Berlin’s Victory Column

JERUSALEM – Citing “security concerns,” Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign reportedly has banned signs and posters from a scheduled outdoor Berlin speech the German media is reporting may draw a crowd of 1 million.

The move effectively bans protesters from brandishing anti-Obama material at the speech, which is expected to garner widespread international media attention.

“Barack Obama forbids protest posters,” reads a headline in the German daily Bild.

The article states: “Obama’s organization is leaving nothing to chance. As of Monday, flyers are being passed out near [the site of Obama’s speech] that read ‘Posters & banners not allowed.’ For security reasons visitors should not take purses or backpacks.”

Berliner Morgenpost, another German newspaper, reports the move to ban posters came from Obama’s “supervisors,” even though German security forces are tasked with providing the presidential candidate’s security.

Obama’s official campaign website announces the Berlin speech and also calls on signs to be banned:

“For security reasons, do not bring bags. Please limit personal belongings. No signs or banners permitted,” reads Obama’s website.

The Real Barack Obama blog, which translated the German news articles, implied the Obama campaign’s banning of signs was not related to security threats but may be a move to stem counter protests.

“Looks like the Germans figured out why Obama won’t allow anyone to bring anything into his big show,” stated the blog.

Obama’s campaign did not immediately return a phone call requesting comment.

Obama is due in Germany Thursday, where he will meet with the country’s leadership and deliver a speech in front of Tiergarten Park’s Victory Column, a 19th century structure in Berlin capped by a gilded angel.

The Illinois senator wanted to speak at Brandenburg Gate, which symbolizes the division of Germany during the Cold War and its reunification, but after his announced intentions generated controversy, the campaign changed locations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed reservations about Obama speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, and some U.S. politicians called it “presumptuous.” The gate is the site where President Ronald Reagan in 1987 called on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

But Obama’s second choice of the Victory Column was not with out criticism. Some German commentators pointed out the 226-foot column honors Prussian triumphs over Denmark, Austria and France.

While in Germany, Obama reportedly will be given the second highest security status by German officials, the highest granted only to the heads of state of the U.S., Israel and Russia.

Obama’s visit to Germany is part of a wider Middle Eastern and European whirlwind tour that includes Jordan, France and Israel. The presidential candidate, currently in Iraq, visited Afghanistan yesterday.

 


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