A Twist of Events

***The Office of International Programs strongly discourages Drexel travelers from participating in any type of protest abroad as these events are unpredictable and can often quickly turn violent. Students are reminded that they must abide by local laws, even if they are not aware of the specifics of these laws and violation of such laws can have serious consequences.***

One night I spent some hours having a deep conversation with some of the friends I met here in Bochum. A couple of the friends were from Germany and one was another student from America who decided to study at Ruhr University from another college. Let’s call the American exchange student Zaine. One of the topics that came up was the political climate in Germany and the topic of refugees. It was interesting getting to hear their different perspectives and personal experiences about the issue. That night I was invited to a protest that was happening the next morning with them. I thought about attending, but due to different circumstances, I did not end up going.

In an earlier post, I briefly spoke about the influx of refugees being accepted into Germany and how everyone was not so accepting of these actions. In a neighboring city there was actually an organized protest against refugees being accepted into the country. Well, there were also multiple protests going on against those protests. My friends were on the side of the counter protests. Zaine went to the protest and told me about his experience.

When Zaine entered the city for the protest he was immediately greeted by the sight of multiple heavily armed guards and law enforcement. They meant business, and we’re ready to take care of any type of infraction. Just like in America some protests can become violent and this can be very dangerous for anyone caught in the storm. So the law enforcement there was on the lookout for anyone that could potentially cause problems.

 

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Zaine described to me how exhilarating it felt to protest for a just cause along with many other German people. He even was screaming their chants in German. At one point during the day, Zaine was sitting with his friends in a close vicinity to some of the officers. One of the officers scouted Zaine speaking English. Zaine believes that during his conversation with another friend they might have said a couple of words that could have been taken wrongly out of context. For that reason and a couple other ones, Zaine believes that is why he was chosen. An officer came up and ripped him away from his spot and his friends. Zaine only speaks a little bit of German so he could not even instantly try to reason his way out of the predicament. While he was being taken one of his German friends was yelling and jumping to be taken as well so that they could translate. Initially, the officer was not going to allow both of them to come but he changed his mind and took both of them together. They were detained, and their passports were examined.

Zaine remembers being yelled and screamed at in German during the questioning. The main question that Zaine could understand was “if you’re American, why protest here?” Eventually, they were released but were warned that if they were seen again at the protest or caused any other problems that they would be taken to jail.

Of course, I don’t have enough time to fully go through all the details of the story. But I can at least give you the gist of what happened. What shook me a bit was that I originally could have been with them while they were there. I’m not completely sure that if I were detained as well that I would have been able to get out without further punishment. For me, this story was just a reminder that anything can happen. Especially while abroad visiting other countries it is important to be smart and stay safe. I know this isn’t my story, but I feel as if it’s an important one for those who decide to study abroad.

Zaine was nice enough to allow me to tell his story but wanted to remain anonymous. He was even kind enough to provide the pictures that were used throughout this post.

***The Office of International Programs strongly discourages Drexel travelers from participating in any type of protest abroad as these events are unpredictable and can often quickly turn violent. Students are reminded that they must abide by local laws, even if they are not aware of the specifics of these laws and violation of such laws can have serious consequences.***

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