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Police report shows their side of Cologne assaults

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Police arrest a man outside Cologne main station on January 1st 2015. Photo: DPA
10:46 CET+01:00
A New Year's Eve police report from Cologne showing the full extent of the sexual assaults against women in and around the city's main train station appeared in German media on Thursday, causing fresh waves of consternation.

"We were already informed of the conditions in and around the station as we were arriving at our positions by emotional members of the public with crying and shocked children," a high-ranking police officer wrote in a document seen by Spiegel Online and tabloid Bild.

"On the square outside were several thousand mostly male people of a migrant background who were firing all kinds of fireworks and throwing bottles into the crowd at random."

The police vans were themselves the targets of thrown fireworks as they pulled into their parking spaces, and people immediately rushed to the officers to report thefts, violence and sexual assaults against women.

"Even the appearance of police officers on the scene... didn't hold the masses back from their actions," the report notes.

Women – with or without male companions – were forced to "run a gauntlet... beyond description" of drunken men to reach or leave the station.

Fearing that the situation could get even worse and that the ongoing throwing of fireworks could lead to injury or death, police commanders decided to clear the square outside the station beginning at around 11:30pm.

"State and federal police officers were repeatedly fired on with fireworks and had bottles thrown at them during the clearance," the report read.

Despite fights breaking out between police and people under the influence of both drugs and alcohol, the square was clear by around 12:15am.

'Officers couldn't gain control'

But the chaos around the station continued, with the officer recording "numerous crying and shocked women reporting sexual assaults by several male migrants or groups."

"The officers on the ground couldn't gain control of all of the events, attacks and crimes – there were simply too many at the same time for that to be possible."

At some points officers were too busy even to be able to record crimes people were trying to report.

The report also notes that many of the perpetrators were mocking police throughout the night and saying they knew they would face no consequences for their actions.

Crowds at times prevented officers from reaching people crying out for help and were seen threatening them as they tried to report crimes to the police.

The officer writing the report notes in concluding remarks that "the officers completed the whole deployment in heavy protective equipment and helmets between 9:24pm and 7:30am without losing their motivation" – and that "the chaotic and shaming situation on this New Year's Eve made the police even more determined".

Battle over responsibility

As more and more accounts of the events on New Year's Eve in Cologne have emerged since Monday, police and politicians have both been pointing the finger of blame.
 
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told broadcaster ARD that "the police simply can't work this way" - effectively blaming top commanders for what happened.
 
But police unions reacted angrily to the suggestion that they were to blame - pushing back with allegations that political leaders had failed to provide the funds and personnel to let them do their job effectively.
 
"You can't criticize the police," said Rainer Wendt, leader of police union DPolG. "They simply were unable to continually clear the area with the number of officers they had available."
 
"Because of the huge press, the darkness and the masses of people a large proportion of the events couldn't be spotted by officers on the ground, only coming to light on the following day because of the large number of crime reports," Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers told Kölnischer Rundschau on Thursday.
 
Meanwhile, the many reports that the attackers all came from an Arab or north African background have bound the Cologne attacks into the debate over Germany's refugee policy.
 
"No-one should use the attacks to discredit refugees wholesale," said Justice Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday.
 

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"If there were asylum seekers among the perpetrators, that is far from a reason to place all refugees under general suspicion."
 
But for many conservatives and people on the far-right, news of the events in Cologne has confirmed rumours coursing online in recent months of increasing numbers of sexual crimes by Muslims in Germany.
 
Many are now calling for the law to be changed to allow non-citizens convicted of such crimes to be deported.

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