“Freiheit für Lina”: The Trial of the Female Militant Leftist that Mobilized Thousands in Leipzig

On Saturday, September 18th, thousands of Germans from the political far-left flooded into the Saxon city of Leipzig to attend the “Wir sind alle LinX” demonstration. The demo was organized in solidarity with a 26-year-old woman facing trial for a series of violent attacks and unrealized plots targeting members of the far-right, as well as for allegedly forming a criminal organization. The state is charging her and three others with having planned and successfully committed acts of terrorism. It is perhaps the most noteworthy left-wing terrorism case in Germany since the dismantling of the Red Army Faction (RAF) in the late 1990s. As the demonstration concluded and people began to disperse, the more militant participants clashed with police.

Beyond demonstrating in solidarity with the accused, the September 18th protest and resulting clashes were meant to be a show-of-force by a coalition of self-described anti-fascist movements in Germany, amidst what they considered increased persecution of leftists by the state.

Police in Saxony originally expected there to be around 3,000 attendees. In actuality, closer to 3,500 members from the far-left, autonomists and the separate anarchist scenes participated in the march. What began as a peaceful march in the afternoon turned into violent clashes between police and street militants of both the black bloc and Marxist movements by early evening.

The trial itself has profound implications for Germany. The country is coming out of a historic election, and though German society has been mostly cohesive throughout the 21st century, a rift is forming—which is reflected in the activities of far-left and far-right elements as they respond to one another during violent clashes in the streets, and at night through covert action.

Solidarity Demonstration: Wir sind alle LinX

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The call for a march in solidarity with Lina and her co-defendants went out a few days ahead of their scheduled appearance at the Dresden Higher Regional Court’s terrorism trial. The demo was organized under the banner, “Wir sind alle LinX” (We are all left—the capital “X” is a truncation of “extremists”). The name of the demo was itself a call-back to the State Office of Criminal Investigation’s special commission on left-wing extremism, “Soko LinX”. Soko LinX was established to investigate and prosecute alleged left-wing extremists under Section 129 of the German criminal code. Since their formation a few years ago, Soko LinX has not yet successfully prosecuted a case against any alleged extremists.

The plan for the demo was to gather near Leipzig’s city center and march down into the southern Leipzig borough of Connewitz—an interesting collection of neighborhoods, itself possessing a contentious history with the greater municipality involving its incorporation into Leipzig, and an ongoing conflict with real estate developers. The march was to conclude in a square-like intersection where seven streets join called Connewitzer Kreuz (Connewitz Cross).

The demonstration began around 15:00 with a speech from the mother of the central figure of the trial, Lina E., in midtown Leipzig’s Johannisplatz. A large contingent of police from four separate Lӓnder (administrative states) in Germany was deployed to the city in riot gear, anticipating some violence. Plainclothes officers stood about with cameras and notepads. A few members of Germany’s Bereitschaftspolizei (aka BePo)—a rapid-reaction reserve unit drawn from local and surrounding state police forces that mostly handle crowd control—were visibly stationed near their vans in light gear, sporting berets instead of the usual riot helmets.

(BePo, Leipzig, Sept. 18, 2021)

The speeches in support of Lina and her co-defendants were being given from a flatbed lorry converted into a mobile stage with speakers, which was at the head of the march. Separating the less radical crowd from the black bloc was a thin layer of people waving banners from the left-wing political party in Turkey known for championing minority rights, the HDP, and a few people waving flags of the Syrian-Kurdish militia, the People’s Defense Units, or YPG.

The black bloc itself was covered by a roof of black umbrellas with lit flares of various hues burning along down its lines. Those in the front of the black bloc carried banners that read, “Hammerbande: Erfolgreich—Offensiv—Militant” (Hammer Gang: Successful—Offensive—Militant), followed by another banner targeting the head of the Police Terrorism and Extremism Defense Center (PTAZ) in Saxony: “Dirk Münster: Bald ist er aus dein Traum, dann liegst du im Kofferraum” (Soon your dream will end, then you will be lying in a [automobile] trunk). The banner was a grisly reference to the kidnapping of former member of the Waffen SS and West German industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer by the 1970s Marxist-Leninist terrorist outfit, the RAF (Schleyer was later found shot dead in the trunk of an Audi 100 mid-sized sedan, after the RAF crew learned of the deaths of their own members in prison.)

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At the head of the march were a group of people carrying a banner that read: “Wir sind alle LinX—Wir sind alle Antifaschist: innen” (We are all left-wing extremists—We are all antifascists: note the sarcasm in the use of “extremists”). Behind that, two people carried a banner that read, “If I had a hammer… Faschismus bekӓmpfen” (fight fascism)—a nod to the weapons that Lina E. and her crew are alleged to have used in one of their most noteworthy attacks against members of the far-right scene in Germany.

After proceeding from Johannisplatz, the march stopped in front of the Leipzig Police headquarters, where more speeches were given from the lorry. Flares were lit and multiple (illegal) pyrotechnics were set off. The police station itself came under a brief assault from various projectiles such as stones and bottles thrown by the black bloc, followed by red paint thrown by hard-left demonstrators.

The march got moving again around 14:30, led by the slow-rolling lorry. Antifascist slogans were chanted. The black bloc hurled rocks through the window of an old bank building as the march proceeded down a narrow street. A little later, the glass door and front façade of a Deutsche Bank branch location were smashed in with bricks.

Around 17:30 the march arrived at its final destination of Connewitz Cross. More moderate participants began to disperse, while hundreds of members of the black bloc constructed barricades and lit small fires. A group of militants started rapidly prying up the cube-shaped cobblestones that pave the old square and tossing them into a pile for ammunition against the police. The crowd thinned until only the hardline radicals remained, as the weather turned to rain and police had so far shown minimal engagement with the march.

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Various BePo units in full riot gear began to emerge from peripheral streets and immediately came under attack from a hail of stones, bottles and fireworks. The police absorbed a bit of the barrage, before rushing in from multiple angles, firing crowd control rounds into the square. They were supported by the large water-cannon trucks known as “Wasserwerfer 9000,” which doused members of the black bloc and turned their cannons on the small fires and burning barricades. A police helicopter flew overhead. Some violent arrests were made during the spontaneous BePo rushes against the bloc, and in one such rush, well-known photojournalist Connall Kearney was flung by police against a car and onto the ground, injuring his knee and ruining his camera. Police used an armored vehicle to plow through the largest barricade in the square. With that, the “Wir sind alle LinX” soli-demo concluded.


Who is Lina E.?

Since her arrest in November 2020, Germany has been captivated by the image of a tall woman in her mid-20s with a blurred face stepping out of a police van. With no former criminal record, the graduate student from Kassel, known as “Lina E.” is charged with forming and “commanding” a criminal organization, assaults resulting in “dangerous bodily harm” to others, “a serious breach of the peace,” robbery, damage to property, and forgery.

Simply put, Lina is accused of forming a militant autonomist cell, who spied on and violently ambushed members of Germany’s far-right scene, leading to the serious injury of 13 persons over multiple occasions. The fact that her group targeted perceived or substantiated members of the far-right, along with increased attention from law enforcement upon extra-parliamentary left-wing political movements have naturally created tremendous support for Lina and her codefendants among the left in general.  

On the first of the alleged incidents in October 2018, Cedric S. was attacked by a small group of masked persons wielding melee weapons while on his way to soccer practice. (Cedric S. was known to have participated in the January 2016 riot in Connewitz involving over 200 members of the far-right scene in Germany.) In January of 2019, 31-year-old public sewer worker Tobias N. was spontaneously punched in the face by a member of a group passing by his worksite, toppling him to the ground, where he was set upon by the rest of the group with punches and kicks. A female suspected of being Lina E. kept witnesses at bay by spraying a chemical agent of some kind. Tobias was apparently attacked because of his Greifvögel (Raptor/Bird of Prey) hat—a brand that is popular with the far-right scene in Germany, and whose apparel features such slogans as “Might is Right,” etc. Investigators believe Johann G., Lina’s romantic partner, then joined the group after he was released from prison in September of that year. Johann had been serving time for his alleged involvement in a street battle between the far-left and right in 2018.

In October 2019, 10-15 masked individuals entered a right-wing-affiliated bar in Eisenach and began assaulting the few patrons as well as the bar owner, Leon R., with collapsible batons and pepper spray, causing “serious injury,” as well as damage to property and inventory. Lina and Johann are suspected of leading the group. A set of Leipzig license plates went missing in November 2019, which later turned up on the vehicle Lina is suspected of using in her alleged attacks. One month later, Lina was caught by a security guard stealing a pair of hammers from a hardware store in Leipzig, but she shoved him and managed to get away, though apparently not without being identified. On the subsequent evening of December 14, Leon R. of the right-wing bar previously targeted was ambushed outside of his apartment by a group of masked people wielding hammers. The group of assailants suddenly took note of Leon’s nearby friends, whom they assaulted as the victims began fleeing in a car, which the attackers sprayed chemical agents into the cab of and damaged as it drove away. The police later caught up to the assailants in a VW Golf and Skoda Octavia in nearby Eisenach after they fled the scene. Lina was a passenger in one of the vehicles.

Two months later in February 2020, 15-20 masked assailants ambushed six members of Germany’s far-right scene following their return from a funeral march in Dresden. The six were assaulted with beer bottles, collapsible batons and pepper spray. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is further investigating Lina’s alleged preparation of a similar attack on a far-right martial artist on his way to and from the gym where he trains.

In July 2020, Lina was “provisionally arrested” and released. An arrest warrant was issued for Johann G., and he went underground, his whereabouts still unknown to authorities. On the 5th of November, raids are conducted in multiple locations, leading to Lina’s arrest. She was flown by helicopter to a federal prison for women in Chemnitz—ironically the same facility where infamous female member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), Beate Zschӓpe, is incarcerated.

Lina sharing a facility with Zschӓpe is not the only time she has found herself physically adjacent to the hard-right—in fact, her history of encounters and geographical intersections with the hard-right in Germany seem to go much further in explaining how she became “radicalized” than do Bonnie and Clyde-type explanations that she was pulled into left-wing militancy by Johann G. In 2006, members of the NSU executed Turkish immigrant Halit Yozgat with two shots to the head as he sat in his internet café in Kassel. Yozgat was the ninth person of either Greek or Turkish descent murdered by the NSU. Lina was 11 at the time.

When Lina was 16, the NSU was dismantled, and Beate Zschӓpe “set fire to the NSU's last hiding place in Zwickau and turned herself in to the police.” After graduating high school, Lina moved from Kassel to the Connewitz borough of Leipzig and studied education at Martin Luther University just outside of the city in nearby Halle-Wittenberg. Upon completing her coursework in 2018, Lina submitted her undergraduate thesis, "On dealing with neo-Nazism in youth work - the NSU in the Winzerla youth club," suggesting she had multiple encounters with youth on the far-right fringe during her time as a volunteer in Kassel.

(Lina E.)

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In 2019, after Lina had graduated and while still residing in Connewitz, right-wing extremist Stephen Ernst approached member of the ruling Christian Democratic Union party in Germany and District President of Kassel, Walter Lübcke, and shot him in the head with an illegal Rossi .38 Special revolver. Lübcke died there on the front steps of his home. Later that same year, a hard-right terrorist shot and killed a passerby as he attempted to attack a synagogue with explosives and homemade firearms in the town of Halle, where Lina studied as an undergraduate. Though his attack on the Synagogue ultimately failed, he went on to kill a Turkish man while working at a Kebab shop in addition to the passerby, then shot it out with police before being captured. He live-streamed the attack.

(2019 shootout in Halle)

Lina’s lived experience with hard-right violence is likely to go much further in explaining how she went from being a promising young academic to allegedly forming a militant cell of autonomists than is the idea that she was somehow radicalized by Johann G., despite his known connections with the militant left-wing scene. The indication here is that Germans at extreme opposite ends of the political spectrum are now coming into violent contact with one another, in this case via coordinated clandestine attacks of lethal potential.

Conclusion

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On the night of September 16th, fellow members of a separate network or cell of autonomists[1] dumped a few liters of gasoline and threw an incendiary device into the offices of an engineering firm in East Dresden. A luxury automobile was also torched in the parking lot of a nearby office complex. The group’s claim for the attack cites existing prison construction contracts as motivation for targeting the firm, and concludes:

We thank the comrades who beat up fascists!

We send the crackle of our flames to Lina! […]

Freedom for all prisoners!

For anarchy!

-Some autonomists.  

(From the September 16 attacks in East Dresden)

Lina and her co-defendants’ trial is just one of several focal points which collectively are at the center of a greater conflict between the left and right in Germany, and more specifically between the extra-parliamentary left and the German state. In 2019, German BePo in riot gear violently evicted peaceful treetop occupation of the Hambach Forest by environmentalists, over plans to clear the area for strip mining. Similar occupations and environmental battles are ongoing. The evictions of well-known anarchist squats in Berlin throughout 2020-2021 have also led to some very visible battles between left-wing street militants and the police. One of these squats, Rigaer 94, was again raided by riot police this week, leading to multiple arrests.

The militant left-wing underground has been active prior to the case of Lina E. and will continue to be as politics in Germany only become increasingly divisive. On the backside of a recent election, it does not look like this divisiveness will soon abate. There are plenty of grievances held by Germans related to our current era and the interconnectivity of globalization, the stagnation of wages, the effects of global warming and the rapidly changing demographics in many western countries. When these grievances are acted upon through acts of overt or clandestine violence, they tend to be similar to September 18th’s clashes or the attack targeting the engineering office. What the case of Lina and the acts she is accused of seem to indicate, however, is that the growing conflict between the left and the right in Germany is becoming more directly confrontational, and moving out onto the streets.

(A very special thanks to my friend in Berlin who helped me a great deal with researching this article.)


[1] Autonomism is a bottom-up theory within the Marxist neighborhood, which unlike most Marxists emphasizes organization at the worker-level vs. the top-down primacy of political parties. Autonomists are perhaps better thought of as part of the libertarian-Left, and share many ideological similarities with left-wing anarchists. From libcom.org: “The building of a new mode of production which is based on the self-activity of all people cannot be delegated to anybody – not even a working class party. It is only through the mass organs of working class life that a new society can be built.”