Sixty autonomists stormed a policeman’s property? Not at all, says 74-year-old Hans-Erich Sauerteig, who was also there.
A police evidence and arrest unit. Such a unit was also on duty in Hitzacker Photo: dpa
site: Mr. Sauerteig, since the weekend there has been nationwide outrage over reports that 60 autonomists stormed the private property of a police officer in Hitzacker, in the German state of Wendland, last Friday. You were present at the action – can you confirm the reports?
Hans-Erich Sauerteig: Stormed? (Laughs.) Absolutely not. It was like this: In this settlement there is a turning area with a lime tree, about 60 people stood there and played music. Maybe a quarter of them were wearing masks. From there, three or four people then went to the carport on the officer’s property and tacked two pennants to the wooden wall there, one in black and red, one with the symbol of the Kurdish YPG. They also put a wooden pole with another YPG pennant in the tree in front of the house.
What happened then?
The three or four people then went back to the other people by the linden tree, about 25 meters from the house. Four songs were played there. After about 10 minutes a police patrol came, they rang the bell at the house, came out again after a few minutes and then stopped in front of the house without saying anything to us or asking us to do anything.
The confrontation with the police happened on the way back?
Exactly. After about 500 meters of the way, seven tubs came towards us all at once, at a monkey’s pace. They slowed down, the unit jumped out and knocked us to the ground. Punched, kicked, they jumped on me. I’m 74 years old, so I’m not the most athletic anymore.
Was the officer against whom the action was directed present?
Yes. He stood in front of me trembling and said, "Mr. Sourdough, you will pay for this."
You know each other?
Of course. I’ve been an activist here for decades, and this gentleman has been known to us for 30 years as a particularly zealous state protector. He then went up to other people who were already pinned to the ground by officers, and still kicked them in the side. That to the unprecedented violence that broke out there.
74, co-founded the autonomous conference center in Meuchefitz, Wendland, in 1980 and has been active there ever since.
Your account is very different from that of the police. How do you explain that?
I think that it is quite deliberately a matter of creating a mood. Police laws are being tightened almost everywhere in Germany, often justified by the allegedly increased danger to police officers. This threat scenario is built up by such reports, and this is how measures such as preventive detention or online searches can be justified later.
What was the background to your action at the officer’s property?
In February, this gentleman came here to the Meuchefitz Inn with 80 masked police officers armed with machine guns in order to hang a banner with the symbol of the YPG from the balcony. This is incriminated and may not be shown. We then said: Let’s have some fun, take such pennants and decorate his property with them.
From your point of view, that was just a joke?
I have now written myself a letter to a newspaper and the wife and said there that we were perhaps not aware enough of the effects that this action could have on them and the children and that we apologize for it. We actually thought that there would be ten or twelve of us, but it wasn’t planned that there would suddenly be 60 people.
What is your basic position on the criticism that actions on private property should be taboo?
I think that’s a very difficult question, and we haven’t finished discussing it yet. I strongly oppose neo-Nazis visiting trade unionists or mayors in order to scare them. But I see on the other side, for example, the quotation from Brecht: "Injustice has names and addresses." In Argentina, it is absolutely common to appear at the door of particularly reactionary judges or police officers and demonstrate, even completely defensively and non-violently.
Do you not see any separation between the private person and the professional activity?
I have a bit of a stomachache there too, I don’t mind admitting. But I have to say: This gentleman is not only this gentleman, he is also a state protector, and an overzealous one at that. I think it’s right that people like this, who are constantly spying on us, who turn up here several times a week, who invade this place – that they also have to expect to be dragged out into the public eye.
Are such actions strategically clever?
We did something similar 15 years ago during the anti-nuclear protests, and it has to be said that it didn’t get a good echo either. Although things have improved this week, since the media no longer simply copy the police report.
Nevertheless, do you see a political sense in it?
I do believe that you hit a sore spot when you say: If you know who is responsible, you won’t leave them alone. The police chief of Luchow-Dannenberg once wanted to drink beer with us here in the pub. We said: Man, that’s not possible, now get out, that’s nonsense. He said, "Why? Duty is duty and schnapps is schnapps. So I thought, no, maybe you can’t separate the two in such exposed cases.