Seehofer Antidote: Sealift

“We’re a bit like a left-wing PEGIDA – only ten times as fast and not as shitty.” That’s the take-away quote from a recent piece in Neues Deutschland, “Uprising in Orange,” about Seebrücke (“See-bridge”; in English they call themselves “Sealift”), a new pro-refugee political movement that has recently arisen in Germany.

Maybe you already know about PEGIDA: A notable anti-refugee movement, since its formation in 2014 it has been organizing regular right-wing nativist demonstrations in its home-city Dresden and then further afield. These people are not that, they’re the opposite. Seebrücke just recently got its start in Berlin, which is where Neues Deutschland journalist Niklas Franzen interviews its two top officials for this piece; it, too, has already spread beyond its cradle to other cities. Its cause is clear: Stop the Mediterranean deaths! That is, save the refugees found floating there in their precarious, smuggler-provided rubber boats and let them come – let them even come to Germany! To that end, the organization has organized a series of public demonstrations this summer, including around 12,000 people gathering under the Seebrücke name in Berlin, and numerous other public events elsewhere in Germany, to include raves, flashmobs and even “yoga lessons”(?).

After initially coming to life as the result of communications traffic on the Telegram on-line message system among people alarmed at the drownings and increasing repressive measures against those Mediterranean “boat people,” the organization was formed through the coming-together of various left-wing NGOs and “art collectives.” Yet it resolutely keeps its own structure to a minimum: the two “leaders” interviewed for the piece are better described as Seebrücke‘s leading spokespersons, as it operates in a very decentralized manner, with no hierarchy, leaving it to local enthusiasts to organize events to move the cause forward, itself offering only what it calls “a roof” over the common cause (plus a common color to brand all their activities, namely the easy-to-pick-out orange tinge of the standard life-preserver vest).

Stated another way, their goal is, by Seebrücke, to offer an answer to “Seehofer,” i.e. the conservative Bavarian politician who is currently the German Minster of the Interior and therefore directly responsible for the country’s immigrant policy. It was he who, only about a month ago, threw the stability of Germany’s current coalition government into doubt with his new hard-line demands to tighten the country’s immigration rules further. Even as he presented last month his “Master Plan” for accomplishing this, on what happened to be his 69th birthday, he outraged many by gloating that he knew how that same day would see the expulsion from Germany of 69 failed asylum-seekers back to Afghanistan.

But how significant is this new political movement, really? In the interview, one of these “leaders” even claims that theirs is ultimately a “conservative” campaign, in that it aims to defend human rights that people – the asylym-seekers, that is – should already have. But anyone with the least familiarity with current German politics will recognize how that is not the case at all: their “save the refugees!” slogans are quite out-of-tune with a national mood that has steadily turned against accepting more immigrants, which has rather channeled increasing support to the right-extremist Alternative für Deutschland party. It does seem that much of the money they manage to raise goes to support the “Lifeline,” a rescue-ship active off the coast of Libya; that is fine, as far as it goes, but otherwise it is hard to see how much practical effect on what happens in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea people can have who are simply chanting slogans and waving placards in northern European public squares. (Plus, there might be little even the “Lifeline” ship can do to assist if it is hampered in its work there in the water by Italian or other authorities.)

The article here (in this sympathetic, left-leaning paper) promises there will be some “Europe-wide” political actions soon; perhaps if/when those actually come to pass we will be better able to get a sense of the true scope of Seebrücke‘s political power (maybe a mass yoga-lesson before the EU Commission’s Berlaymont office building?). For now, though, under the name “Sealift” they have a website written in quite passable English to explain themselves to foreigners, and of course they’re also on Twitter: @_Seebruecke_

UPDATE: Here’s a map of where they’ve held Seebrücke protest-marches so far – and you can click on it to go to the website which contains a constantly updated map.

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