Neukölln: The language of the street

by time news

Berlin“Digga,” says Ferat Kocak directly into his cell phone camera. “Digga, you are the chief of the public order office!” The poster of someone whose smile is clearly more reserved hangs diagonally behind his bearded, happy face. The incumbent and campaigning district mayor Martin Hikel (SPD) wears fine metal glasses. Kocak wears innumerable laugh lines and a baseball cap.

He posted the video on Instagram. Underlying a song by US rapper 50 Cent, the left-wing candidate for South Neukölln ironically lectures the social democrat Hikel, who ruled the district. Apparently his election officials hung the posters too low. An administrative offense, Kocak thinks, and makes fun of reminding the mayor: isn’t he the one who oversees order?

There are different Neuköllns

Yes, the election campaign in Neukölln is also four and varied this time. From Hermannplatz to Lipschitzplatz, the parties want to give an answer: Who will be sent to the Bundestag, who will rule Berlin and who will rule the district? Who will win the referendum? What are the greatest needs? And who owns Neukölln? Few districts need as diverse answers as the 330,000 people with backgrounds from more than 150 nations and nine percent allotment. In the past ten years the administration has gentrified large parts of the district in such a way that it no longer contains the most notorious, but rather the most popular neighborhoods.

Ferat Kocak grew up here, in the various Neuköllns. He talks about it while walking through the settlements in the south. He himself lived in the urban north and in the well-stocked Rudow, and he is linked by relatives and friendship right up to the tall Gropiusstadt. In 2016, the now 41-year-old joined the left because of the strong forecasts for the AfD. “Back then, my family felt the change,” he says. He was spat at during the election campaign and some called him “shitty leftists”. Kocak resolved to better position the party in Südneukölln. Today he is number 14 on the state list and will very likely move into the House of Representatives. If he is now bothered by the rights of the election campaign, then he breaks off the conversation, he says, “but charmingly”.

District Mayor Hikel is also present in the battle for votes, attends neighborhood meetings, and lays the foundations for new buildings. Since taking office in 2018, the topic of living has also been on the agenda of the 35-year-old. Neukölln is one of the three districts that are most concerned with converting rental apartments into owner-occupied apartments, using the municipal right of first refusal as an instrument. As of 2017, the district turned this around in 23 cases, negotiated 77 times with buyers social conditions for temporary protection of tenants. In contrast, the attempt failed in 92 cases, despite the examination by the district office, the properties were sold to private buyers. Many a household wanted a harder hand against the big drivers of gentrification.

Hikel shows a hard hand when he leads raids on sisha bars and cafes in the north of the district. Then it sometimes seems as if he wants to overtake his Vice Falko Liecke (CDU) on the law-and-order line. Hikel calls the search for crimes of all kinds, which can then be entered in the organized crime register under the item “clan crime” at the State Criminal Police Office: the “zero tolerance strategy”. Experts point out that such an approach can lead to the stigmatization of entire families, of which only a small part has become really criminal.

Back in the south, after a short subway ride, the horseshoe settlement lies quietly in the September sun. The small square in front of the semicircular row houses looks like a tourist place away from the high season. A horse cab rattles past, two coachmen sit on the box chewing gum, on their back it says: Schloss Britz. “Nice too,” says Kocak.

But between the brown and pink terraced houses, Kocak sees other things besides the bourgeois comfort: for him it began here, the series of right-wing attacks, which many refer to as the “Neukölln complex”. There was the stone throwing on the window of a Juso member and the attacks on the house of a social worker who did not want to receive any NDP flyers. There is the murder of Burak Bektaş in April 2012, which has not yet been resolved. Affected associations see a racist background and there is great distrust of the investigative authorities. And there was the night in February 2018 when Ferat Kocak’s car burned. He is fighting with other victims to set up a committee of inquiry to investigate the attacks, which have so far had more loopholes than consequences.

Left-wing candidate Ferat Kocak says: No more racial profiling

If it were up to him, he would politically ensure that the police practice of “racial profiling” – that is, identity checks based on external characteristics – is no longer tolerated. For Neukölln, where about half of the population comes from immigrant families, stigmatization about the supposed origin is a hurdle to social participation.

“This racism massively disrupts coexistence here,” says Kocak. “He’s criminalizing people from the outside, and he’s really making them criminal. A check is often the first contact young migrant people make with the police. And then with a gun and uniform. That shapes the image they have of the state. “

Kocak calls himself an activist. “The migrant communities are difficult to reach,” says the son of Kurdish parents, who was politicized at home because of their immigration history and then at the May 1st demonstrations in Kreuzberg at the end of the 1980s. He speaks to them, the kids, whose algorithms are more likely to wash hip-hop, make-up and football onto their timelines than messages. That’s why he speaks the language of the street, the slang of digital networks, even when he’s doing politics. That’s why “Digga”.

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