A US professor is facing defamation charges in Germany for allegedly calling federal police officers "Nazis" during an altercation at Frankfurt Airport earlier in January.
German authorities say that C. Christine Fair, 49, "reacted angrily" when she was told to remove a roll-on deodorant from her carry-on bag during a security screening at Frankfurt Airport on Jan. 11. "She began to insult the Federal Police officers, by calling them, among other names, 'fucking bastards' and 'fucking German Nazi police,' as witnesses can confirm," the German Federal Police agency said in a press release.
Fair, an associate professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, called the charges against her "preposterous" and her experience at the Frankfurt Airport "other-level disturbing," in an interview with BuzzFeed News Friday.
"I own what I do, I have no problem with confrontation," Fair said. "I didn't do what they accused me of doing."
Last year, Fair made headlines by confronting white nationalist Richard Spencer at a gym in northern Virginia and getting his membership revoked.
In the airport incident, Fair said that after a heated argument over the stick of deodorant, she wondered aloud to herself about the fact that the police "impounded her deodorant" but didn't care about the "Nazi-looking dude" with "a Hitler Youth haircut" who had been behind her in the security screening line.
A baggage handler overheard her, she said, and called the police back over to the screening area and told them she had called them Nazis.
Fair was taken into custody and brought to a police office, where, according to the German Federal Police press release, "local State Police started a preliminary investigation on suspicion of defamation." She had to pay $260 for "anticipated costs of the legal proceedings" before she was able to continue her trip to Istanbul, Turkey.
Germany has strict defamation and anti-hate crime laws. "What is illegal is what German law refers to as 'hurting someone's honor' — in this sense, meaning somebody's worth or hurting someone's reputation through verbal abuse. Violating this principle constitutes slander," according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
The day after this happened, Fair wrote a 4,000+ word essay on HuffPost detailing her side of the story.
In the post, Fair said her carry-on bag had to be rescreened by hand for possible explosives because she had failed to remove her liquid items before putting her bag on the conveyor belt.
"There were no explosives," she said. "Failing to remove liquids from your bag is not a crime…only an inconvenience for everyone involved. Then they seized upon my deodorant. They told me that I had 'too many liquids.' This was untrue. I had the lawful amount in a plastic bag and each item was the lawful size."
When told by security personnel that she could not bring her stick of deodorant because it counted as a liquid, Fair argued and asked to speak to a manager of the security checkpoint.
Two federal police officers arrived at the checkpoint, Fair said, and she asked "how I can file a customer service complaint about this un-necessarily unpleasant experience and, of course, the preposterous declaration that an obvious solid was a liquid."
In her post, Fair described the next moment:
In the meantime, three American men were behind me. I had watched them come through the same security checkpoint as I did. One of the three seemed younger than the other two. He was wearing a flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up to reveal his tattoos. He was actually sporting a Hitler’s youth haircut. He had no hair on either side of his head and he had a very exuberantly characteristic flop that combed over towards the left. It was surprisingly glistening with hair product and showed no sign of dishevelment despite his journey. I looked like a banshee in contrast.
If this guy had asked for that haircut unknowingly, my heart goes out to him. However, that do, in my view, was deliberately distinct from the hideous Hipster hairdo that Millennial metro-sexual males have regrettably popularized or the military’s high and tight cut, both of which are sometimes mistaken for the coiffure of American white supremacists.
It is illegal in Germany to be a Nazi or act like a Nazi. But Inspector Clouseau and his daft sidekick was too busy impounding my solid deodorant and offering various preposterous explanations for why it was a liquid when it was clearly a god-damned solid to notice the fellow conspicuously sporting the preferred coiffure of the Hitler’s Youth.
Fair said that when she asked the officer in charge, who gave his name as Austav, how to file a complaint, he called her a "hippie," threatened to arrest her for being "an unruly passenger" and took down details from her passport and boarding passes.
According to Fair, "As I put my tampons, cruddy travel panties and long-worn travel bras back into my suitcase, without the deodorant, I muttered to myself while shaking my head, 'the crack German police have seized my deodorant…but they don’t seem to care about that Nazi-looking dude over there!' And, as I was still shaking my head in disbelief, I was actually arrested."
That's when Fair said that the baggage handler who overheard her mutterings called over the police. "I thought at first it was a lost in translation thing," she told BuzzFeed News, but, she claims, "No, he was just lying."
Fair's HuffPost essay and tweets about her experience at the Frankfurt Airport are being collected as evidence in the preliminary defamation investigation, German authorities said.
"The U.S. traveler claims on her Twitter channel and via an Internet blog to have been robbed by the police in Frankfurt. She also continues to insult the Federal Police officers and the security staff as 'bully' and 'thugs in uniform,' among other things. These insults have also become evidence in the preliminary investigations," the press release said.
Fair told BuzzFeed News that she has an appointment with the German consul general next Tuesday in Washington, DC, and plans to get this matter resolved, saying that it could have "significant personal ramifications" if she is formally charged with defamation.
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
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