March of Science in Bonn

A signal against Fake News

„Steht auf für die Wissenschaft“, forderten Demonstranten im Februar in Boston.

Demonstrators in Boston in February with their signs in support of science.

Bonn. On Saturday, there will be a worldwide “March for Science” with people demonstrating against an anti-scientific worldview at the Hofgarten at the University of Bonn.

In October of 1983, hundreds of thousands of people protested for peace and disarmament and against the NATO Double-Track Decision at the Hofgarten of the University of Bonn.  This coming Saturday, another kind of signal will be sent out from the same location. “March for Science” at the Bonn Hofgarten is a demonstration for scientific-based knowledge as a basis for society and democracy.  It’s not only a local phenomenon, people all around the world will be taking to the streets, in the U.S. and Europe, in Brazil, China and Nigeria.  The demonstrations correspond with  “Earth Day.”  

Support for fact-based knowledge

“We want to stand for something,” emphasizes Andrea Bauer, who has organized the event with a team of seven like-minded people.  For the 34-year-old, it’s about science, freedom in research, fact-based knowledge and independent information.  “This is an important asset in a democratic society,” she said.  But in the times of Fake News, where the tone in social debate has changed, she sees this asset in danger.  Organizers emphasize that the demonstration is non-partisan and not institutional.  Bauer is chair of the Bonn Green Party but is involved in this event as a private person.

As Bauer describes it, the idea of a rally for science and research came at the end of last year in the U.S. in response to the “de-democratization” of public discourse by the new U.S. president Donald Trump.  He initiated a departure from the climate protection policy of his predecessor, Barack Obama, by decree.  On Twitter,  he wrote "The concept of global warming has been created by and for the Chinese to make American production uncompetitive.”  In mid-February, hundreds of researchers in Boston demonstrated, holding signs in support of science.  

Rallies to reach the wider public

On Saturday, the protests are intended to reach the greater public and as the website of the German organizers put it, acknowledge that scientific facts as a basis for social discourse is not negotiable.  Around 21 cities or regions from Berlin to Munich, and Hamburg to Helgoland will participate.

Science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar also promotes an open and critical dialogue and supports the action. He told the Berliner Zeitung (Berlin Newspaper) that in social networks, such as the channels of the right-wing populist party AfD, one could observe the constructing of “eigener Wahrheiten” (one’s own truths). "Many of these platforms avoid the real controversy, the civilized exchange. What they offer is a reflection of the users and the echo of their thoughts,” says Yogeshwar, which can lead to a distorted reality and fake news.  

The demonstration in Bonn is the largest in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and co-organizer Bauer says the initiative is supported by all the universities, and there is also support from scientific institutions.  On Saturday, April 22, the rally will take place at the area outside the University of Bonn in the city center from 12 until 3 pm.   Orig. Text: Daniela Greulich