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Main Green festivities mark anniversary of Wall's fall

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, another wall has come down — this time, in Brown's own backyard.

Students and faculty gathered on the Main Green to tear down a 16-by-8-foot drywall replica of the Berlin Wall on Monday.

The "Tear Down this Wall" event was the conclusion of the German department's week-long "Freedom Without Walls" series celebrating the reunification of Germany. The destruction of the symbolic wall was also part of a larger national event funded by the German Embassy. On the same day, 29 other universities performed similar acts of remembrance.

Facilities constructed the wall with plans and instructions sent from the German Embassy, according to Jane Sokolosky, senior lecturer in German studies and the main coordinator of the event.

Sokolosky's young son was the first to swing his hammer into the wall. Then, passing the mallet back, he allowed Brown students to leave their mark. Taking turns, the students continued to break down the wall, ripping it apart in 10 minutes. One part of the wall was left intact as a keepsake for the German department.

Students were originally supposed to have twice as many mallets, but the funding from the Dean of the College's Office allowed for less than 10 mallets, said Liz Dang '10, a member of the German club and a coordinator of the event. But, she said, the small number of mallets made for a sense of community as students shared them and took turns smashing the wall.

Students, faculty and other community members then ran through the holes created in the wall from the east side to the west side to symbolize the absence of the barrier between the formerly divided halves of the city. 

The event included giveaways, free German food and singing. A graffiti competition was held earlier in the day.

The competition — in which students could tag the wall from either side with spray paint or graffiti markers — took place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

While the original Berlin Wall was decorated with graffiti, tagging was only possible from the West German side, Dang said.

The student-made graffiti included the word "freedom" written in multiple languages and colorful faces covering the once blank drywall.

The event has "a lot of energy," said Diogo Alves '11, the president of the German Club and a coordinator of the event.

Prior to the destruction of the wall, students gave speeches and spoken word performances on the significance of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The finalists of the event will have the option to compete in Washington D.C. against the winners from the other participating schools to win a free trip to Berlin, he said.

The German club and the German department will announce the two winners by the end of next week, Alves said.

The speeches touched upon a "wide range" of topics but discussed "generally the same thing," Dang said. Common themes included the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany's reunification process, and speakers addressed the crowd in both English and German.

In addition to Monday's programs, "Freedom Without Walls" included screenings and lectures throughout the week.

A screening of the film "Goodbye Lenin!" kicked off the event. Approximately 100 students came, creating "momentum" for the rest of the week, Alves said. Other events included a lecture by former West German diplomat Reiner Mockelmann and a gala on Saturday night attended by students and "local German people," he said.

The German department organized and planned the events, Alves said, while the German club provided support. Students mostly helped with advertising and came up with ideas to make events more appropriate to Brown, he added.

According to Sokolosky, the German Embassy came up with "Freedom Without Walls" because it didn't want "Americans to forget."  

Sokolosky said she hopes the event keeps the wall's fall in the student body's consciousness. "Tear Down this Wall" could "make sure the younger generations don't forget" the freedom that Germans once lacked, she said.


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