Lots of interesting comments to my Riot Police post from a few days back. Let me clarify my point.
The problem I’d like to see addressed is very limited. It’s not peaceful political demonstrations. It’s not even not-very-peaceful political demonstrations. Both of those can, and should, be handled with the minimum amount of force necessary to keep order. Which, in most cases, would be none at all. Even if the protesters throw a few molotov cocktails or burn a few SUVs, that would not necessarily justify an aggressive police reaction — although people who willfully destroy property should, ideally, be located, prosecuted, and required to recompense the damage they cause.
My suggestion is limited to situations in which crowds of people target isolated individuals with the threat of potentially lethal violence. It happens primarily in the east, but also, recently, at a wine festival in the Rhineland-Palatinate (G), where a group of skinheads severely beat two Africans while chanting (roughly): "We’re going to beat the crap out of the niggers." One of the victims had a finger severed with a broken wine bottle. Taking the position of the man whose finger was cut off his hand, I’d say that incidents such as this are a serious threat to human life. As was the incident in Muegeln. The mob there was working on breaking into the pizza parlor in which the eight Indians had taken refuge when police reinforcements arrived. If things had gone slightly differently, people might have been murdered.
It should go without saying that I’m talking about any mob, targeting any individuals, for any reason. These incidents required a swift and aggressive police reaction because they represent a direct threat to human life. This doesn’t strike me as an unreasonable demand to place on the state. There are fire departments all over Germany who are ready to respond quickly to fires. Because fires represent a direct threat to human life and must be combated immediately. I see no reason why a similar quick-response mechanism could not be set up for situations in which a mob of people has targeted isolated, helpless individuals for beatings and/or death.
These incidents can be hard to predict. But these days, everybody has cellphones and can place anonymous calls to a police hotline within seconds. News agencies gather and show footage from people using their cellphones to record newsworthy events seconds after they occur. The state has plenty of resources to monitor and track potentially dangerous groups. For instance, the left-wing militante gruppe, which I posted about recently. The police authorities were listening to conversations, tracing cellphones, and searching apartments (G) of people suspected of being affiliated with this group, which has so far burned cars and offices in non-fatal arson attacks. The way is there, all that’s needed is the will (and yes, I’m well aware that German police agencies closely monitor right-wing groups already).
Should we also address the root causes of these incidents? (Racial prejudice, social alienation, etc.) Well, sure, as far as that goes. But root causes are not particularly relevant to someone bandaging a a bloody stump where his finger used to be, running through a small town in the western part of Germany, desperately looking for somewhere, anywhere to escape a drunken mob threatening to kill him. In that situation, a state as all-encompassing and strong as Germany’s (which, by the way, is running a budget surplus) should be able to show up within minutes, break up the mob with as much force as necessary, and track down, arrest, and punish the criminals. That’s what I pay my German taxes for. And I do pay German taxes.