The phenomenon of “traffic light bashing” seems to have also arrived in the Ludwigsburg district. More and more local associations are reporting destroyed election posters. In addition to the AfD, the SPD and the Greens are also noticeably affected.

In Beilstein, a whole day’s worth of election worker work was completely destroyed in one night; in other places, SPD election workers are also talking about targeted attacks on their posters. The Greens in the district are also angry, their posters are being systematically daubed and destroyed. It cannot be conclusively determined whether the two parties that belong to the “traffic light” government in Berlin are actually affected most often. The reports are still interesting: according to the State Center for Civic Education, they say something about our society.

But let’s start from the beginning: In mid-May, the Beilstein SPD reported on Facebook about the destruction of all election posters that the local group had put up on one day at the end of April. “Some of them were left destroyed, some of them are completely missing,” it says. The frustration in Beilstein is great. The members sacrificed their free time to help in the election campaign, and some even put money into the posters. “We are welcome to argue civilly about political content, but the rules of our democracy will not be violated,” says the Beilstein SPD.

There are local differences, in some places little is happening, other communities seem to be more affected, says Ludwigsburg SPD local councilor Nathanael Maier. There are also reports from Vaihingen of destroyed SPD posters, many of which were daubed with AfD lettering. There is also racist graffiti in Ludwigsburg. The image of a candidate with a migrant background was deliberately smeared, while all other candidates were spared.

There is also a lot of anger in Hemmingen. Shortly after SPD members put up posters, many of them were torn down or removed from their fastenings, says parliamentary group leader Wolfgang Stehmer. One poster in the town center has even been torn down three times.

Stehmer is convinced that the acts are specifically directed against the SPD. – Tayfun Tok, member of the state parliament for the Greens and candidate for the local council in Murr, sees it similarly. “I notice that the posters of the parties on the left of the center, especially the Greens and the SPD, are smeared and destroyed – there is a system behind it.” He doesn’t know for sure whether the attacks come from the far right, says Tok. “But the posters are defaced one day, and an AfD sticker is stuck on them the next. You really just have to put two and two together.”

Is this just my imagination or are the SPD and Greens the main target of destruction? “We have no acute knowledge that a party is particularly affected,” says Thomas Franke, head of the Ludwigsburg branch of the State Center for Civic Education (lpb). Posters are constantly being destroyed, which is unfortunately now normal. This often affects parties on the left spectrum – but also the AfD, for example.

Thomas Franke would not be surprised that the SPD and the Greens in the district could be particularly affected. “We have great dissatisfaction in society, with a high level of emotionalization, fueled by social media.” The target of this outrage is currently the traffic light government in Berlin in particular.

The phenomenon even has a name: “Traffic light bashing” describes the constant criticism and, above all, the degradation of the federal government. Bashing can be seen, among other things, in harsh political discourse, in certain media, but also in society. For example, in social networks or at demonstrations, where symbolic traffic lights are repeatedly hanging on the gallows. Current numbers of attacks on party representatives support the “traffic light bashing” thesis, at least in part. A query by the AfD in the Bundestag revealed that there were 2,790 attacks nationwide in 2023, 1,219 of them against Green representatives, the AfD was hit 478 times and the SPD 420 times. The FDP, CDU and the Left follow at some distance.

There have not yet been any attacks in the Ludwigsburg district, says Sarah Geißbauer, the district spokeswoman for the Green Party. The election workers sometimes have to have heated discussions, but that’s part of it. Otherwise, things are relatively quiet at the polling stations, says Geißbauer as well as the SPD local chairman Nathanael Maier. Those responsible for the SPD and the Greens appear calm overall – because the political dispute in the Ludwigsburg district is in the “civilized area,” summarizes Tayfun Tok.

Criminal offense Election posters belong to the parties that put them up. Anyone who damages or destroys them is committing criminal damage to property. It doesn’t matter whether the posters are taken down, torn or smeared. What matters is that the poster is no longer the same as before. It is more problematic to take a poster with you – that is not damage to property, but theft.

Penalties Damage to election posters is difficult for the police to track; perpetrators are often only punished if they are caught in the act. Although this rarely occurs, prison sentences are generally possible. There is up to two years for property damage and up to five years for theft. Anyone who puts an unconstitutional sign on election posters, such as a swastika, faces a prison sentence of up to three years.

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The original for this article “SPD man about the wave of destroyed election posters: “There is a system behind it”” comes from STUTTGARTER ZEITUNG.