800,000 visitors and 2,000 different kinds of beer from 86 countries of the world. Since 1996, the “Berliner Biermeile” is taking place annually in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain, one of the biggest festivals in Europe with continually rising numbers of visitors each year – and sucessfully resisting right-wing extremists.
What was the issue?
The festival has been notorious as meeting point for right-wing extremists. Racist and right-wing extremist assaults occurred repeatedly at and around the festival grounds. In 2002 still, the weekly newspaper Jungle World stated: “Behind the booth of a beekeeper from Neubrandenburg going by the name of »Germanenzug Schwaßmann«, over a hundred hard-boiled nazis, among them well-known Berlin cadres, engage in a beer-fuelled mass punchfest. The providers of the Germanic brew placidly put down their blinds and close their booth. Next to them, table after table caves in.” In the archives of Antifa Friedrichshain and bezirkliches Register, annually repeating entries of assaults and bullies by right-wing extremists can be found.
How could we help?
The situation began to change slowly only after the Initiative gegen rechts Friedrichshain, which was supported by MBR, set up a booth at the festival in 2006. This has also been a result of the public pressure which the initiative was able to generate together with communal politicians achieving that the problem was eventually acknowledged.
Since 2010, MBR advises the host of the festival and supports their goal to make the “Biermeile” a festival where “racism, right-wing extremism, and violence (…) have no place”. Part of our support are means which were developed in collaboration with the staff, district councils, Initiative gegen Rechts, and residents. They include seminars for the serving and security staff on symbols and brands of clothing popular with right-wing extremists or the development of a set of festival rules Festivalordnung(German only).
Racism, right-wing extremism and violence have no place at “Biermeile”!
“Biermeile” is an international festival with hundreds of thousands of guests from diverse cultural, ethnic, social, and religious backgrounds. It stands for diversity and cosmopolitanism.
We do not tolerate discriminating statements, threats, or assaults based on color of skin, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. Support us in providing a climate of tolerance and of mutual respect!
The display of respective symbols on clothing as well as wearing accessories of relation to right-wing extremist scenes constitutes a violation of the festival rules. Should it be perceived on the festival grounds, the violation will result in an exclusion from the site. The host makes sure that the Berlin international beer festival will remain what it is: an amusing stroll though the peaceful world of beer.
What did we achieve?
The festival rules, which have been in effect since 2011, not only prohibit unlawful right-wing extremist utterance but also such “of relation to right-wing extremist scenes”. Furthermore, the host supports Initiative gegen Rechts Friedrichshain in the distribution of information brochures on racism and right-wing extremism at “Biermeile”. In 2011, the district’s parliament passed a solution explicitly supporting measures against right-wing extremism and racism at the festival. In 2013, the host published a statement in advance of the festival Erklärung (German only), which was supported by the two district councils Mildner-Spindler and Dr. Beckers, Frau Scheibner, Präsidentin des Verbands Privater Brauereien Deutschland e.V., Johanniter Unfall-Hilfe, and the companies Fourtech Events and Grützmacher Sicherheitsdienste. A poster version of the statement was put up in numerous places at the festival, and it was distributed to all people running booths.
This and further steps have meanwhile produced visible results: “Biermeile” has lost its appeal to organized right-wing extremists, it ceased to be a meeting point for cliques of the extreme right. However, this process has not reached its end: right-wing extremist and racist statements are still present at “Biermeile”, members of Initiative gegen Rechts Friedrichshain are still perceived as intruders and not as a necessary and informative enrichment. But they are also complimented on their engagement by visitors. “Biermeile” is no longer a stereotype of the enemy but a field where arguments take place, which also make space for success and alliances. MBR will continue to support the actors, hoping for “Biermeile” to develop as a place where all people can move without fear.