Sunday, August 21, 2011

Berlin Copes With Car Burning Surge

Via Google, here's the headline at Wall Street Journal, "Berlin Authorities Struggle to Stop Car Burning Surge."

BERLIN — German authorities are scrambling to contain and make sense of a surge in car torchings in the nation's capital that have raised fears that the vandalism spree could escalate into the broader, more dangerous forms of street crime that have recently hit other pockets of Europe.

Setting cars on fire has become a popular form of class protest and petty crime in recent years in Berlin, triggered in part by tensions over fast-rising rents and other forms of gentrification in this relatively poor city compared with other major German cities. But the latest spate—including some 60 cars torched in four nights—marks a sharp surge in the arson attacks. While previous car burnings were largely confined to Berlin's up-and-coming working class neighborhoods, such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, the latest spate has rapidly spread to its more affluent western districts.

They also come amid a wave of street violence across other parts of Europe—most notably riots in London and other U.K. cities this month—that so far has largely left Europe's largest economy relatively unscathed. Elsewhere on the Continent, violence has erupted in countries chafing under austerity measures, such as protests marred by police clashes in Spain and Greece and the deadly firebombing of an Athens bank building just over a year ago.

In Berlin, the circumstances behind the rash of car torchings appear largely local, but many residents and crime experts believe growing economic tensions within the city limits play a role. While Germany's national unemployment rate hovers around 7%, in Berlin it remains stuck at 13.5%. Meanwhile rising rents and real-estate prices are displacing more of its poorer residents from its central and increasingly trendy neighborhoods.
And checking back at that Google search, a number of articles have mystified titles, such as "Is 'Tourism Fatigue' Behind Berlin Arson Wave?", at Spiegel, and "Berliners Still Can't Work Out Who's Torching Their Luxury Cars," at Business Insider. But c'mon, there's no mystery. Business Day nails it, "Berlin’s far left vents fury on ‘fat cat’ cars":
ARSONISTS had set fire to 26 cars in Berlin in the past two days, mainly Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and Audis, police said yesterday, bringing the number torched in the city this year to at least 138.

Far-left extremists were targeting German luxury cars, symbols of the country’s wealth and export prowess, police said.

"The arsonists want to hit what they say are ‘fat cats’," Berlin police spokesman Michael Gassen said. A special unit was investigating the fires as political crimes after the police received letters claiming responsibility that derided globalisation, gentrification and rising rents, he said. No arrests have been made in the most recent string of attacks.

The fires come amid worsening economic data and political discontent in the country. German growth, last year the motor of Europe’s recovery, almost ground to a halt in the second quarter. Gross domestic product, adjusted for seasonal effects, rose 0,1% from the first quarter, the Federal Statistics Office said this week.

Almost two years into the European debt crisis , restiveness over Germany’s contribution to rescues is weighing on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition as voters rebel over providing aid to fellow euro-zone countries.

When Germany in 2009 experienced its worst recession since the Second World War , a record 221 cars were torched.

A key factor in the unrest is that about 40% of youths are either without a high school certificate or a paying job, said Johannes Becker, head of the Centre for Conflict Studies at the University of Marburg. "In Britain … people are predisposed to jumping on the bandwagon . They see that something is up and want to be part of it, to add some fuel to the fire, as it were. With these cars in Berlin, they are in contrast consciously trying to send a message."
See? That wasn't hard. Far left groups are seizing the moment to heighten revolutionary tensions, but since it's not likely any of the European democracies are at risk of their governments being overthrown, the violence ends up being purely anarchist and nihilist. And that's all you're going to get from the progressive, neo-communist left. It's all of a piece. And it's not only murderously destructive, it's morally reprehensible. Freakin' ASFLs.