Felix ElsnerFelix Elsner

Grundgesetz – Article 8: Freedom of association

Article 8 concerns freedom of association.

It stipulates:

  1. Alle Deutschen haben as Recht, sich ohne Anmeldung oder Erlaubnis friedlich und ohne Waffen zu versammeln.
  2. Für Versammlungen unter freiem Himmel kann dieses Recht durch Gesetz oder auf Grund eines Gesetzes beschränkt werden.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

All Germans have the right to gather without the need for a registration or permit, peacefully and without weapons.

Indoors, this right may never be curtailed, as long as the attentees do not violate or intend to violate another article of the constitution.

Paragraph 2 states:

For assemblies outdoors, this right may be curtailed through or based on a law.

The mere assumption that there might be tensions is not reason to order the cancellation of the event. The police must protect the assembly and the expected parties from one another, exhausting all reasonably available manpower. Only if public order cannot be guaranteed even with a heavy police presence, measures may be taken to alter the event.

In conclusion, even if a whole town is opposed to the appearance of someone, their appearance, at least indoors, but often also outdoors, cannot be prevented legally.

This leads to all sorts of delicate tiptoeing when there are efforts to suppress an undesirable appearance of someone. Public halls suddenly have to close for ‘renovations’, bus service from the train station is regrettably out of service, the projection screen on which the Turkish prime minister is slated to appear poses a ‘security’ risk on account of being too large, you get the gist of it.

As with free speech laws, this is a delicate balancing act between public interest and individual freedom. The author would rather have the community come together to find innovative ways to curb annoyances than have laws which would end up being only selectively enforced to silence dissent.

This article is part 9 of the “Grundgesetz” series.