There’s a new way for anti-Nazi activists to counter far-right demonstrations in Berlin, and it’s available right in your mobile phone.
A recent app, developed by the Berlin-based non-profit organization “Berlin Gegen Nazis”, will allow users to track neo-Nazi protests in the German capital city.
The app will lay out points on a map of the Berlin and Brandenberg area where far-right protests and counter protests are happening. The information will be provided by experts working with the organization who will actually be at the events.
With recent applications like this, exposing citizens to people to far-right protests, there comes the question whether or not this information is exposing safety risks to individuals. The release of the app comes at a time when recent, peaceful protests have broken into riots within Germany.
In Cologne in October, an initially peaceful protest of 2000 far-right extremists against extreme Islam broke out into a riot. The source or cause of the outbreak of violence was unknown, but nonetheless led to 49 police officers being injured, who had to use water cannons and pepper spray to control the riot.
Jessica Zeller, a member of Berlin Gegen Nazis, believes that the decisions people make with the app are ultimately entirely up to the individual.
“I think we are giving opportunities and giving information and what people do with that, that’s in their hands,” Zeller says
Zeller, herself, hopes people to use the app to the best of their intentions, such as through means of hanging a banner on their balcony, to share their Facebook account, or to simply join people in peaceful protest against right-wing extremism.
“We want people to show faith. We want Berlin to have a diverse process against racism. Berlin is a city of diversity and of course there is a very, very low percentage of these people,” she says of right-wing extremists.
She adds that the app gives Germans against right-wing extremism the opportunity to show their faces to these individuals.
While Zeller herself claims that the number of neo-Nazis is low, the number is nonetheless still relevant in Berlin neighbourhoods, such as Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Just last month, a group of 500 neo-Nazis protested against the opening of an upcoming asylum centre in the Marzahn-Hellersdorf district of Berlin. The protest nevertheless gathered 400 anti-racist activists – including members of Berlin Gegen Nazis – yet the turnout of neo-Nazis was 580 people, including 40 right-wing extremists already known by the police.
It was a larger number than expected, according to Stephen Komoß, mayor of the Marzahn-Heller village.
For Zeller’s app, the number expected for the downloads has been exceeded beyond expectations and has reached a number of 1500, thus far.
While just recently released, the app aspires to expand and adopt new languages and to be as precise as possible.
With its presence at the moment, Zeller believes the information can be effective in countering far-right protests and giving an identity to the counter protestors.
“If you could fill the app all the time with a reliable and interesting and changing content, we would be very happy,” she adds. “And if people have this app, as they have Facebook or Weather, all on their mobile phone, it’s a nice catchy piece of identity.”