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Protest March in Bonn (October 12, 1981)

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Eppler gives interviews backstage in German, English (fluent), French (not quite as fluent): “The SPD presidium met five weeks ago. I told them I was going to be speaking here, and no one had any problem with it, not even Herbert Wehner.” Eppler is the most important speaker here, it seems. Pastor [Heinrich] Albertz refers to him as the possible leader of a new party to the left of the SPD. And when senior FDP politician William Borm gives his speech, he is confronted with chants of “Eppler! Eppler!”

The rally is over at around 5:30pm. Only the Communist Workers’ League of Germany (KABD) continues to expatiate along Poppelsdorfer Allee on the subject of “a nuclear-free Europe from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains.” Their rendition of their hymn “We are the young guard of the proletariat” is slightly disrupted by members of the Hare Krishna sect who dance by, passing out cookies to onlookers.

At the Hofgarten, the most unlikely thing happens. A message goes out over a loudspeaker on the stage and in response hundreds of people crawl through the mud collecting paper and trash. It is gathered in huge piles to facilitate the great clean-up by Bonn’s sanitation department. At Hotel Bristol, which not only let the marchers use the bathroom but the patio as well, the doorman praises the discipline of the peace demonstrators.

People are looking for their buses. Others are running to catch their trains. Some drop the stones they brought from home, as Heinrich Böll warmly requested in his closing words.

Train station, 6 pm. A young blond boy of five is waiting for the train with his parents. The message “I don’t want any atomic bombs” is written on the back of his long white shirt. A dove is painted on the front. Many demonstrators can’t find their departure meeting-points. Many of the numerous people who are wandering around lost in the “Auswärtiges Amt” [“Foreign Ministry”] subway station have set up a night camp. The next day is stormy and rainy, and the city is back to normal.

Source: “Bonn, halb Festung halb Festival. Beobachtungen beim Aufmarsch der 250 000 im Hofgarten” [“Bonn: Half Fortress, Half Festival. Observations at the March of 250,000 in the Hofgarten”], Die Welt, October 12, 1981.

Translation: Allison Brown

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