|Illegal open air party under Warschauer Bruecke|
Illegal open air parties used to be considered a 'Berlin thing', probably because they were continuing on the tradition that started with free techno raves in the early 1990s. The music changed over the years but until 2013, there were still shed loads of illegal open airs in Berlin's parks and disused lots playing house, funk, hip hop and sometimes live acts. These parties weren't very big, loud or obnoxious - nor were they easy to find - but they were still incredibly popular... some of the more intrepid tourists would come here just to track them down. But over time, the police became so good at shutting open air parties down that most of the sound systems stopped bothering to go out at all.
Often, the police would close down parties in response to a complaint by one or two bitter old people who had somehow managed to track down the isolated open air site, call the cops and complain that they were being forced to stare at dozens of younger people who were having more fun than they ever got to have, while listening to music that they never liked, in a place where they didn't want to see people or hear music.
Of course, there are whiny old people in every community, but the cops usually know how to deal with them: they take their complaints with a grain of salt. When Joe Geriatric calls the cops to complain that his neighbour's French bulldog looks a bit psycho, they know better than to race over there with a shotgun and blow its head off. But when it comes free open air parties, the reaction of the police is much less level-headed. Every illegal open air that gets a single complaint here gets shut down without discussion. The cops in Berlin are generally good about giving the sound system time to wind down and pack up, but nonetheless, its obvious they're not giving the party scene an inch. Their hardline approach seems disproportionate though, since open air parties tend to be crime-free zones.
In fact, nothing happens at openair parties that you wouldn't find at any licensed public event. People don't get hurt more often; they are not more intoxicated; the music isn't any louder; no one gets ripped off (which makes illegal open airs better than most licensed events); no property gets damaged because Berliners are pretty good about cleaning up after themselves. There's usually not even a business nearby, so no one can claim that they're losing customers to the open air party.
It seems that illegal open air parties get closed down for committing purely ideological 'crimes'. The old people complain because techno isn't their sound; the Senate complains because it thinks that consumers should earn the right to dance; the cops impose limits just to remind the public who's in control. It's more of a ritual to keep everybody towing the line, than a way of protecting the people - in effect, a way of imposing capitalist and conformist norms.
As the organizers of 'Illegal Open Airs Day' have said on their page: "We do not understand why we can't use a public space (yes, it belongs to us all) to celebrate our love for electronic music and open-air dance culture". It's a simple question. To answer that question, Berlin probably needs to have a debate about free openairs, where the public can come to an agreement on which spaces can be used and how. But why do that, when you can criminalize people for asking the
The Levellers c. 1648