Last Saturday, a police officer shot a 14-year old suspected shoplifter in the hand. Officers had responded to a call from a security guard in a drug store in Berlin’s central train station who had detained the teenager. According to police accounts, while searching the teenager, the officers found a knife; when instructed to give up the knife, the teenager allegedly moved to attack the officers. One of the officers responded by pepper spraying and shooting the girl. She was hit in the hand and had to go to the hospital. The toxic chemicals also injured the workers in the store. Now the Berlin state criminal police office has opened an investigation to determine if the federal officer’s firing of his service weapon was lawful and appropriate.
Just like in the United States, many people in Germany are demanding an end to police brutality. The incident this week at Berlin’s central train station illustrates that the police do not exist to protect people but rather to safeguard the profits of major corporations. If the response of two adult officers wearing full-body protection to a 14-year old girl wielding a knife is to shoot her and fill a store with tear gas, how is this public safety? From the racist police killing of a 16-year old from Senegal last summer in Dortmund, to the extreme police violence used to evict climate defenders at Lützerath last month, all these events indicate the same thing: the police protect the racist, capitalist ruling class and have got to go. Instances of police violence like this one need to be investigated by independent organizations, with the involvement of those affected by the brutality as well as civil rights organizations and trade unions, instead of the routine, “neutral” assessments of police departments.
The German government also has a role to play in this story. Rapid inflation in Germany is making it impossible for many to afford basic necessities. One fifth of people under 18 in Germany live below the poverty line or are threatened by poverty. While the cost of living soars for ordinary people, the government has responded by approving a 100 billion euro budget for militarization. The massive budget increase, which includes sending tanks to Ukraine, is accompanied by discussions to reinstate military conscription.
The ostensibly left-wing coalition government in Berlin was also no help these last few years when it comes to the rapidly increasing cost of living. While rents in the city skyrocket and add to the ever-worsening housing crisis, the Berlin coalition government of SPD, the Greens, and DIE LINKE delayed the implementation of the widely popular referendum to expropriate big landlords. The city cannot expect much better from new election results this month which saw a major victory for the right-wing CDU.
The shooting in Berlin shows that police in every capitalist society are a bunch of heavily-armed thugs whose job is to employ extreme violence to protect the interests of the wealthy and corporations.