The party goes on (english version)
Duisburg, 24. July, 7 pm: Rattling and roaring low-flying helicopters are landing every 15 minutes, while the scream of sirens cuts through the air. Blue lights are flashing everywhere, as paramedics, firemen, police and patrol cars run along to the sound of incomprehensible loudspeaker announcements. The riot squad has pulled up in combat gear and the city is effectively cut off from the outside world. The autobahn is closed, no trains are running, the mobile phone network has crashed and the power is out at the WDR broadcasting studios. A&E departments are learning what ‘rush hour’ really means and chaos and a state of shock rule. In front of the train station, people are trying to push through; some drunk, some doped-up and aggressive. They just don’t know where to go. It seems that nineteen people have either been trampled to death in the crowd, or have fallen fatally from a narrow concrete stairway, while there are eighty who are critically-injured and countless people with minor injuries. Incomprehensibly, the techno-party tirelessly continues. The basses thunder on as if the booming racket could drown out the sound of the catastrophe (apparently there is a fear of mass hysteria if the bash were to be stopped). The danger of rioting has yet to be averted. First aid tents fill the closed-off urban motorway stub.
Stunned, I follow the disaster live via webcam and video-stream. A catastrophe into which those responsible almost steered people with advance knowledge and with their eyes wide open. A grotesque and virtually incomprehensible combination of inability, bad planning, irresponsibility, and stupidity. For days, I had been reading about it in the papers and asking myself what the Love Parade organisers, the Federal Police, the Deutsche Bahn and the city envisioned as a solution, when an expected one and a half a million partygoers were to be shepherded through a single (!) entrance into a sealed-off area that was set-up for just 500,000 people. How the fuck had they figured that one out? What were their plans for hundreds of thousands of frustrated, overheated, intoxicated, doped-up, exhausted and disillusioned young people arriving at a crowded party area after a long and stressful journey – and not being able to figure out how to get in and out and forwards or backwards between the railings and fences? What else can you call it, other than programmed chaos? A catastrophe that they were deliberately ready to be put up with?
Can you explain this somehow? Perhaps a senseless greed for profit, commercial dementia, craving for assertiveness, general voluntaristic sweet talk up front, collective narrow-mindedness and irresponsible frivolity; by the banal addiction to self-adulation of the so-called ‘Event Manager’ or the amateurism of incompetent “city fathers”? Was it the self-satisfied stubbornness of a completely overtaxed police force? Did they really think that despite the dodgy outlook, it could ‘all be alright on the night’? How in all seriousness could anyone have believed that?
There were many voices that expressed doubt about the ability of a poor, badly-organised, ill-equipped and logistically-challenged city of half a million like Duisburg to run an event for 1.5 million people, particularly given its experience in hosting such events. They were condemned as being alarmists and wet blankets and brought to silence. How dare these critics and sceptics disturb the ‘acid trip’ of those running the 2010 European Cultural Capital? A young man – who escaped the fatal stampede by a hair’s breadth – had even urgently warned the police before the disaster, only to be told: “Do YOU want to organise this, son?”
8.30 pm: The prayer wheels of the media start turning and the semi-official crocodile tears are flowing big time. The words ‘tragedy’ and ‘tragic’ again emerge with almost mechanical regularity. But the word ‘tragic’ should refer to unavoidable misfortune and the disaster of Duisburg was by no means inevitable. It was, as I said, more than predictable. The crocodile tears will soon have dried again and the parade of floats continues to thump out from its 300,000-watt sound systems.
8.45 pm: Guess what? The question of guilt has already been established and it seems that those responsible bear no responsibility! The freshly-appointed Northrhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Jäger – who had hitherto been ‘ministering’ in Duisburg – claims in an interview that “the police had done a good job”. The official press conference of the City of Duisburg claims that the city, the city authorities and planners bore no fault. Indeed, those who were clearly to blame were the victims themselves, who had in fact “not followed the rules”.
10.10 pm: With a cynically stone face, the Duisburg “crisis management group” in the shape of obvious prime suspect “Head of Security” Wolfgang Rabe erupts into an aggressively demagogic rant saying that the young death victims were themselves to blame. Apparently they had “behaved irrationally”. As if EXACTLY THAT need not have been taken into account up front! As if it were not the specific mandate of security to take into account such irrational mass behaviour in advance and render it impossible from the outset. What a disgusting affront towards the victims and their families! Dissed by ‘civil’ servants! Incidentally, the globally-recognized and renowned Fraunhofer Institute is located in Duisburg. An organisation which has applied its research findings and approaches to the control and safety of human mass gatherings and has already contributed towards preventing notorious and dreaded mass panic, for example among pilgrims to Mecca. It is a reasonable assumption that the word “risk analysis” is not unknown to the organistion. Did the “Lord High Security”not bother to check with these people first? Was it not necessary for him, because it is common knowledge that masses always “follow the game rules”?
10.50 pm : The Federal Police gunships are still circling over Duisburg. On television, those who are directly or politically responsible are telling virtually outrageous lies and half-truths in order to shift any blame whatsoever from themselves. People such as the almost inconceivably-arrogant and callous Fritz Pleitgen: ex Director-General of the WDR broadcasting station and head honcho for ‘Cultural Capital’ affairs. It is really unspeakably repulsive. I think it’s been a long time since I was so sickened and disgusted by this caste of politicians and it’s a truly unspeakable, wretched spectacle that makes me want to vomit violently.
11.03 pm: Suddenly, and still without any explanation (!) the eternal thumping and booming from the party zone finally, finally, stops: five hours after the horrible disaster. What we now hear is the soothing sound of the seaside (!) to gently and soundlessly send people home. Up to this very hour, thousands and thousands of young partygoers have no idea whatsoever of what had happened, which is precisely and shamelessly what the self-styled “crisis management” wants. I had never realised just how high the “Richter scale of cynicism” can ascend.
For nineteen young women and men, the party is certainly over.
And it was all their fault, right?
PS: The crocodile tear weeping and initial critical questions can be read in German here:
Übersetung (danke): Chris Irwin, Maidenhead, United Kingdom