Why cooperate?

A statement on the refusal to identify oneself

Source: https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/143470, german
In most writings on demonstrations and blockades and in many groups (eg Rote Hilfe) it is considered obvious that we identify ourselves when members of police or army want us to do so. It seems impossible to do otherwise. Some reasons why some people continue to resist to it anyway, are explained in the following text, with some tips and tricks. You also learn more about the legal situation in Germany. This text is based on individual experiences. Many others may have different experiences, feelings or opinions. This is a section of a subject which for now is not very common.

What is going to happen?
Normally, a person who resists to identify oneself is taken to the police station and put first in a cell. Often, prisoners are stripped. Most often several cops harass you with words, sometimes with a trained tactic, sometimes rather primitive and / or offensive. You can be sure to hear phrases like “Your friends have all identified and are already relaxed,” “We’ll keep you here until we have got your name!” And “You will be brought to a judge.” In most cases it is a totally absurd bullshit and lies. That’s what they say to everyone who is there with you!

Depending on the German Land, they can hold you up to 12-48 hours, but this rarely happens. Generally, you will not be out later than after 8 hours.
After a while, the prisoner is normally treated by the ED (Erkennungsdienst, identification department). This means that fingerprints, photographs, weight and special characteristics are taken or that’s at least what they will try.
There are two ways to take fingerprints: scanner and ink. There is also an ED express, which means that two fingers are pressed on a scanner in order to see if the fingerprints are stored in the police system.
Maybe you will be questioned before or you have to sign something (which anyway is not a good idea if you refuse to cooperate).
Eventually they will let you out. Because they can no longer hold you, but mostly because they need space in the cells, or they do realize that it is useless.

Check, if you have got back all that was taken from you, even if you are impatient to get out.
And mostly you can be very sure, that outside there will be people waiting for you and want to take you in their arms.

Some reasons for a refusal

  1. Avoid legal proceedings: If your identity is not ascertainable, a refusal can have no legal consequences. Even if the identity is determined afterwards, normally most situations in which was refused, are not traced back.
  2. Solidarity: Many people have an open warrant or don’t have documents. If their identity is determined, they have to face expulsion and / or imprisonment.
    For the police, it is much more difficult to identify people if they must deal with 20 instead of 2 prisoners.
    Hence your refusal may avoid prison, deportation or other repressions for others, even if your fingerprints and other personal data are already in police databases and are associated with each other.
  3. Psychological support of other activistis: For many people, it is easier to refuse to identify together with a group and to be with others in the Gesa (Gefangenen-Sammelstelle, facility to collect and identify prisoners) than alone. Even when you are separated by walls, you can scream or bang on the door and thus give each other energy on the way to a treatment…

Resistance and survival aids in police custody

When you are at the cops, there are many ways to resist and to occupy yourself to pass the time. Although this has nothing to do directly with the refusal to identify, it can help, but in general, everything is possible, nothing is forced…

Some suggestions for what you can do:

  • A bare cell makes creative … seal or scratch the peephole, decorate walls and doors with filth or pointed objects, practice acrobatics, chuck your mattress on the floor, scream, sing, drum, howl like wolves or just sleep.
  • Do not go voluntarily with them, but let them trail or carry you away.
  • During the ED treating, move your hands and smudge the fingerprints, crumple the paper.
  • Make faces on photographs and close your eyes, always turn your face in the wrong direction or look down. If you have to sit on a swivel chair for the pictures, you can play spinning top.
  • Wipe the ink finger on a cop shirt (but that could be damage to property) or splash all and everything with water while washing hands…
  • Build a palace of beautiful thoughts. Most likely there are people outside who are with their hearts with you and are waiting for you. It helps to keep that always in mind.

Anyway, there are many ways and often it is the simple circumvention of the law, sometimes without the cops noticing it, which helps one of the concerned, or playing and improvising permanently with situations. Everything was already there, like eating files and even finding grass in the cop’s car and taking it out clandestinely.

What is the legal situation?

Depending on the German Land you can be kept in custody between 12 and 48 hours, until they have to bring you before an investigating judge, in order to keep you still imprisoned. It is a threat that is pronounced almost every time, but in fact it’s done in very rare cases and certainly not for small things like sit-ins, road checks, etc. The refusal to identify yourself is an offence and only this is not enough for a remand, although cops love to tell so. Rarely, there is a fine (which comes to about 70 euros, assuming that your identity is ascertained.
The right to call a lawyer at any time applies anyway, but as usual, it is rarely granted.
If some personal things are not returned afterwards, it is usually very difficult to recover them without identification. In any case, it makes sense to insist on an seizure protocol.

Some cops tell a lot which is not true at all and break promises, sometimes successfully. It can help to prepare yourself for doubts about your own actions. These come to most of the arrested, because at this moment you are delivered to the decisions of the cops. In the long term, it can be very frustrating if you indicate your name, but you are then treated by the ED (which usually happens if you refused already, even though the opposite was promised!) and you wish to refuse in future.

Example Hambach Forest

In the police station in Düren are often people from the occupation of the forest environment in Hambach, most usually refuse to identify themselves and are ready to accept a few hours in a cell.
Since a while, both the length of detention has decreased (from an average of about 8 to about 3 hours) and the number of treatments in the ED.
This may also be due to other things, like a new media strategy as “We are the good ones and the occupants are the bad”. In any case, the many hours and all the resistance in the face of insults, pain and psychological terror seem to have had an effect.


It is useful to think carefully in advance about whether you want to refuse, because once you did so, it’s best to always refuse. Otherwise, if you do not refuse once, your name may be inserted later in their already existing ED dates on you (fingerprints, photos, etc.) and it is unlikely that in the future a refusal and an ED treatment without identification will be possible.

It is important to constantly pay attention to yourself and to the other prisoners! If someone of you makes troubles and that’s a problem for any other detainee, that could hurt the own people. It can spare you and the others a lot of stress, if you dispute such things with the other comrades before, if possible, or if you just ask if a certain behaviour is OK for the others. This applies not only to situations in which identities are refused.

If you go to the end of your forces, nobody really will be helped. Sometimes it is easier to weigh before how much you want to resist and when you “join in”. The risk of a bad treatment is there, even if don’t resist, however, the likelihood for it is higher the more you irritate

Often brutal violence is a sign of the absolute bafflement of the cops.

Prepare yourself mentally before, that you depending from your resistance, you may be exposed to physical pain, psycho-babble and (self-)doubts.

Many cops take it personally and can’t cope if the prisoner “won”.

If the cops in certain place should know you already, you should consider whether it makes sense to refuse, if they don’t yet have your fingerprints, because then they can link ED and identity with each others. Then you possibly can’t spare a process at other places by refusing

Even if you do not want to refuse, it is very nice to be in solidarity with those who do, if you would wait in front of the station with food, drinks and music and receive the comrades and be there for these people with crappy experiences etc. . For a resistance in which people take care for each others, this is also very important! It may feel quite difficult to get out of a station and be completely alone, specially after a joint action or protest.


…courage! This probably sounds rather intense. The behaviour of the State and the police are violent, stressful and wearing down, sometimes traumatic.
To me this is a reason to fight and disturb as much as possible.

From an extreme situation, you also can get incredibly much power and often there are several things you’ll never forget, that continue to burn still a long after: a little successful trick, a smile and a strong slogan in the corridor, a slogan trough the door of your cell, a hug when you come out again…

In any case, refusing can be a really effective action.
If one day you are checked again, you may think: why should I always cooperate?
Discuss before an action or a demonstration or in your action group / peer group, if you want to refuse and spare the others a irritating trial, imprisonment or deportation.

If you have any questions, just visit the Hambach Forest occupation near Cologne or in the internet hambachforest.blogsport.de, or ask in your environment.

Leave a Reply