proclamation in english language

May 1st 2009: 10th anniversary of the death of Marcus Omofuma

Ten years ago, on May 1, 1999 Marcus Omofuma was killed during a deportation flight from Vienna to Sofia. Three officers of the Austrian alien-police had used adhesive tape to tie him to the seat of the plane and also to seal his mouth. As a consequence Marcus Omofuma suffocated during the flight.

Born in 1973 in Nigeria, he became a member of the Ogboni, a fraternity which is illegal in Nigeria due to it’s extremely violent intimidation-practices sometimes to the point of killing its own members. According to Omofuma, he fled Nigeria because his name was on such a death-list. However, since this wasn’t accepted as a reason for receiving asylum in Austria, the authorities decided to deport him to Bulgaria.

The death of Marcus Omofuma provoked a large protest movement among Vienna’s African community, but also the launch of a massive political campaign in order to discredit Omofuma and Black people in Austria in general. The extremely racist news-coverage was mainly driven by the country’s largest newspaper, the right-wing tabloid “Kronen Zeitung” and fuelled by the “Freedom Party” (FPÖ) lead by Jörg Haider.

On May 27, 1999 the Austrian Interior Ministry – which was already under severe public pressure – stroke back. Under the pretences of a crackdown on drug-trafficking, some 100 Africans were arrested in the country’s largest police-action since 1945. Under the name “Operation Spring” 850 police searched refugee-accommodations and flats all over the country. In a trial with numerous inconsistencies and obvious manipulations, 100 black men – many of them being active in the protest movement – were sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. The documentary film “Operation Spring” shows how sentences were passed on the bases of anonymous witnesses, incomprehensible sound-recordings and manipulated evidences.

The case of Marcus Omofuma is of course only one in a series of incidents:

- In the night between May 19 and 20, 2000 a policeman “accidentally” shoots dead Imre Bartos, who was just sitting in his car.
- In the night between July 14 and 15, 2003 Seibane Wague dies in Vienna after a joint operation by police-forces and an ambulance.
- On October 4, 2005 the 18-year-old Yankuba Ceesay from Gambia dies in a detention-centre in Linz after his cell had been heated to 45 degrees Celsius. Four months after his death a court states that the detention itself was unlawful.
- After a failed attempt to deport Bakary J. on April 7, 2006 four police officers drive him to an empty storage facility which is being used as a training facility by special units. The policemen severely beat up Bakary J. and threaten to kill him.
- On October 22, 2008 policemen maltreat a Romany from Slovakia.
- On February 11, 2009 two men beat up the African-American teacher Mike B. in an underground-station in Vienna. It turns out that the two men are policemen mistaking B. for a drug-dealer as they put it. Mike B. has to spend a few days in hospital. Only two months earlier, an anonymous open letter described a similar incident.

In all of these cases the perpetrators came away with no or with very light sentences; some of the involved policemen are still in service.

On May 1, 2009 a large manifestation will be taking place in Vienna in order to commemorate the death of Marcus Omofuma and of the numerous nameless victims of racism in Austria and the European Union.