What became known as "Berlin Refugee Movement", or "O-platz Movement", in 2013 and 2014, started as a 600-km protest march, from Würzburg all the way to Berlin. After a suicide in a refugee camp in Würzburg, a group of refugee activists started a protest march to Berlin, passing by various "lagers" (mass accomodations for refugees) where they invited other refugees to join, and attracted considerable media attention and thus, police brutality.

Upon their arrival in Berlin in October 2012, the marchers were welcomed with a massive demonstration by the leftist population of Kruzberg. As the passion was at its peak and every political collective was mobilized for support (from anti-fascist and anti-racist groups to squatting collectives and various radical house projects), the refugee activists occupied Oranienplatz, a large public square at the heart of Kreuzberg, and put up several tents in which many activists spent the freezing Berlin winter of 2012/2013. Oranienplatz became the symbol of the movement and a key point of gathering and contact with public.

In November 2012, the group occupied a huge former school at Ohlauerstraße, ten minutes from Oplatz. Gerhart-Hauptmann School became the second key point for the movement housing around 200 people at a certain point.

I moved to Berlin (from Amsterdam) in February 2013 as my best friend was among the core members of the Oplatz movement as a refugee activist. I lived in the school for several months and was with the movement until March 2014.

Oplatz was evacuated by force in April 2014 and the school was "cleared" in June 2014 by 1700 police forces including riot police and commandos.

In both cases, the police was faced with surprising (non-violent) resistance, each of which is a long and incredible story.

This project is a look at the Oplatz movement from the inside, from a very personal and non-journalistic point of view.






© Alireza Abbasy