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Carnival troop who 'black up' get police escort after racism row

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Carnival troop who 'black up' get police escort after racism row
Wolfgang Schuster . Photo: DPA
17:16 CET+01:00
A carnival association has dropped any characters who "black up" from their parade amid accusations of racism. Worried the troop might be attacked, police will escort them during the parade.

Police in Fulda, Hesse, will escort the Südend troop when they march during the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) parade, according to a report in Focus magazine. Police say that due to a heightened possibility of violence against the troop, they will also wear bodycams to identify any offenders in the crowd.

The troop has come under fire of late as part of their traditional parade involves some characters painting their skin black and a wig with a bone in it. Others in the troop wear ivory colonial uniforms.

During the carnival parade different troops dress up as characters from historical eras, with some troops dressing as knights and damsels. The Südend troops have represented the German colonial era.

The accusations against them have come from a group of academics from the Fulda College, who say that the troop is spreading a racist and colonial world view.

The group also criticised the costumes in an email, saying that "with this they are normalising and trivialising genocide, oppression, and the deprivation of rights."

They demanded that the troop lose the colonial costumes and the "black-facing", calling it "derogatory, inhumane, and racist".

German colonial rule in Africa was marked by brutality, including the deaths of around 65,000 members of the local Herero population.  

Colonial rulers signed a notorious extermination order against the Hereros after they revolted in anger at land seizures in 1904.

But many have come out in defence of the carnival troop, saying that they are merely portraying a time in Germany's history.

The CDU mayor of Fulda, Heiko Wingenfeld, said the academics "didn't have a clue about Fastnacht (Shrove Tuesday)."

Volker Rippert, spokesperson for another Fulda troop, said that the accusations and the police presence have depressed the mood in the lead up to the climax of the carnival season.

"We wanted to joyfully celebrate Fastnacht. But now we don't know what trouble will be brought to the parade. The people affected are on their last legs. They are completely worn down," he said.

"The Northend troop dresses as polar bears and penguins. Soon they'll be getting the animal lovers in the neck."

Michael Hamperl, president of the Fulda Carnival Association, defended the troop's traditions by, saying "oppression is of course not being glorified here.

"If it were true that events from a certain time were being endorsed every time costumes from that era were worn, then you could shut down Fastnacht right away."

Wolfgang Schuster, who normally paints his skin black at Carnival, said that the troop has decided not to do so this year.

He said he had made the decision with a heavy heart, as people liked seeing him parade, but added that "we also don't want to provoke anyone."

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