Stop the law to regulate public assemblies in NRW – Preserve Fundamental Rights
Fight off the attack on the freedom of assembly!
During the pandemic-related restrictions the FDP and CDU government is planning a major attack on our freedom of assembly. Already in 2018, it has set out its „security agenda“ by passing its reformed police law that rigidly interferes with fundamental civil rights. By establishing this new state Assembly Law for North Rhine-Westphalia, the government wants to replace the regulations of the Federal Assembly Law which has been in force up until now. This replacement will massively interfere with our freedoms.
The draft for this new law by the state government is authoritarian through and through: Instead of strictly controlling police interventions, in order to prevent (racist) police violence, intimidation, and surveillance, it inverts the central importance of the freedom of assembly for a democratic society into the opposite and must therefore be stopped at all costs!
The freedom of assembly is one of the most important rights in a parliamentarian democracy, because it enables citizens to take their concerns to the streets and denounce grievances. Democracy needs lively assemblies – the state government is planning an attack on the civil society with its drafted law.
For example, general recordings (e.g., by drone or helicopter) are to be permitted unconditionally and, under certain conditions, as well undercover audio and video recordings. In addition, in the future, those registering assemblies will have to provide extensive information, will be urged to cooperate with the police and may even be required to provide the police with the personal data of those guarding the demonstration. The undermining of the immunity from police action, which is laid down in the assembly law so far, and the authority to set up checkpoints without any preconditions, access to assemblies can be made considerably more difficult or even be prevented. The mere presumption that individuals may disrupt an assembly could be sufficient for the police to search them and their belongings, establish their identity, and prohibit them from participating in the demonstration or counter-demonstrations. Anti-fascist counter-protests are also made more difficult by an extended ban on disturbances. Uniform clothing, such as that used in the climate justice movement as a part of the expression of a shared opinion, can be criminalized with the so-called ban on militancy. Progressive ideas, such as an abolition of the punishable ban on mummery or independent monitoring of police operations are not to be found in the draft. Neither were central principles of constitutional jurisprudence included: for example, a de-escalation requirement, possibilities to allow counter-protests within earshot and sight, and the obligation for civilian police officers to identify themselves. The entire draft shouts for mistrust of citizens who exercise their freedom of assembly.
What freedom of assembly means in practice was fought for by 100,000 demonstrators in 1981 during the protests against the nuclear power plant in Brokdorf and subsequently enforced before the Federal Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court, in its groundbreaking Brokdorf decision, described assemblies as „a piece of originally untamed direct democracy, which is suitable for preventing political operations from becoming stiff in a busy routine”. 40 years later, the government is taking an axe to these principles, thereby reinforcing the social shift to a right wing and authoritarian society. The draft is thus an attack on democracy – in other words, on all of us! Despite all differences in our views, strategies and forms of action we are united in the fight against this law!