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Berlin removes offensive name for metro station after protests

Berlin’s public transport company BVG just announced that the capital will rename a city centre metro station that has become notorious for bearing a name based on a derogatory word for Black people.

The announcement comes among a worldwide reckoning with buried legacies of racism and colonial crimes underpinning many western societies that were sparked by the brutal murder in the United States of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.

The entrance of "Mohrenstrasse" subway station is seen in central Berlin, Germany. Image credit REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

Berlin’s BVG declared that the “Mohrenstrasse” metro station - literally Moor Street, using the medieval term for people from North Africa - will be renamed after another nearby street, the Glinkastrasse, which takes the name of a famous 19th-century Russian composer, Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka.

The station, a few hundred metres from the Brandenburg Gate, at the very centre of the German capital, has born a string of names since it was opened in 1908. It then acquired its present name in 1991.

Though the word “mohr” is no longer used in the modern German language, its history - linguists say it had acquired a derogatory flavour by the 18th century - have raised many objections over its use in some street names.

Outcry over George Floyd’s death has gone international, with demonstrators taking to the streets in Berlin. Image credit DW

Last month, unidentified activists, possibly linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, taped over the station’s entrance, temporarily naming it “George Floyd Street”.

“Out of respect for the sometimes-controversial debate about the street name, BVG has decided not to use it to name the metro station any longer,” the company declared in a statement.

It then concluded explaining: “BVG rejects all forms of racism and discrimination.”


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