May 21, 2019
Ricky Major

Für ein Europa der Vielen! – March for Artistic Freedom

“DIE KUNST BLEIBT FREI” photo by Ricky Major

This past Sunday in Berlin, I took to the streets with hundreds of other people in support of artistic freedom in Europe. Marches also took place in several other EU cities on the same day. Die Vielen had a heavy hand in the creation of this event alongside of many other organizations and communities which can be viewed on the Facebook event page. The march, Für Ein Europa der Vielen!, began at Rosa-Luxemburg Platz in front of the Volksbühne Berlin. Before the actual march, there were a variety of music artists and speakers expressing their styles and thoughts. The programming was in German, but I was able to understand what the march represented with my growing German skills and some additional research.

Art is at the center of the political and social development of a society. Without it, there is no progression! People will stick to tradition, even if it means oppression of a certain group of people.

Artistic freedom in European countries and those in the EU such as Turkey, Russia, and Poland is becoming increasingly threatened. Many artists are facing suppression by extreme right-wing politicians and government officials. With artistic freedom becoming increasingly endangered, artists are forced to emigrate to other countries or cities and face persecution in their home countries. Although this hasn’t reached Germany yet, it shows what may be in store for the future.

Für ein Europa der Vielen! brings awareness to the exploitation of minority artists who are targeted by governments and non-state actors. People are striving for a “solidary Europe that does not increasingly seal itself off”. Instead, they are in support of a Europe that welcomes those who wish to live here and express their thoughts through art. Not only were people marching in support of an entirely free Europe, but they were also welcoming artists who no longer feel safe or free within their home country.

I was curious to learn more about the conditions of censorship addressed at the march. The artistic freedom organization, FREEMUSE, releases an annual report that assesses the current state of artistic freedom in several countries. Their 2019 report states that 19 artists were imprisoned and 10 were detained under the pretense of counter-terrorism worldwide. Several EU countries use counter-terrorism legislation to violate artistic freedom of expression. Their research found that nine countries used these methods of anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation against artists. If artists are unable to express their thoughts and beliefs through art, this issue will only progress.

Für Ein Europa der Vielen! was an attempt to raise awareness and capture the attention of mainstream society. There were several trucks with DJs, as well as a countless number of people dressed in bright and loud outfits. One thing that stood out to me was the metallic silver and gold flags and signs people carried with them. Due to their material, they attracted significant amounts of light and made an interesting noise when the wind blew through them. All of this caused a lot of attraction to the march. People on the sidewalks and in cars all turned their heads as the huge mass of people came marching down the street.

I personally thought this march was quite exciting and empowering for artistic freedom. However, I had some background information of the topic at hand during the march. It seemed that some of those on the sidelines of the march gave a look of confusion as the group passed. Even though it caught their attention, it can be difficult to gather what is being portrayed through handmade banners and signs. People handed out flyers at the beginning in Rosa-Luxemburg, but I didn’t notice flyers being distributed throughout the march. This could have been helpful in informing non-participants.

Overall, marches and/or protests can be an interesting and active approach to getting voices heard. Fur Ein Europa der Vielen! was definitely an exciting and informative event. It got me more curious about the topic and brought me into doing more research. I view that as a successful outcome.