Legacy BLN - #PaintBack

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A group of street artists in Berlin are on a mission to rid their city of hate symbols by transforming neo-Nazi graffiti into cheerful motifs.

With a report of an increase in far-right behavior in Germany and the spread of anti-migrant doctrine, #PaintBack are fighting back.

"Graffiti's got nothing to do with racism - it's about bright colours and diverse backgrounds." said the #Paintback's founder Ibo Omari.

Mr Omari, 37, owns a paint shop, and runs the organisation "The Cultural Heirs", uniting together young people from both German and immigrant backgrounds through activities such as skateboarding and DJing .

 

The task of transforming the symbols began when a local citizen set foot in Mr Omari's shop looking for paint to cover a swastika in a playground.

The Nazi symbol appeared in a neighborhood the west of Berlin, home to middle-class Germans, Arab and Turkish families and is a centre of gay culture in Berlin since the 1920's.

"We were pretty shocked that someone had done that, especially here in Schöneberg," he said.

Mr Omari, whose parents fled Lebanon said: "It's a culture that shaped us in a positive way and gives young people a chance to express themselves creatively so they don't end up on the street". 

"I like it because I think swastikas don't belong in Berlin - it's a city open to the world and I want to defend that." 17 year-old Klemens Reichelt, a member of "The Cultural Heirs" said. 

The appearance of the swastika symbol has risen around Germany, apparently fueled by opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel opening the borders in 2015, bringing an influx of more than one million asylum seekers. The domestic intelligence agency reported this month of a seven-percent rise in politically motivated crimes in 2016, with one-third classified as "propaganda offences".

In Germany it is against the law to display Nazi-era symbols, with neighbours now reporting the swastikas they find to the club who then gain permission to transform the symbols, Egyptians, owls and rabbits just a few of the groups creations so far.

Images with the hashtag #PaintBack are being swapped on social media, with a video of the group viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube.

 

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