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German media roundup: Event organisers damned

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German media roundup: Event organisers damned
Duisburg leadership and Love Parade organisers on Sunday. Photo: DPA
14:31 CEST+02:00
If Love Parade organisers and Duisburg city politicians hoped to placate German media by vowing a full investigation into how 19 people died at the event on Saturday, they sorely misjudged the mood of the nation.

On Sunday and Monday papers reacted with outrage and condemnation to what they universally agreed was an accident that never should have happened.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that it was wrong to describe the events in Duisburg as a “tragedy,” because that suggested it was an act of fate beyond human control.

“What a scandal!” it wrote. “Those responsible make excuses with typical statements saying we have to ‘thoroughly examine in the next weeks and months' what led to the catastrophe at the Love Parade.

“Yet one can already talk of some basic truths. For example: the organisers of Germany's biggest major event were overstretched. Those in charge succumbed to megalomania. Warnings from party-goers were not acted upon; lives were negligently put on the line.”

Click here for photos of the Love Parade tragedy.

If the organisers expected hundreds of thousands of exuberant youngsters to queue patiently and not to push or climb fences, they were ignorant and unprepared, the paper wrote.

“This is no ‘tragedy' as they would have us believe. No one is innocently at fault here … Fate looks different than this. No one went blindly into this accident. The catastrophe is a scandal because everyone was warned: the city, the police, the organisers, expert advisers.”

Along with many other papers, the paper pointed out that the Love Parade was cancelled last year in Bochum because of security concerns.

Centrist daily Der Tagesspiegel said Duisburg should have followed this example.

“The horror in the faces of the young people, the terror in their eyes seen in the photos taken immediately before the accident, are a searing indictment,'' it wrote.

“It seems hardly anyone thought about security in Duisburg. Despite the fact that 1.6 million partied in Dortmund two years ago, Duisburg expected only a couple of hundred thousand party-goers – a grotesque misjudgement. Yet alarm bells had to have sounded for the organisers and the mayor.

“Permission for this site should never have been given. This was a foreseeable catastrophe. A mayor who, even afterwards, called the security plan 'solid' is unacceptable.”

The Berlin paper went on to criticise what it deemed the profit-driven character of the event, while pointing out that police, who reportedly warned the organisers and city officials about security concerns, had their own questions to answer.

“It is above all a business. So much so that possibly the interests of the organiser had 'driven into a tight spot' the people in the city responsible for giving approval to the train yard, as the police union said with unintentionally macabre phrasing.

“Driven so far, that earlier warnings were brushed aside. But the police must then explain why they allowed the insanity to go ahead and then didn't stop it.

“Ever bigger ... ever more dangerous, ever less controllable – that is an unspoken consequence, above all, when the absolute hubris of the creators and profit interests step in.”

Education researcher Horst Zimmer wrote in left-wing Tageszeitung that right from the start, the hundreds of thousands of young people were treated more as potential trouble-makers than potential victims of a disaster.

“It was a strange picture that Duisburg showed on Saturday morning: a huge police contingent, dozens of offices in front of playgrounds or public parks, who had been deployed, as a policewoman confirmed to me, to fend off the visitors. This was not about protecting the youngsters, it was about protecting Duisburg from them.

“Fine, obviously I saw drunk people there, but no more than at the Cologne Karneval. Some 99.5 percent of the party-goers were well-behaved, friendly young people. They wanted to hear music, have fun and enjoy a good day. The panic had nothing to do with them or the rave culture. The same panic would have broken out at a church conference under these conditions. I just want people to see this – and for those responsible to be held to account.

“And for youth subculture to no longer be alienated or abused as an exotic spectacle.”

Right-wing daily Die Welt wrote that organisers made the right decision to cancel future Love Parades out of respect for the victims, and was a lone voice in pleading for authorities to given time to investigate the deadly accident.

While Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland was right to appeal against hasty accusations, what was supposed to be a peaceful celebration of life led to the deaths of more people than any violent demonstration or terrorist attack in the country, and Duisburg is now left to answer some difficult questions, the paper said.

“Just after such frightful events speculation and rumours are always coursing,” it said. “Often it comes out later that everything was very different than it seemed at first impression.”

Daily Berliner Zeitung agreed that the city had many questions to answer, but said there was no doubt that those responsible for the Love Parade made glaring failures.

“The assertion by Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland that the security concept was ‘solid' has been startlingly disproved by the 19 dead and 340 injured,” the paper said, adding that it had been clear from the beginning that the city would “never” be able to handle a parade of one million.

The two gravest mistakes, whether they were not recognised or simply ignored, were using a final party area that was too small and the “incomprehensible” decision to provide only one entrance – particularly the fateful tunnel. Not even community event halls, with far fewer visitors, would make such a call, the paper said.

“This catastrophe is the final death knell for the Love Parade. Before it was only financial worries that threatened its existence. But now the heart of the movement is broken.”

The Love Parade had been about peace, sunshine, love and music, but Duisburg spelled its “expulsion from paradise.”

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