Germany’s Fusion Festival may be cancelled due to police dispute

Germany’s iconic Fusion Festival, which has attracted people from across the world for over two decades, is in danger of being cancelled in 2019. The reason? A dispute between the organizers and police.

Germany’s Fusion Festival may be cancelled due to police dispute
Archive photo shows a Fusion Festival stage. Photo: DPA

The row between Kulturkosmos, organizers of the festival, and police is threatening to cancel the festival for the very first time. 

“The police want to stop Fusion Festival” reads the headline on the Kulturkosmos website. The owners have started a petition, which had upwards of 56,000 signatures early on Monday evening. 

The police have called for a police presence in the centre of the festival, saying that they are dissatisfied with the organizers’ security systems and want to ensure the safety of festival attendees. 

Aside from a centrally-located temporary station, police have sought permission to have plain-clothed officers walk around the five-day festival. 

The organizers have hit back, arguing that the requests are excessive and that they are being punished for an abstract threat and pointing out that there has been only one incident of violence in the festival’s history.

They argue that allowing unmarked officers to patrol the festival would be contrary to its ethos of freedom of artistic expression. 

District Administrator Heiko Kärger (CDU) told DPA that the police’s change in policy is motivated by legitimate security concerns. 

“The security concerns for such a major event must be met,” he said. “Nobody wants further problems, such as at the Love Parade disaster in 2010.”

Besides a break in 2017, the Festival – which takes place at an abandoned Soviet military base in Lärz, Mecklenburg West-Pomerania – has run annually every year since 1997. 

From humble beginnings, Fusion Festival has grown in size and reputation over the years. 

The festival averages 70,000 attendees from all across Germany and the world. For comparison, the United States’ Burning Man Festival has only once hit that number. 

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.