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"Liberty instead of Fear": more than 15,000 participants Print E-mail

Protest March against Data Retention and Surveillance Mania a Complete Success. / "Liberty instead of Fear": more than 15,000 participants / Largest Protest in Germany for the last 20 years

On Saturday, 22 September 2007, more than 15,000 took to the streets of Berlin under the slogan "Liberty instead of Fear --- stop the Surveillance Mania!". Several Civil Liberty organisations, affiliated in the "Working Group on Data Retention" (Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung), organised the march. 55 groups called for participation, among them the "Young Liberals" (Junge Liberale, Youth organisation of the FDP), Buendnis 90 / Die Gruenen, ver.di, journalist associations, ATTAC, the Protestant telephone Counselling (evangelische Telefonseelsorge), medical associations, FoeBuD e.V., and the Chaos Computer Club. Police initially estimated 8,000 participants, later correcting their count to confirm the working group's numbers.

"This is the largest protest for civil liberties and privacy protection since the census in 1987", Thilo Weichert, data protection comissioner of Schleswig-Holstein said to news portal

Rena Tangens of FoeBuD e.V.: "The overwhelming success of this protest shows that by now a large proportion of the population are worried about our constitutional state. Citizens do not want our democracy to be turned into a surveillance state. The Bundestag must reject the proposed date retention bill."

The large turnout of 15,000 shows that people consider the continuing tightening of security- and surveillance laws to be decidedly too far-reaching. Citizens are concerned, not because of the supposed danger of international terrorism, but because of the impertinence und lack of restraint security polititians show in declaring civil rights and liberties defunct. The large cross-section of society participating in the demonstration makes it evident that these are not the views only a few civil rights experts, but that the issue now unites broad parts of the population. Politics cannot ignore this signal.

The organisers criticised decisively actions by the police and some radical left-wing demonstrators: "A bloc of radical left-wing demonstrators did not abide by police obligations. The police in turn used disproportionate means in reaction to violations such as disguising and use of oversize banners, and did not appear to pursue de-escalation in all situations. The massive use of video cameras by the police, especially at this particular protest march, was a provocation. Overall, however, these were marginal incidents which did not impair the progress of the demonstration."

Rena Tangens remarked, "On balance it was a very positive, creative and colourful demonstration, in which hackers demonstrated peacefully beside doctors, and the 'Young Liberals' beside the 'Left Party' (Linkspartei)." The Giant Data-Octopus ("Datenkrake") of FoeBuD e.V., the "glass patient" on the car of the "Freie Aerzteschaft" (an occupational union of physicians), as well as several trojan horses were among the march's highlights.

Patrick Breyer of the Working Group Data Retention announces further activities: "We will resist data retention by all legal means." According to the working group about 20,000 citizens have already declared their support for the prepared constitutional recourse (Verfassungsbeschwerde) against data retention.

Background information: 55 civil rights oranisations, political groups and civil society organisations have called for participation in this march across Berlin, in order to protest against the blanket surveillance by the state and by enterprises. Against the background of continuing tightening of security and surveillance laws, the organisers concur in the urgent need to take to the streets to protest for the preservation of the basic rights of citizens.

Among other things the demonstration takes a stand against the retention of data about telecommunication behaviour of the entire population, that is on this autumn's political agenda in Germanny, as well as against the covert online-searching of computers. Key demands include a halt to new surveillance laws and a review of existing surveillance laws.

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