Bavarian prime minister stands up for mass arrest of whistlers GROUP OF SEVEN SUMMIT

July 08, 1992|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Contributing Writer

MUNICH, Germany -- When asked whether it was right that 500 anti-summit demonstrators were arrested for whistling too loudly, Bavarian Prime Minister Max Streibl said it certainly was.

"It's typical for our Bavarian way of life," the archconservative Mr. Streibl said. "Whoever comes to Bavaria should reckon with Bavarian methods."

After turning central Munich into an armed camp to protect the seven leaders of the West's most industrialized countries from terrorists and 6,000 journalists, the Bavarian state government was arresting people for whistling.

Not only did Monday's arrests make the state look foolish, but they spurred on even nastier demonstrations yesterday. About 5,000 illegal protesters camped outside the Bavarian royal palace where the summit is taking place and bellowed their opposition to the gathering and the police's methods. Police helicopters buzzed overhead and sharpshooters kept a lookout from nearby church steeples.

Perhaps stung by the criticism for arresting whistlers, the riot police did not encircle the demonstrators as they did Monday when the 500 had to stand outside for four hours before being taken to overcrowded jail cells.

Police had wanted to lock up all 500 until the summit was over, but a judge released them seven hours later, at 11 p.m., when they received their court hearing.

"This has nothing to do with real Bavarian qualities, such as live and let live. This has to do with a truncheon mentality," said Renate Schmidt, head of the opposition Social Democrats in Bavaria.

Rather than using the summit to show that Munich should not be remembered only for events such as Adolf Hitler's failed putsch in 1923, the conference that carved up Czechoslovakia in 1938 or the 1972 massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes, the state's iron-fisted quelling of dissent has discredited it once more, Ms. Schmidt said.

Not so, Mr. Streibl said. The whistling could have hindered Chancellor Helmut Kohl from greeting the six visiting heads of state. And the fact that most of those arrested were not from Munich showed that they were nothing more than "traveling political terrorists."

The police reported that no weapons were found on the whistlers and that several children were among those arrested.

Mr. Streibl of the Christian Social Union found support only from the extreme-right Republican Party. The churches, unions, Greens, Social Democrats and centrist Free Democrats all condemned the incident, with the three parties forcing the Bavarian Parliament to hold a special session next Monday to debate the security tactics.

Although the ongoing protests started among the usual crowd of German demonstrators -- benevolent church groups, professional peace activists, anachronistic Maoists and a tiny group of cynical hooligans -- they have since found wider support. At a time in Germany when politicians are gaining an image as remote do-nothings, the anti-summit anarchy has struck a small chord.

"Whoever thinks about why politics has recently lost so much credit can't ignore pompous events like this summit," wrote a commentator in today's Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "They grate on one's nerves after a while even more than the protesters' loud whistling."

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