refugees legal advice, to be spied on," she said. "These are things that are happening now: deportation custody, 'anchor centers', the marginalization of refugees." "We don't have answers to a lot of the questions that the refugees ask us," she said. "After the conflicts in Chemnitz, a lot of the refugees are afraid and uncertain about the situation. They feel like they've been abandoned; a lot of them are trying to leave Saxony, or they're afraid they'll be provoked into criminal acts by a situation. If you feel like you live in a state where the police are not ready or able to help you, you start thinking about finding ways to protect yourself." Julia Naji joined Saturday's protest to represent Cycling Friends, a Berlin initiative that, among other things, runs cycling classes for refugees. "Today, people will meet up and show that we should fight against racism and homophobia as loudly and with as many people as possible," she told DW. She emphasized that most of the refugees she sees are happy living in Berlin. "Most of them feel quite welcome here and are astonished about the very small portion of the society being against them," she said. Naji, a German with a Syrian father, says the politics of far-right parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) are aimed at personally marginalizing her in her own country. "I'm a German, but I myself would feel excluded from any politics and any society that does not open itself to everyone," she said. Political support, and dissent Senior government figures lent their support to the demonstration, most notably Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who tweeted: "It is a great signal that so many people are going on the streets and showing a clear position: We are indivisible. We won't let ourselves be divided — certainly not by right-wing populists." While Maas' Social Democratic Party (SPD), along with the Greens and the socialist Left party, all offered official support, Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was absent on Saturday. But there was some political dissent on the left too, especially from Left party leader Sahra Wagenknecht, who angered plenty of people by declaring that she would not be taking part in her party's section of the demo. During a podium discussion in Berlin on Tuesday night, Wagenknecht said she found the demo's position problematic, since she claimed it called for "open borders for everyone." This, she said, marginalized people who were against open borders but also against racism. There is no mention of open borders in the demo's official declaration, though some people on Saturday were carrying banners that read, "Make Fortress Europe Fall." Wagenknecht has held a somewhat isolated position in her party since beginning her own separate left-wing movement, named "Aufstehen" — or "Stand up."

Over 200,000 people have taken to the streets of Berlin to face down the rise of far-right populism in Germany and Europe. The protesters were demanding more solidarity with marginalized groups. Berlin produced an absurdly hot and sunny fall day on Saturday to welcome an estimated 240,000 people demonstrating against racism and calling for solidarity against the rise of far-right ... Read More »

Vienna museum cancels migrant ‘propaganda’ play

A controversial theater piece about two refugees, one from Syria and one "from Africa," has been canceled hours before its public premiere. But the government-commissioned play has been seen by thousands of children.

e Weltmuseum in Vienna on Friday canceled the first public performance of “World in Flux” (“Welt in Bewegung”), a play about migrants in Austria, shortly before its premiere following criticism that the government-commissioned work was “crude propaganda” and full of racist stereotypes. The work had already been seen by thousands of schoolchildren as part of a special free viewing program. ... Read More »

Donald Trump shares anti-Muslim propaganda videos from far-right UK party Britain First

The US president has circulated videos from a far-right British group on his official social media account. The incident has sparked outrage across the UK, with lawmakers urging the government to condemn Donald Trump. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday circulated anti-Islam videos posted on Twitter by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group in the UK. Trump's decision to retweet racist videos from a British citizen convicted of a hate crime prompted outrage across the UK. Opposition lawmakers have called for the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, a conservative, to condemn Trump for sharing such content. "I hope our government will condemn far-right retweets by Donald Trump," said Jeremy Corbyn, who leaders the Labour Party. "They are abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society." Read more: Donald Trump's 'America First' slogan has a toxic past 'Wrong' Hours later, May's spokesman said it was "wrong" for Trump to circulate material published by Britain First, saying their rhetoric is "the antithesis of the values that this country represents." "Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people," the spokesman said. However, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to play down the issue, saying Trump wanted to "promote strong borders and strong national security." "Whether it's a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about," said Sanders. Britain First itself, a fringe group struggling to stay afloat as its leaders face impending prosecution and as it fights for supremacy among rival right-wingers, reacted with glee to the unlikely official publicity from the White House. "The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has retweeted three of deputy leader Jayda Fransen's Twitter videos … God bless you Trump!" said a block-capital response from Britain First on the social media platform. 'Promoting a hate group' Opposition Labour politicians in particular were swift to condemn Trump's latest controversial activity on Twitter. "I want an unequivocal condemnation from all quarters," Labour MEP Seb Dance told DW. "It is not even remotely acceptable to normalize hatred. The strength of condemnation must be total so that patriots in America can see what is being done in the name of their country and act accordingly to remove Trump from office." British lawmaker David Lammy of the Tottenham constituency in London tweeted that Trump "is no ally or friend" of the UK, adding that the US president was not welcome in "my country and my city." "Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted," Lammy wrote. Britain First claims it has a "proven track record of opposing Islamic militants and hate preachers" and aims to protect the UK from "spiraling" migration. However, Fransen was found guilty last year of a hate crime after hurling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf. Read more: Is the UK's racist hate crime problem out of control? The group's leader Paul Golding and Fransen were expected in court on Wednesday on possible charges of "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior" over a fiery speech made in Belfast in August. Golding wrote a plea to Trump to intervene in one of the court cases, saying Fransen "is facing prison for criticism of Islam … she needs your help!" 'The president should be ashamed' Brendan Cox, the husband of the late British MP Jo Cox, killed in 2016 by a right-wing extremist who reportedly screamed "Britain First" before stabbing her repeatedly, accused the US president of attempting to spread far-right sentiment in the UK with his retweets. "Trump has legitimized the far-right in his own country, now he's trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences and the president should be ashamed of himself," Cox wrote. Speaking to Reuters news agency, Fransen said she was "delighted" by the incident. Read more: Donald Trump's sub-tweet helps make Hitler biography a US hit "The important message here is Donald Trump has been made aware of the persecution and prosecution of a political leader in Britain for giving what has been said by police to be an anti-Islamic speech," Fransen said.

The US president has circulated videos from a far-right British group on his official social media account. The incident has sparked outrage across the UK, with lawmakers urging the government to condemn Donald Trump. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday circulated anti-Islam videos posted on Twitter by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group in the UK. ... Read More »

#OscarsSoWhite: Is Hollywood part of a much bigger problem?

After an onslaught of criticism from Hollywood stars and film fans over lack of diversity at the Oscars, the Academy promised to reform itself. But critics say the changes don't go far enough in addressing racism. "Enough is enough," said Frederic Kendrick, communications professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. "We've had it up to here." That once again black actors are missing from the nomination rosters at the 88th annual Academy Awards is, for Kendrick, just the tip of the iceberg. "The US has a lot of problems when it comes to race and culture." That's a sentiment many have shared over the last six weeks, ever since the nominations were announced. The Oscars, scheduled to be awarded on February 28, unleashed fury towards Hollywood's Academy - a group of 6,261 prominent members of the film industry - and comprised, for the most part, of older white men. #OscarsSoWhite The hashtag #Oscarssowhite started by editor and public speaker April Reign first began appearing just hours after the nominations were announced in mid-January. A glance at social media platforms shows that the outrage hasn't cooled since then. "If a white man were to play Michael Jackson, he'd be guaranteed an Oscar," according to numerous sarcastic tweets in response to Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in "Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon." The short British comedy sees the King of Pop joining Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando on a road trip together in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York. The protest, which counts director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith as two of the most vocal early adopters, has also been taken up by the "New York Times," which claims that Hollywood has a "race problem." In a statement, President Barack Obama went one step further, asking whether the discrimination against black actors is part of a larger problem. "Are we doing everything to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance?" he asked rhetorically. The good old (white) boys club For many blacks and other minorities in the US, the answer to that question is no. Despite the election of a black president, not much has changed for the better. For some, Hollywood plays a role in this discriminatory system. Author Earl Ofari Hutchinson told DW that he sees Hollywood as a "skewed and deeply-rooted, party of white boys," whose only role in life is to defend privilege. "Hollywood has repeatedly seen to it that white talent not be excluded," says Hutchinson, whose widely-acclaimed books include, "A Colored Man's Journey Through 20th-Century Segregated America." Just how great a disparity between roles for white and black actors exists is something that media students at Howard University wanted to know. That's the impetus behind "Truth Be Told," a fact-checking project aimed at uncovering whether those criticisms against Hollywood and the Academy are fair. At first glance, the numbers don't look good: In the 87-year history of the Oscars, just 32 of the winners were black. A discriminatory dynamic With two Oscars, Denzel Washington is the exception to the rule. "Blacks weren't envisaged when Hollywood was founded," said Kendrick, the professor who started the project. He refers specifically to the silent film "Birth of a Nation," which was produced in 1915 by one of Hollywood's founding fathers. In it, blacks are portrayed in a negative light and practices of the white-supremacy group Ku Klux Klan are glorified. Many Americans believe their country has already arrived in a "post-race era," but they are getting ahead of themselves, says Kendrick. The "Hollywood dynamic" is evidence of the opposite. In the eyes of the critics, last year should have been a banner year for blacks with several very good films produced featuring black actors in the lead. As examples, they cite the roles played by Will Smith in "Focus" and Michael B. Jordan in "Creed." Despite being considered as top-notch quality and successes at the box office, neither of the films gained nominations. Reforms in the wings In the meantime, the uproar has led the Academy to promise that the number of minority members in its midst be incrementally increased in order to promote diversity. It's too little, too late, however, says Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "That's not a dramatic shift," added the author, whose role as president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtables has him lobbying for filmmakers. In his statements, one hears a bit of a warning: If the Academy stays so stubborn, the changing tide will roll over their heads. Their glitzy exterior and influence could soon be history. Robert Redford, who was awarded an Oscar for his life's work, has not paid the critics much mind. He's interested, he says, "only in the work" and the on-screen results. "The elite good old boys, who want to secure their position of power," criticizes Hutchinson. An online protest for diversity And so the discussion about Hollywood's race problem carries on. Is it, as Frederic Kendrick of Howard University has said, just one element in a larger debate? Either way, protestors have already declared a massive anti-Oscar campaign on social media for Sunday night. It may just be that these online activists steal the spotlight from the stars on the red carpet.

After an onslaught of criticism from Hollywood stars and film fans over lack of diversity at the Oscars, the Academy promised to reform itself. But critics say the changes don’t go far enough in addressing racism. “Enough is enough,” said Frederic Kendrick, communications professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. “We’ve had it up to here.” That once again black ... Read More »

Several hundred march in Ferguson on eve of Brown death anniversary

Several hundred people have marched in Ferguson in the US state of Missouri ahead of the anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. The rally was mostly peaceful. A crowd led by Michael Brown's father, also called Michael, and the rest of his family on Saturday marched to the high school from which Brown graduated just before his death a year ago at the hands of a white police officer. The marchers shouted the slogan "Hands up, don't shoot," which has been a frequent feature of protests sparked by the death of the 18-year-old, who was unarmed when he was shot multiple times by the policeman on a Ferguson street on August 9, 2014. Although the rally remained peaceful in the daytime, some trouble was reported later in the evening when several protesters jumped over a police barricade and faced off with police officers. Brown's father told reporters that he was trying to keep "my son's life still around" by helping families and young people. The rally on Saturday comes ahead of the main events on Sunday, which will include a silent march to a church and a religious service. Marchers will also observe a four-and-a-half-minute silence to symbolize the four-and-a-half hours during which Brown's body remained face down in the street after the shooting, before being taken away. Simmering anger Brown's death sparked sometimes violent riots in Ferguson and other US cities and refueled debate on police treatment of blacks in America. The rioting hit a new peak in November last year when a court decided not to indict the white officer who shot the teenager. A series of further police killings of black suspects since the fatal shooting of Brown has kept outrage alive in the African-American community at what it perceives to be systemic police racism. Most recently, a police officer in Texas shot dead an unarmed 19-year-old college football player, Christian Taylor, after an incident early on Friday during which Taylor drove his vehicle through the window of a car dealership. The local police chief in the suburb of Arlington, Dallas, where the shooting occurred, said on Saturday that the FBI had been asked to join in the investigation of the incident to determine whether departmental rules had been observed. The officer who fired the fatal shot, Brad Miller, who police said was still undergoing training with the department, was placed on administrative leave after the shooting.

Several hundred people have marched in Ferguson in the US state of Missouri ahead of the anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. The rally was mostly peaceful. A crowd led by Michael Brown’s father, also called Michael, and the rest of his family on Saturday marched to the high school from which Brown graduated just ... Read More »

US judge acquits white officer of killing black couple

A US police officer who stood on the hood of a car and fired into the windshield, killing two unarmed black people, has been acquitted. A judge said he could not determine that the officer alone was responsible. A Cleveland officer will go free after firing dozens of rounds at an unarmed couple in 2012. Thirty-one-year-old Michael Brelo could have received 22 years in person on two counts of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault. Brelo had requested that a judge hear his case rather than a jury of his peers. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell acknowledged unrest following deaths of unarmed black men and women at the hands of white police officers. "Citizens think the men and women sworn to protect and serve have violated that oath or never meant it in the first place," O'Donnell said Saturday. The judge added, however, that he wouldn't "sacrifice" Brelo if the evidence did not merit a conviction. Outside, deputies carried shields as protesters chanted "Hands up! Don't shoot!" - a rallying cry since the death of the unarmed teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer. Demonstrators later marched through the streets toward the recreation center where Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy playing with a nonlethal pellet gun in a park, was shot and killed by a white officer in November. Some carried signs saying "I Can't Breathe" and " Freddie Gray Lynched," references to another pair of recent deadly police encounters with unarmed black men. As awareness has grown over police killings, enterprising techies have developed an app to document official abuse. 'No credible threat' When Timothy Russell's Chevy backfired outside police headquarters in 2012, Brelo's fellow officers claimed they had heard a gunshot. After a 22-mile (35-kilometer) chase that reached speeds of 90 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour), 13 officers began firing at the car carrying the 43-year-old Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams. With their car immobilized and surrounded, prosecutors said, the pair posed no credible threat when Brelo climbed on the hood and fired the final 15 of 49 rounds into their windshield. The US Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the US Attorney's Office and the FBI will now consider action. In December, the Justice Department found that Cleveland police have a history of systematically using excessive force and violating civil rights, which higher-ups have reportedly condoned. Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said Brelo would remain on unpaid leave during disciplinary reviews for him and 12 other officers involved in the killings. A grand jury charged five police supervisors with misdemeanor dereliction of duty for failing to control the chase that led to the fatal shooting of the unarmed black couple. All five have pleaded not guilty.

A US police officer who stood on the hood of a car and fired into the windshield, killing two unarmed black people, has been acquitted. A judge said he could not determine that the officer alone was responsible. A Cleveland officer will go free after firing dozens of rounds at an unarmed couple in 2012. Thirty-one-year-old Michael Brelo could have ... Read More »

Germany must do more to tackle xenophobia, says EU commissioner

The human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe has called on the German government to step up efforts to fight xenophobia. Nils Muiznieks has said there are "clear signs" of increasing intolerance. Speaking in the western French city of Strasbourg on Monday, Muiznieks said that a series of attacks on refugee shelters and regular demonstrations against an alleged "Islamization" of Europe in recent months were "clear signs" of increasing of intolerance in Germany. Following a visit to Germany, Muiznieks also said the affair surrounding the alleged murders by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) had brought to light "institutional bias and other serious shortcomings in police and security services." 'Problematic' medical care As well as calling for improvement in criminal prosecution of racist acts, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner also said that clear instructions for police and prosecutors as well as training courses for judges would be necessary. On a positive note, Muiznieks welcomed Germany's decision to provide its Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) with almost 2,000 new jobs, but added that language courses would also be necessary to improve the reception and integration of asylum seekers. The medical care for migrants in some German states was "problematic," he said. Muiznieks' criticism on Monday came less than a week after Germany came under fire from the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. "Racism in Germany is not only found in extreme right-wing circles, but in all parts of society," the German government admitted during the UN review. Germany expects to receive some 400,000 new asylum applications in 2015 - twice as many as last year. Lübeck court sentences arsonist In the northern German city of Lübeck on Monday, a tax collector was sentenced to two years on probation after confessing to the arson attack on an uninhabited refugee home in the nearby town on Escheburg in February. The 39-year-old claimed he had started the fire to prevent Iraqi refugees from moving into the neighborhood. The arson attack on accommodation intended for use by asylum seekers was just one of many in Germany in recent months in cities as far apart as Vorra in Bavaria, Tröglitz in Saxony-Anhalt and Limburgerhof in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe has called on the German government to step up efforts to fight xenophobia. Nils Muiznieks has said there are “clear signs” of increasing intolerance. Speaking in the western French city of Strasbourg on Monday, Muiznieks said that a series of attacks on refugee shelters and regular demonstrations against an alleged “Islamization” ... Read More »

Racism in Germany ‘in all parts of society,’ UN review shows

Germany has come under fire from a United Nations panel reviewing efforts to eliminate racism in the country. Recent events, including PEGIDA rallies and the alleged arson attack on a refugee home, have raised concerns. "Racism in Germany is not only found in extreme right-wing circles, but in all parts of society," the German government admitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva on Tuesday. "Many politicians and parties fail to consistently disassociate themselves from racist resentments, stereotypes and prejudices," added Selmin Çaliskan, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany. She says this contributes to support for the "stigmatization of minorities," promoted by the anti-immigrant PEGIDA movement among others. The weekly right-wing PEGIDA rallies saw a huge surge in popularity between October and February, with numbers reaching as high as 25,000 in the eastern German city of Dresden. 'Active civil society' But Almut Wittling-Vogel, a Justice Ministry official representing the German government pointed out that the protest movement has since been outnumbered by counter-protesters at demonstrations. "We are happy that we can also cite examples of an active civil society," she said before the panel. Wittling-Vogel also promised that Germany would step up the prosecution of racist crimes. The pledge to increase convictions came in light of concerns raised by the UN convention over alleged investigation blunders into the suspected murders of migrants by the National Socialist Underground (NSU). The trial of the group's last known member, Beate Zschäpe, is currently ongoing in Munich. 'Racial profiling' On Wednesday, the second day of the two-day hearing, German human rights groups are expected to criticize the government for failures in the fight against racism. Among other issues put before the panel will be persistent claims of "racial profiling" by German police in routine checks on trains. "Such actions would undermine the confidence of ethnic minorities in the German police," Amnesty International warned. The German government's report denied the claims. Human rights groups also say that refugees often struggle to find housing and legal help. 'Major policy field' In around two weeks the panel of 18 independent experts will publish proposals to improve anti-racism efforts in Germany and further implement the UN convention against racism, which came into effect in 1969. Petra Follmar-Otto, head of the German Institute for Human Rights, said she hoped the hearing would "finally make the fight against racism in Germany a major policy field."

Germany has come under fire from a United Nations panel reviewing efforts to eliminate racism in the country. Recent events, including PEGIDA rallies and the alleged arson attack on a refugee home, have raised concerns. “Racism in Germany is not only found in extreme right-wing circles, but in all parts of society,” the German government admitted to the UN Committee ... Read More »

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