Generally speaking, in Germany, if you want to get yourself arrested, you have to be fairly determined or terminally stupid. Where possible, the police prefer the non-confrontational approach; so how, you might well ask, can you get yourself arrested for not getting up from your seat? By being really, incredibly dumb, that’s how.
The story begins on one of Germany’s high-speed trains, an ICE (Intercity Express for the uninitiated). A passenger, who has just boarded the train, has finally found his reserved seat and is slightly dismayed to find a young man already sitting there. I personally hate it when that happens, because it means I have to speak to a stranger, which, for an Englishman, is up there with “being waterboarded” on the list of things I would rather not have to do. But since our unfortunate passenger is German, he doesn’t hesitate to politely ask the young man to move.
He stays put.
Nobody likes to have to move, but there it is: if you didn’t pay to reserve that seat, you’re supposed to give it up to whoever did. That’s sort of the point, really. So there began what our newspaper referred to as “a discussion”.
And then the young man decided that the only way to be allowed to stay in his seat (which wasn’t his seat) would be to commit a crime, so he operated the emergency brake. Yes, in Germany, it’s a crime. The fines can be massive, not to mention the court costs; and if the sudden halt caused any injuries, you can be looking at a bill with a six-figure sum on it.
You have to wonder which planet this guy’s brain was orbiting at the time. The guards came to discover that the “emergency” was a squabble over a seat reservation. Any other passengers whose sympathies may have been with the young man were unlikely, at this point, to be as well-disposed towards him. Unsurprisingly, the guards informed him that when the train arrived at the next stop (fifteen minutes late now, because... well, y’know, emergency brake and everything), the young man would have to leave the train.
For some reason, and don’t try this at home, he thought to himself, “How can I possibly make this even worse for myself?” It was a stroke of genius (of a kind) what he came up with: not only did he still refuse to leave, meaning the police would have to be called to physically haul him off the train, but he casually explained that he had a knife and wasn’t afraid to use it, meaning that the police, when they came, came in force.
I don’t know the details of his arrest, but I can guarantee it was a spectacle of the sort you so rarely get in this country. Accusations of police brutality do surface from time to time, but what was this guy thinking? Did he think everyone would back down? Did he suppose he would be let off with a warning? Perhaps a free ticket and an apology for the inconvenience?
At any rate, the police — however many of them there were — manhandled him off the train using whatever technique they had of dealing with potentially armed idiots to prevent them from sticking their knife into anything, and of course found, perhaps predictably, that he didn’t have any kind of weapon on him.
I think the only way anyone would be able to top this would be to board a plane, smile apologetically at the cabin crew and say, “I’m a bit nervous — this is my first suicide bombing mission.”