Why are you afraid of Antifa

A district divides Leipzig : Why the mood in Connewitz is tilting against the hard left

Bastian Seichelt still remembers exactly how neo-Nazis in Zschopau in the Ore Mountains threw away his skateboard in the park. Skateboarders were considered left ticks. Two friends got it worse, their noses were broken one night. Back then, in the early 2000s, he heard from Connewitz for the first time. In his Antifa group, the district in the south of Leipzig is considered a shining example.

People here defend themselves against intimidation, it is said, and drive neo-Nazis out of their neighborhood. With self-managed housing projects, they have also been fighting against vacancy and decay since the 1990s. In 2009 Seichelt moved to his favorite place to study philosophy. In what he says is a magical place.

The district seems to divide Leipzig

A district that seems to divide and excite the public today. Some say it is a fortress against racism and blind capitalism, others say it is a stronghold of left-wing extremists. The latter feel particularly strengthened by the riots last weekend. 20 police officers were injured by stones thrown at a rally, and trams and house facades were damaged.

When an ARD camera team wanted to question people in front of a Connewitz café about the riots last weekend, the owner had something against it: “No cameras, please! You only ever show those who complain about the neighborhood, ”he says in his black tube scarf, which he pulled wide across his face. When the camera team leaves in frustration, two young guests agree: "It's good that you said something."

Wagenburg mentality and local patriotism

Bastian Seichelt knows this Wagenburg mentality and the Connewitz local patriotism. He doesn't like him, he's not afraid to speak. He still doesn't want to see his real name in the papers. Colorful tattoos adorn his upper arm, the earlobes are stretched from the tunnels earlier.

Since he moved here more than ten years ago, he has also noticed the change in Leipzig. 600,000 people live here, ten years ago it was around 500,000. And now that the city is shining in the public eye, empty factory buildings are giving way to construction projects, Connewitz seems to be disrupting the celebrations.

Because with every resident the fear of displacement grows. According to Immowelt, a square meter costs 7.50 euros, 44 percent more than ten years ago.

Property management companies take out "graffiti flat rates"

According to their own opinion, the subculture that has been built up could disappear from Connewitz, that is the horror scenario. Some in the neighborhood react to this: They set fire to garbage cans, erect barricades, spray walls. Some property management companies have concluded “graffiti flat rates” with painting companies in order to be able to repair house walls as required.

“That is in part a very blunt type of protest,” says Bastian Seichelt, “which my friends generally reject. Especially when people are endangered, a limit is exceeded for me. "

It is not just the cops who are hit by the violence. In November 2019, the employee of a real estate company was knocked down at home by two masked people, the perpetrators left their apartment with the words "Greetings from Connewitz".

Who is seen has power

Bastian Seichelt doesn't care how his neighborhood looks in public. “Often an entire district is punished,” he says. “In the end, however, it is only a fraction that is violent”.

A few hundred autonomous people against 600,000. But they are perceived differently than many citizens of Leipzig. And whoever is seen has power.

Seichelt says he is concerned that the debate will once again only revolve around Connewitz anarchists, but not about the demands for affordable housing.

In the south suburb of Connewitz, a residential area is being built on an area of ​​36 hectares. Almost a third of this is to be subsidized as social housing by the Free State of Saxony and rented for 6.50 euros. For the other two thirds, the investor plans to charge 12.50 euros per square meter. The “Distillery” techno club also had to give way for the construction project. 14,000 residential units are vacant in Leipzig.

Bars are attacked

Unlike many others in the district who chant "Connewitz stays dirty", Bastian Seichelt initially has nothing against modernization in the neighborhood: "I don't want to have to live in a dirty district so that rents stay low". He also cannot understand the “hipster hatred” of many of his neighbors. He has seen how bars were attacked when, from the point of view of some, they became too modern and thus supposedly no longer fit the identity of the district.

Connewitz could happily become more diverse. Attract other people. People like Lara Stenkin. It is, if you will, the prototypical enemy.

Stenkin, who doesn't want to be quoted under her real name in the newspaper for precisely this reason, moved from Halle to Connewitz two years ago because she found a cheap studio here. She is a sculptor, grew up in Bavaria and enjoys renting in the east because she can pay them. Still. It is both a motor and a victim of gentrification.

Are people who look different also accepted?

When Stenkin moved to Connewitz, she had heard a lot from Connewitz. She thinks it's comfortable that many people still go for a walk with their dogs here late in the evening. It accompanies it, she says, but at the beginning it is also accompanied by a feeling of insecurity.

This is also because she dresses differently than most of the people here. Instead of black hoodies or a punk look, she sometimes wears corduroy trousers with flares and a traditional waistcoat. “I quickly noticed that there is this clothing code with rivets, tattoos, black hoodies and caps. I asked myself: Are people who look different also accepted? "

Today she doesn't care, she says. Stenkin criticizes the behavior in the Kiez even more clearly than Bastian Seichelt. She hated it when she came home from work in the evening and had to breathe the stench of burning plastic in the garbage cans on her street again. Or a construction site on your doorstep is longer because the work is delayed with the destruction of construction cranes and excavators.

The choice of words is martial

In general, Stenkin rejects the martial choice of words of many Connewitzers: "There is often talk of chasing or chasing bulls". She sends a photo she took of a sprayed wall of a new building in Connewitz. It says in black letters: "Hipster: inside", "Member of the capitalist socializing society", are "easy to fuck".

The dispute over Connewitz has been simmering for many years. And the hard left scene enjoys a fundamental sympathy for their concerns. But the mood begins to change.

Stenkin also supports the political demands for affordable housing. She just doesn't want to demonstrate together with violent criminals.

Some CDU politicians also indirectly blame the left-wing MP Juliane Nagel, who has her constituency in Connewitz, for the fact that some are going on violent revenge raids. Politicians on the left would justify the excesses of violence again and again, criticized Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer.

A Bengalo landed on the balcony

Juliane Nagel has her office near the Connewitzer Kreuz. “Linxx.net” is also a meeting place for political activists in the district, readings and discussions take place here on a regular basis. When her office celebrated its 20th anniversary last weekend, stones were flying a few hundred meters away, and a Bengalo landed on the balcony of a new building.

Juliane Nagel then kept her distance from the rioters, but also said to the MDR: “I think it's important to ask where the violence is coming from.” And she sees the reasons in the housing policy and the police. A helicopter circles over the district almost every day.

The supporters of this view see themselves confirmed by incidents like last Sunday: The official account of the police in Saxony shared the tweet of a user who described squatters as a "left pack". The police deleted the post a little later and spoke of "an accident". The police are also aware of the difficult relationship with Connewitz and the left in the city, so, according to the Leipzig management, they are relying on de-escalation for the upcoming demonstration on Saturday.

800 participants are registered

Under the motto “Storm the fortress, break all borders”, the EU-China summit planned for this weekend should be accompanied. It has now been canceled due to Corona, the protests will probably still take place. 800 participants were registered for it. According to the demo call, a liberated society is being spoken out: "autonomous, militant, anti-authoritarian".

The organizers write on Twitter: "Whether and how the demo day ends depends on the Saxony police."

And who asks the rest of Leipzig?

The train runs through the city center

The police went to the press on Friday to discuss their deployment strategy. You do not want an escalation, said police chief Torsten Schultze.

The officials would therefore initially stay in the background. But if stones fly again or pyrotechnics are ignited like last weekend, the meeting can be dissolved within a short time.

In contrast to last week, this time an area will also be set up in which demonstrators can be checked for dangerous objects. "But the officers should proceed with a sense of proportion," says Police Director Frank Gurke.

Whether and how the demo day ends, the rest of Leipzig can not be indifferent this time. The demonstration march is to go through the city center.

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