With a rock festival set to attract swarms of neo-Nazis to a small town in Germany last weekend, residents rallied together to fight against the far-right influence – by draining beer shelves.
German authorities already had imposed a “no alcohol” ban upon the Shield and Sword Festival in Ostritz (near the Polish border), due to fears of increased violence at the event.
This small-town example is striking for its unusual and creative way of expressing disagreement.
But to further dry out the festival goers, Ostritz locals planned one week ahead to buy up all the town’s beer. More than 200 crates of beer were purchased, as police seized more than 4,000 litres of beer on Friday.
One local resident explained the protest against the neo-Nazi contingent: “For us it’s important to send the message from Ostritz that there are people here who won’t tolerate this,” she told Germany’s ZDF television about the festival’s promotion of far-right values.
This small-town example is striking for its unusual and creative way of expressing disagreement, at a time when many are retreating. With opinions too polarised, and polarisation leading to hostility, it can be hard for many of us to believe there’s any pathway that will lead to significant change.
And if we know protest, arguments online, public rallies or political lobbying actually can help to turn the social tide, how much more can we do with a little creativity?
Take a leaf out of the neo-Nazi beer book, though. Rather than a traditional avenue of dissent, the residents of Ostritz hit their opponents in an unorthodox place – that has cut through into international media attention.
I don’t think the inventive residents of Ostritz were trying to channel Jesus went they made a run on the beer supplies of their town. But there is a “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) vibe about their non-violent protest.
And when Jesus first said that profound statement, the significance of the surrounding events was huge (hint: the night before his crucifixion). He also went on to explain how weapons didn’t need to be taken up to defend him because his heavenly father could easily strike down any threat against him.
While the stakes may have been different in Ostritz, the beer buy-up demonstrates a desire to not fight fire with fire.
Cheers to fighting a good fight.