You may remember Pia Klemp, the German captain of a refugee rescue ship and animal and human rights activist and author. Between 2016 and 2018 she commanded two rescue boats in the Mediterranean Sea, rescuing up to 14,000 souls. Klemp herself was responsible for the rescue of around 1,000. Then in 2017 her ship the Iuventa was seized by Italian authorities and she was charged with ‘assisting illegal immigration’. She is currently awaiting trial and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Klemp accurately charged the Italian government in return with ‘criminalising solidarity’.
Now Klemp, from Bonn, has turned down the Grand Vermeil medal granted to her and a colleague, Carola Rackete, by Paris City Hall for their humanitarian work.
And she turned it down in the most searing, vital way possible:
Pia Klemp, the German ship captain who rescued migrants in the Mediterranean, as she refuses a medal from the mayor of Paris. pic.twitter.com/8vWXn28NaQ— Jodi (@jodotcom) August 22, 2019
In the full Facebook post Klemp wrote:
Paris, I love you. I love you for all the free and solidarian people that live in you. Fighting for their freedom everyday, standing shoulder to shoulder, distributing blankets, friendship and solidarity. I love you for those who are sharing their homes, love and struggles everyday - regardless of their nationality, regardless if they have papers or not.
Madame Hidalgo, you want to award me a medal for my solidarian action in the Mediterranean Sea, because our crews ‘work to rescue migrants from difficult conditions on a daily basis’. At the same time your police is stealing blankets from people that you force to live on the streets, while you raid protests and criminalize people that are standing up for rights of migrants and asylum seekers. You want to give me a medal for actions that you fight in your own ramparts. I am sure you won’t be surprised that I decline the medaille Grand Vermeil.
Paris, I’m not a humanitarian. I am not there to ‘aid’. I stand with you in solidarity. We do not need medals. We do not need authorities deciding about who is a ‘hero’ and who is ‘illegal’. In fact they are in no position to make this call, because we are all equal.
What we need are freedom and rights. It is time we call out hypocrite honorings and fill the void with social justice. It is time we cast all medals into spearheads of revolution!
Documents and housing for all!
Freedom of movement and residence!
I am speechless. I am sure Klemp would balk at this kind of individual hero worship, but this, ladies and gentlemen, is a fu**ing hero.
A reminder that as of last year over 30,000 deaths have been recorded of refugees trying to reach Europe. Often they are fleeing wars and violence either directly perpetrated or materially supported by European governments. Those that do make it are often treated worse than animals, rounded up and caged or dispersed by tear gas, and scapegoated for every ill imaginable, and then are asked to be grateful. In her Facebook post Klemp cut straight to the hypocritical heart of Western governments’ ‘altruism’. We need more people like her.
Solidarity, not charity. Justice, not aid. Always.
Now excuse me while I go get ‘It is time we cast all medals into spearheads of revolution!’ tattooed on my back.