Criticizing the police? By tradition!

We actually didn’t want to write anything about it, about the ridiculous revolt about the satirical text by Hengameh Yaghoobifarah against the police in the taz. It is to be expected that the ultra-right DPolG1police union will jump over this stick like a bull-terrier with political foam at the mouth, and from it will create a high-profile lawsuit that really should not interest anyone. Sad enough that the GdP is seriously not too bad to follow the DPolG politically in this abstruse nonsense with its own lawsuit. But when a German Minister of the Interior wants to sue a left-wing journalist because she publishes a polemic about the police, the whole thing stops being funny very quickly.

We say this in all clarity: criticism of the police, in all severity and freedom, is a cornerstone of democracy. What the colleague*in Yaghoobifarah wrote is clearly covered by the freedom of art and opinion without the slightest doubt. Police criticism is so timelessly necessary that it goes back centuries in many places culturally firmly anchored. Because where poor people are, state power is never seen as a positive element, but as an instrument of repression, exploitation and violence. If you don’t want to believe this, take a look at the classics of Bavarian folk music, because these people wrote songs about their experiences with the police (‘Gendarmerie’) and sang them all over Bavaria, and they still sing them today. And the tenor of these songs is quite clear: ‘All Bavaria hates the police’.

The animosity of the simple population towards the state authority can be felt in every line, even if the songs are of course partly satirically exaggerated. The historical figures and events behind them are for the most part historically documented. And who became heroes of the common people in these songs? The ‘Boarische Hias’, Michael ‘Räuber’ Heigl, Mathias ‘Räuber’ Kneißl, the ‘Wildschütz’ Jennerwein … robbers, thieves and ‘cop-killers’ one would say today.

In the song of the ‘Boarischen Hias’ it says as an unmistakable threat:

“And when the last hour comes and I close my eyes
Soldiers, henchman, hunters – then you will find peace.”

In the Kneißl song about an attempted arrest of Kneißl, in which he injured two gendarmes so badly in a gun battle that they later died.

“It was near Altomünster, it was dark and very dark,
I’m just sitting down to eat.
Since Flecklbauer says: “Go, there’s no love lost between us,
“take out your triplet and shoot down the two.”

Kneißl’s father and brother had been murdered by policemen in his youth. In the Bavarian population the act was seen as Kneißl’s self-defence, at worst unfortunate manslaughter.

The poacher’s song “Hob di scho daseng” is a single sequence of threats made by a game warden against a hunter he personally hated (hunters often performed police duties in relation to the repression of the common people):

“And at the twelve o’clock signal, you see me from far away,
Hunter, aren’t you scared alone in the forest?
Hunter, you’ve got your rifle, Jaga, you want to get me?,
Hunter, do you know how the rifle sounds?”

In “Wirtzsepperl z’Garching” the hero of the story violently resists his arrest by gendarmes, after having deserted from army service three times before. Dozens more examples could be cited here, we want to conclude with an impressive interview excerpt recorded by Bayerischer Rundfunk sometime in the 1950s, with an ancient contemporary witness of the ‘robber’ Kneißl, who is asked about his opinion on the events and Kneißl’s execution:

Jakl: “The gendarme whom I know by name was from the Eisach, he is up hit him (Kneißl) with the gun. Then they got him down.”
(…)
Reporter: “Don’t you think that the death penalty was appropriate. He killed two police men after all?
Jakl: “No.”
Reporter: “No?”
Jakl: “No.”
Reporter: “Andw hy not??”
Jakl: “In my day, only violent robbers were beheaded.”
Reporter: “And what should they have done with the others?
Jakl: “Well, they could have served 15 years in jail, not more!”
Reporter: “He was a poacher.”
Jakl: “Yes, a Wuiderer, true…”

A ban on polemics against the police means a ban on Bavarian tradition. Whoever is confronted with a state authority must have the right to publicly vent his anger about it, then as now. We find it significant that an institution such as the police collectively prefers to take legal action against satire and polemics rather than seriously addressing the cause of the mockery. After all, the grievances behind it, unlike the articles in the German daily newspaper taz, are really potentially threatening to a democracy.

Bavarian solidarity with Hengameh Yaghoobifarah!