Berlin police say protest can only be held in German or English

Berlin police say protest can only be held in German or English

After disrupting a pro-Palestine protest held by Irish speakers outside the German parliament, police in Berlin have said that the demonstration could only be held in German or English unless a police-assigned interpreter is present.

Protestors in Berlin dispersed for signing in Irish

In response to a group of around 40 people singing Irish songs at a pro-Palestine protest outside the Reichstag, police in Berlin have said that certain protests in the German city can only be conducted in German, English and, in some cases, Arabic, unless a police-assigned interpreter is present.

Members of Irish Bloc Berlin, self-described as a “Berlin-based platform for Irish solidarity with Palestine”, and the Besetzung Gegen Besatzung (Occupy against Occupation) group had organised a singing and conversation evening on the grass outside of the parliament building.

After noticing that police had been cracking down on people speaking Arabic at the protest camp, the group decided to organise an event in Irish, “to highlight what we see as a really worrying human rights concern,” Irish Bloc member Caoimhe McAllister told the Irish Independent.

A large group of police officers approached the circle, divided protestors into smaller groups of five or six and “expressed concern that people might be discussing terrorist activity, or what they call incitement to violence,” McAllister explained, "[...] They told us that if we didn't vacate the vicinity immediately, they would begin arresting us”. Once the protest was dispersed, groups of 10 to 12 police officers followed the smaller groups in silence to a nearby museum.

A British colony until 1921, the Republic of Ireland has some of the highest public support for Palestine, with an Ireland Thinks poll held in January 2024 finding that 71 percent of the population believe that Palestinian people live under a system of apartheid implemented against them by Israel.

Berlin police confirm Irish and Hebrew are among forbidden protest languages

Despite Irish being one of the EU’s 22 officially recognised languages, Berlin police have confirmed to the Irish Independent that the Gaelic language is forbidden at the protest camp, which has been ongoing since April 8, unless a police-assigned interpreter is present.

“[Speeches] can only be made in German and English and at certain times also in Arabic, and [...] no exclamations or chants may be made in Hebrew or Gaelic,” a police spokesperson told the Irish newspaper, explaining that otherwise, “there could be speeches or chants glorifying violence with potentially punishable content during the assembly and the police must, of course, be able to understand them to be able to punish them and initiate appropriate investigative proceedings”. 

McAllister stressed that ahead of the protest, the Bloc had carefully selected peaceful Irish songs to sing at the protest, “because some rebel songs might have some words in them that might be seen as incitement to violence”. 

“[The police are] trying to portray Irish people as terrorist sympathisers in order to repress and silence our solidarity with Palestine and that I find very frightening,” she added.

“This repression is a side effect of the levels of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in Germany. It's important to continue to highlight that this is not really a repression of Irish culture. It's the repression of Irish solidarity with Palestine.”

The Irish Bloc is among several pro-Palestine groups in Berlin that have been targeted in recent months. In late March, Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East) received notice from the Berliner Sparkasse bank that its account had been frozen and that Sparkasse required a list of members’ names. 

In a statement on X, a lawyer for Jüdische Stimme, Ahmed Abad said that the group believes the list, “is for the use of the police”, which would be a breach of German law.

Thumb image credit: Sybille Reuter /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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