Hundreds of people came together in a “Queers for Palestine solidarity block” at the Berlin Radical Queer March on Saturday, 27 July. The march is billed as an anti-capitalist, critical alternative to the mainstream CSD (Christopher Street Day, or Pride) celebration. However, in the days leading up to the march, organizers of the march joined right-wing parties and the German Bundestag in labeling the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights as “anti-Semitic.” (It should be noted that the Israeli Embassy in Berlin is a sponsor of the mainstream CSD event.)
Berlin Against Pinkwashing and an array of diverse organizers called for a Queers for Palestine solidarity block at the march, expressing radical anti-racist, anti-colonial liberatory politics. The support for the block exceeded the expectations of many, especially in a city where support for Palestine is facing growing repression as well as growing popularity, from the political ban imposed on Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat to the anti-BDS resolution passed by the Bundestag.
Indeed, shortly after the march took off from Mariannenplatz – and it was clear just how large the Queers for Palestine contingent was, forming a significant percentage of the entire rally – some organizers and participants of the main march attempted to violently attack and tear down the signs of marchers carrying signs with slogans like “Queers for a Free Palestine” and “Jewish Lesbian for a Free Palestine.”
Soon after the launch of the march, a squad of police clad in full riot gear blocked off the path of the block, separating it from the head of the march and preventing the hundreds of participants from moving forward, as well as the many more marchers behind the block.
Police demanded that the block exclude itself from the march. Reports indicate that organizers talked to the police and declared the Queers for Palestine block to be not part of the Radical Queer March, exposing the block participants to police scrutiny and potential violence. This reliance on the police came despite the fact that the Queers for Palestine block included many people of color, refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other people particularly vulnerable to police repression.
After a tense showdown, the police finally moved to the side – apparently after the reconsideration of organizers of the main march – allowing the block and the march to pass through and continue on the route. Despite the repression and tension (as well as violent anti-Palestinian, racist attacks that took place at several points along the route), the spirit of the block was overwhelmingly positive and creative, with rainbow signs and colors, balloons and flowers and clear expressions of solidarity with Palestine.
Banners reading “Support LGBTQI* Palestinians – Boycott Israel – #BDS” and “No Pride in Israeli Apartheid” were held high along with Palestinian and rainbow flags, while marchers chanted “Queer liberation – end the occupation!” “No pride in apartheid!” “Yes, yes BDS!” and “No justice! No peace! No racist police!”
The block was received enthusiastically by people in the communities surrounding the march. People opened their windows to wave Palestinian flags and cheer on the demonstrators, while several people came down to join the demonstration after seeing the marchers. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes all of the organizers and participants in this block to challenge racism, settler colonialism and all forms of oppression.
Below, we are republishing the official statement from the organizers of the Queers for Palestine block:
Our Lives, Our Streets! Palestine Solidarity in the Radical Queer March Berlin 2019
- “If the organizers of this event deny the rights of Palestinians, queer or not, for self determination and to resist a racist occupation in non-violent means, there is nothing radical or queer about this event.”
- “Being pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS does not equal anti-semitism. Making claims like these undermine the very real presence of both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiments that are rife in Europe at the moment”
- “I’m another Queer Jew, who will not throw my Palestinian siblings under the bus. I cannot attend this March, unless it stands for the marginalized and oppressed!”