‘Whites only’ swimming pools in Austria


Racially segregated swimming pool sign in Selma, Alabama, USA

This photo shows a racially segregated swimming pool sign in Selma, Alabama, USA; when there were racist ‘Jim Crow’ laws.

The Wits Justice Project in South Africa writes about its context:

We the People: Policing the Pools

June 15, 2015

At our editorial meeting last week, the Wits Justice Project (WJP) watched a video that has been circulating over social media that depicts a white police officer using excessive force against a group of black teenagers at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. The most shocking frame of the video shows the officer violently manhandling a young black teenage girl of slight build and waving a gun at two black teenage boys who try to intervene on her behalf.

This 6 June 2015 video is about police violence against swimming children in McKinney, Texas.

We reflected on race and spatial exclusion, racist policing in the United States, the role of gender, the policing of juveniles, and South Africa’s own history of segregated pools and beaches. Since the video was first released, Police Corporal Eric Casebolt was suspended and then he subsequently resigned from the department. Whether criminal charges will be filed against him remains to be seen. The Black Lives Matter movement has come to McKinney. The protests have started. A spotlight shines on McKinney and offers insights into the way that race plays out in America. The conversations will continue.

This blog has been written by Beena Ahmad, WJP visiting researcher from the United States. …

In an interview with National Public Radio, Jeff Wiltse, a University of Montana history professor, discussed the racialized history of swimming pools in America. Community pools first proliferated on the eve of segregation, and they were built in working class neighbourhoods as well as more affluent ones. They were noticeably less available in areas that were predominantly African American. During Jim Crow, segregation was enforced by laws, as well as through violence perpetrated by whites against blacks with police acquiescence, even in the absence of an official policy of segregation.

“Wade-ins” were held in a number of communities to protest segregated beaches and swimming pools. In one famous account captured on photograph, a Florida motel owner poured acid into a pool to force black bathers out of the pool. Some credit this story with playing a role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. According to Wiltse, by the time of desegregation, pool construction had become cheaper. Whites stopped using municipal pools and started building pools in private communities or in their backyards. Many municipalities have since closed public pools, and there is a racial disparity as to who has access to swimming pools in America today.

By Markus Salzmann in Austria:

Austrian municipalities impose ban on refugees using swimming pools

2 February 2016

The Austrian towns of Korneuburg and Mödling have imposed a ban on refugees using their public swimming pools. Refugees are allowed to use these facilities only if accompanied by an “escort.”

In Mödling, Councilor Robert Mayer of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) announced the measure by issuing instructions to the town’s employees. He had an order posted on notice boards stipulating the ban on unaccompanied people “with immigrant backgrounds.”

He justified the measure by saying that young refugees from two nearby facilities had jumped into the pool in underwear or sweatpants. …

The situation is similar in Korneuburg. Because bathers allegedly felt harassed and molested, a general ban on refugees was imposed. …

The web portal Vienna.at cited police officials who claimed that eight Afghan asylum-seekers had misbehaved, making noise and jumping from the edge of the pool, which is forbidden. It was also claimed that a man had gotten lost and wandered into the women’s changing room. The police acknowledged that there had been no criminal assaults and no charges had been filed.

On the basis of these flimsy pretexts, the city imposed a blanket ban on refugees and hired a security service to enforce it.

On social media, thousands have reacted angrily to the ban and the right-wing officials who imposed it. Many have drawn parallels to the methods employed by the Nazis against the Jews. However, ÖVP Mayor Christian Gepp has defended the racist measures.

Such discrimination against refugees is not limited to Austria. In Bornheim near Bonn in Germany, the town’s social affairs department, which is controlled by the Green Party, has banned adult male refugees from using the public swimming pool. Here too there have been no legal complaints.

In Koksijde in Belgium, the mayor almost succeeded in banning all refugees from the local swimming pool because one Iraqi refugee had helped a little girl distressed by a whitewater whirlpool; leading to a false accusation of padeophile sexual assault.

The same week in which the bans were imposed, the Austrian government closed the country’s borders to refugees. At a refugee summit, leaders of the governing parties—the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP)—agreed to introduce a ceiling for refugees. As Chancellor Werner Faymann (SPÖ) told the press, Austria will take in only 37,500 asylum-seekers in this year. This number, added to the 90,000 refugees who have remained in the country in the past year, brings the total to the limit of 1.5 percent of the population set by the government.

The ruling parties are now following the line of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). The Greens, who are closely linked with the government parties at the provincial and district level, are joining in the witch-hunting of refugees.

Green Party politician Efgani Dönmez, who until last year was a member of the Federal Council, the upper chamber of parliament, appeared Friday as a guest speaker at an FPÖ event in Linz. …

Burgenland, where the Social Democrats are in an alliance with the far-right FPÖ in the state government, has announced that it intends to set up neighbourhood watch groups in its municipalities. According to the state premier Hans Niessl (SPÖ), “security partners” will carry out a broad range of tasks. The details of the powers they will have are currently being negotiated, but they will definitely include the power to check identity cards. Even arming the civil militia is under discussion.

The deputy state premier Johann Tschürtz (FPÖ) announced that the project would initially be introduced in nine municipalities. The municipalities selected include Schattendorf, where, on January 30, 1927, members of the fascist Veterans Association shot into a Social Democratic meeting, killing a worker and a six-year-old child.

The introduction of neighbourhood watch groups evokes memories of this dark chapter in Austrian history. The acquittal of the murderers by the judiciary in 1927 led to a mass demonstration in Vienna, against which the police carried out a massacre, killing 89 workers.

Tschürtz explained that the makeup of the “security partners” remained unclear, but might involve private security companies. It is likely that the FPÖ will use its close ties to the neo-Nazi scene to recruit thugs from this milieu for the neighbourhood watch groups. Last year, FPÖ politician Ralph Schäfer tried to establish a neighbourhood watch group in the city of Wels that included right-wing extremists known to the police.

The links between the FPÖ and the extreme right are well documented. In his book Strache: The Brown Swamp, author Hans-Henning Scharsach details “many, many points of contact with the neo-Nazi scene.” Heinz-Christian Strache is the leader of the FPÖ.

Refugees in Austria, report


This video from Sweden says about itself:

9 September 2015

Tens of thousands of pro-refugee protesters rallied in Gothenburg’s Gotaplatsen Square, Wednesday, calling for the Swedish government to welcome refugees in the southern Swedish city. Gathering at the city’s famed Gotaplatsen square, the demonstrators bore banners calling for asylum seekers and economic refugees to be given sanctuary.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Refugees’ horror in Austria: ‘It’s not human. We are treating them like sheep in pens

Thousands of refugees are attempting to pass into the country from the Balkans

Jamie Merrill Spielfeld, Austria

3 hours ago

Less than two hundred metres from the chaos of the no man’s land between Austria and Slovenia, the Austrian army is trying to impose order.

Here at Spielfeld more than 150 Austrian police and 400 soldiers are shepherding up to 4,000 refugees a day onto a fleet of 60 buses. The buses head north to Graz, Vienna and Graz, another step on the journey to Germany, the final destination for most of the refugees travelling across Europe.

Austria has been criticised by authorities in Slovenia for the pace at which it is accepting refugees and earlier this week it briefly threatened to build a fence along its border, but police have been drafted in from across the country to deal with the numbers of arrivals.

Despite this, minor scuffles and pushing break out as Austrian soldiers struggle to keep family groups together as they load the refugees onto the buses.

Watching is Anna Brettchuh, a teacher who has travelled from Hamburg to hand out bread, milk and cookies with her seven-year-old son Leopold.

She said: “It’s horrible. I can’t believe what I’m seeing here and no locals are helping them. To think that the Austrians have talked about building a fence. It’s not human. We are treating them like sheep in pens. It’s hard to see but my son had a project on refugees at school and I think it is important he see’s this. It is important we all see it.“

Waiting by the line, grasping his Austrian identity card is Iraqi refugee Bashar Al Sadoun, 28. He arrived in Austria from Basra in May and somewhere in the mass of thousands of refugees on the border are his wife, two sons and sister-in-law. He has had on-off contact with his family on WhatsApp but now his wife’s smartphone battery has gone flat. She is somewhere in the mass of queuing refugees. “I will be so happy when they get here. I can take them to Salzburg. I will see my babies, I don’t care about anything else.”

As Mr Al Sadoun is talking, an Austrian police approache and tried to move him into the line of refugees, only stopping when he realised that he already has Austrian citizenship.

The policeman is Wolfgang Braunsar, the police spokesman for the border crossing. “Sorry”, he said. “I did not know. We have received 3,000 refugees today and we expect many more thousands this evening. We are doing the best we can to move them [to] other camps nearer [to] Germany where they can be cared for.”

Mr Al Sadoun will have to wait to see his wife. If and when he spots her in the ground he won’t be allowed to go to her, instead he will have to follow her bus and be reunited with her at the next camp. ”I will catch the train and follow her,“ he said. ”I will see her soon.“

Films about sparrows and hoopoes at Rotterdam festival


This video, recorded in the USA, says about itself:

Planet Sparrow, New York Segment

4 April 2014

Sparrows in New York City, part of the international documentary about the life of [house] sparrows, directed & produced by Kurt Mayer for ORF, Arte & NDR.

At the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, there will be more films about birds. Including Planet Sparrow.

The festival organisers write about it:

A sparrow in the Souk in Cairo: bushy and tousled, he flits between crowded stalls to build his nest and attract a mate. He‘s one of the five heroes of Planet Sparrow. Small and grey-brown, sparrows may seem dull, but this first impression is deceptive; they’re extremely clever. The camera pursues these artists of flight through narrow alleys, revealing their spectacular aerial manoeuvres.

In New York, orphaned sparrow chicks are adopted by new sparrow parents. Sparrows play Russian roulette in Moscow, flying beneath the cars on the busiest roads to save winter energy. In Beijing they’re captured and then released to bring good luck. In Paris, centuries of living with humans have taught them to form teams that steal and share the food of café diners. Planet Sparrow is a documentary about these flying survival artists, their neighbours and adversaries, all filmed from the perspective of the birds!

This video, recorded in Austria, is the film Return of the Hoopoe.

There will be also the film Return of the Hoopoe at the Rotterdam festival.

The organisers write about it:

Across Europe hoopoes are struggling. But amidst the orchards and vineyards of the Wagram region near Vienna they are thriving. This documentary shows how the small bird with the spectacular crown feathers made a comeback in the heart of Europe and how it is dealing with its neighbours: Aesculapian snakes, foxes and falcons.

It is also the story of one man’s dream that came true: Manfred Eckenfellner is the Hoopoe Whisperer, and because of his passion the birds found their way back to the Wagram. Even cultivated landscapes like Wagram’s vineyards offer countless opportunities for wild animals to find new niches. Kestrels use castle towers to breed and bee-eaters live in the same layers of loess vintners grow their grapes on.