On August 25, German Minister of Interior Thomas de Maizière announced that police had raided apartments in Freiburg used by left-wing extremists and found various weapons, including knives, batons, pipes, and computers. In addition, the linksunten.indymedia.org website was taken down from the Internet. According to de Maizière, "The continued operation of the website is now a criminal offense." He added, "The ban I have ordered serves to break down the structure of the organization, and confiscate the evidence."

The Independent Media Center (IndyMedia) originated during the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999. It has since become a global producer of left-wing media that has drawn attention from law enforcement in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere. The linksunten.indymedia.org website was the German affiliate. The IndyMedia website reported that Lindsunten Indymedia was an “integral part of the global Independent Media Center network, and the most widely used German-language platform for radical politics and organizing.” The website claims that the raid constitutes a “massive escalation of state suppression.” Demonstrations in solidarity with Lindsunten IndyMedia resulted. 

Legitimization of violence

“The prelude to the G-20 summit in Hamburg was not the only time that violent actions and attacks on infrastructural facilities were mobilized on linksunten.indymedia,” the Interior Minister said. De Maiziere also said the site tried to “legitimize violence against police officers,” which he described as an “expression of an attitude that tramples human dignity.”

“This is absolutely unacceptable and incompatible with our liberal democratic order,” he added.

Before the 2017 G20 summit took place in Hamburg, some media reported that the Lindsunten IndyMedia website was coordinating militant anti-G20 protesters. As a result, inquiries into the website ensued in the German parliament, and local governments sought to rein it in. Since the ban on August 25, Lindsunten IndyMedia released a statement on August 26 on the banned website, stating “We will be back.” According to IndyMedia, this means that the media activists still had control at that time over the website. 

The German Interior Ministry presented a seven-page document to justify the raid and the banning of the Lindsunten website. There are allegations of criminal content, confessions of crimes, and anti-constitutional content. There were direct references to the G20 summit in Hamburg. 

According to German security agencies, IndyMedia is the most influential medium on the left-extremist scene in Germany, and is a forum for violent groups. De Maiziere emphasized that the prohibition was expressly not directed against the global network, but only against the left-wing extremist offshoot in Germany. There were no arrests. De Maizière justified the ban on the Lindsunten website as a part of the country’s resistance to extremism. He said, "There must be no retreat before extremists from the left and from the right - neither outside nor from within the Internet." De Maizière added, “For years, they have been using this platform to sow hatred against other thinkers and representatives of the country." 

According to German authorities, plans for the ban were being made before the G20 summit . But the summit in Hamburg played a role. For example, there were calls on the website for readers to commit crimes. A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said that after a judicial review,  "The time was now ripe" to ban the site.

Local police said at the time of the G20 Summit that Antifa militants imposed street barricades, looted supermarkets, incinerated vehicles, and attacked police officers with gasoline bombs, metal rods, and slingshots. Clashes between Antifa and police yielded 476 police officers wounded. In addition, around 186 demonstrators were arrested and 225 were temporarily detained. According to the Interior Ministry, the Lindsunten IndyMedia website was shut down because it “goes directly against the law in both its aims and actions,” according to Der Spiegel. The interior minister of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Strobl said of the raid in his jurisdiction, “This step marks a major blow against the extreme left in Germany.”

An assault on the nervous system of capitalism

In June, German police were eyeing the Lindsunten IndyMedia website are a string of arson attacks disabled parts of the country’s rail network. Fires at signal boxes and cable ducts caused significant delays on railways to and from Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Dortmund, Leipzig, Bremen, and Bad Bevensen. Authorities concluded that these constituted a coordinated attack with a political motive. Speaking for the Interior Ministry, Tobias Plate said that 13 cable fires had been caused by “unconventional explosive and incendiary devices”.

In a statement uploaded on Lindsunten IndyMedia, a group called Shut Down G20 claimed responsibility for the attacks, describing it as “an assault on capitalism’s central nervous system.” Thousands of activists engaged in huge protests at the G20 Summit, engaging with police with rock-throwing and Molotov cocktails, in pitched battles. As to the announcement by the Shut Down G20, police said that the IndyMedia platform had been used in the past to disseminate fake news and false statements. 

US connection

IndyMedia in the US has been subjected to FBI raids in the past, but as so far not been shut down. For example, the FBI seized several server hard drives in 2004 that were hosted by US-based Rackspace Managed Hosting.  Servers in the UK were seized by police in June 2005 after an anonymous post on the Bristol Indymedia server suggested an "action" against a freight train carrying new cars as part of a protest against cars and climate change in the run up to that year's Gleneagles G8 summit. Claiming that the poster broke the law by "incitement to criminal damage", police sought access logs from the server operators.

De Maizière claimed that  the website helped incite the violence in Hamburg and warned of “serious consequences” of left-wing radicalism, according to the New York Times. “The prelude to the G-20 summit in Hamburg was not the only time that violent actions and attacks on infrastructural facilities were mobilized on linksunten.indymedia,” said De Maiziere.

He also said the site tried to “legitimize violence against police officers,” which he described as an “expression of an attitude that tramples human dignity.”

“This is absolutely unacceptable and incompatible with our liberal democratic order,” he added.

According to the Local, Germany’s internal spy agency described IndyMedia as “the most important platform for violent left-wing extremism in Germany. For years it has been providing a forum for people to publish first-hand reports on left-wing crimes.”
 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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