Police will make Heidelberg protesters set up elsewhere
April 22, 2003
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Shortly after Alex Martin’s father, an Army chaplain, deployed to Kuwait, the 19-year-old felt the need to protest.
Two days after the war began March 20, Martin ran across a group of demonstrators camping on the sidewalk outside Campbell Barracks, home to the headquarters of U.S. Army Europe and V Corps. He’s been there every day since.
“This has become my new home,” Martin said.
The monthlong vigil will end Tuesday, as city police plan to evict the squatters and work starts on a new fence around the Mark Twain Village housing area across the street from Campbell Barracks.
“A construction fence is going up along that whole area, so it’s just not safe for them to be there,” said Robert Graves, 411th Base Support Battalion executive officer. Base officials for months have been planning to erect the fence.
For weeks, a hard-core handful of war protesters remained on 24-hour watch around the American community. At times, the overnight crowd swelled to about 30 people. German officials did not disrupt their right to exercise their freedom of expression.
But last Thursday, city officials delivered the protesters a letter telling them to move, said German police spokesman Harald Kurzer.
“They got the paper and agreed to finish their protest,” Kurzer said. “They will leave on their own.”
The demonstrators held a party Monday evening for their last legal night on the street. They had no plans to leave quietly, said Nina Frey, 21, who studies at Heidelberg University.
“We’re not leaving until they force us to leave,” she said Monday. “We will try to resist.”
If they are forced to move, the group plans to move its camp-out to another location, Frey said.
Police were unaware of protesters’ plans for another static protest in the city, Kurzer said.
“With the fence construction, there are no more places to demonstrate in the area, and the war is over,” Kurzer said.
German police expect interest in the weekly protests to wind down now. On Saturday, neo-Nazis and left-wing protesters hurled insults at one another at the city’s main train station, but were not allowed to march to Campbell Barracks, Kurzer said.
The peace camp-out gave Nadia Schneider, 19, three weeks to express fears for her family, many of whom live in Baghdad. Her mother is Iraqi, she said.
“I was protesting that they bombed my relatives,” Schneider said. “That’s reason enough.”
Most of the time, the teens spent talking on worn-out couch cushions or waving to passers-by honking car horns. Occasionally, they would drink alcohol and smoke pot, they said.
“It’s been kind of like a beach party,” Martin said. “When we go to war with Syria, we’ll be back.”