Germany: Demonstrations Against Surveillance

[All links lead to German language pages, except when otherwise noted.]

Many citizens took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate against mass surveillance by the government. They consider not only their privacy to be at risk, but also their fundamental rights and democracy itself. In the light of Edward Snowden's revelations, there were increasing calls on the German government to clarify to the public what they know in terms of surveillance by British and American secret services. Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich provoked outrage when he introduced security over further fundamental rights.

Author Juli Zeh, among those who published an open letter in the FAZ and later posted it to, described the American secret service NSA in a comment on the public service television programme ZDF as a ‘band of thieves’. The full text can be found on

“Wenn ich an die NSA-Affäre denke, sehe ich ein Haus, das gerade von einer Einbrecherbande ausgeräumt wird. Die Bewohner stehen daneben und gucken zu. Die Hausverwaltung steht auch daneben und guckt zu. Sie ruft den Einbrechern vielleicht noch hinterher: ‘Wir verlangen schonungslose Aufklärung. Wir wollen wissen, was hier gespielt wird.’ Und die Einbrecher rufen zurück: ‘Geht in Ordnung.’, steigen ins Auto und fahren davon.

“Whenever I think about the NSA affair, I see a house that has just been cleaned out by a band of thieves. The occupants are standing by the house, looking on. The property managers are standing by the house looking on as well. They might call out to the thieves every so often: ‘We demand unremitting intelligence. We want to know what is happening here.’ And the thieves shout back: ‘That's fine!’, get into the car, and drive away.

nichts sehen nichts hören nichts sagen

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Images of Chancellor Merkel, Minister of the Interior Friedrich and Head of the Chancellery Pofalla at a demonstration. (Source: mw238 on Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jakob Jochmann describes the abolition of the rule of law in his “Parallelgesellschaft Politik” article as follows:

Seit der deutsche Innenminister öffentlich “Supergrundrechte” postuliert, die jenseits des Grundgesetzes gelten, ist die Auflösung des Gesellschaftsvertrages offiziell. Wenn eine Regierung vor der Realität kapituliert, statt ihr politisch zu begegnen, dann weigert sich der Leviathan, die ihm obliegenden Pflichten zu erfüllen.

Das Problem ist allerdings keines der Regierung. Man kann mit Fug und Recht vom Systemversagen sprechen, weil es kein Korrektiv für die Politikerkaste gibt, die sich in der Entwicklung der Postdemokratie herausgebildet hat. Es gibt für den angeblichen Souverän, das Volk, keinerlei Handhabe, der Abschaffung des Rechtsstaates Einhalt zu gewähren. Dazu mangelt es nicht allein an politischen Alternativen, sondern auch an Dringlichkeit und Kommunikation.

Ever since the German Minister of the Interior postulated “Super Fundamental Rights” applicable beyond the constitution, the dissolution of the articles of association has been official. When a government surrenders to the reality, instead of dealing with it in a political sense, the Leviathan will refuse to fulfill the duties incumbent upon it.
The problem, in any case, is not one regarding the government. It is possible to speak quite justifiably of a failure in the system, since no corrective to the political class has emerged from the development of the post democracy. For the alleged sovereign, the people, there is no handle that can stop the abolition of the rule of law. At the same time, not only is there a lack of political alternatives, but also a lack of urgency and communication.

Thousands people demonstrated in several cities on Saturday, expressing their opinion on the government under Chancellor Merkel and the international secret services. Here are a few impressions from the demonstrations:

Several Twitter users shared photos of billboards depicting the motivations for participating in the demonstration:

“Those who have nothing to hide need not fear the whistleblowers!”

“We used to have to demonstrate for a 35-hour working week. Today it's about pure freedom!”

“Don't wait until they call the right to freedom treason” (Erich Kästner)

“Demonstrators calling out to passers-by “We're exercising your basic rights!”

The midsummer heat was also a topic on Twitter:

“Demo at 36° against 360° surveillance”

To the demo! #Freedom instead of the #Freibad [swimming pool]

And as with any demonstration, the participants’ powers of creativity were revealed:


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