‘End of equal rights’: Police union chief blasts Berlin’s New Year’s Eve safe zone for women
Rainer Wendt of the German Police Union (DPolG) told the Neuen Osnabrücker Zeitung, a German-language daily, that the planned ‘Women’s Safety Area’ sends a “devastating message” that women who venture outside the designated safe zone will be vulnerable to sexual assault. “It says that there are zones of security and zones of insecurity,” Wendt said, adding that the zone marks “the end of equal rights, freedom of movement and self-determination.”
The union chief added that the zone has a negative “political dimension” and would reignite fears of sexual attacks two years after hundreds of women reported being assaulted or robbed during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne.
Organizers of the event – Germany’s largest New Year’s Eve party, according to the Berliner Zeitung – say that Berlin police proposed the zone after a similar system was introduced in Munich during the city’s annual Oktoberfest. The safe zone will be located in a tent set up by the German Red Cross, where a number of specially-trained staffers will be on hand.
Frank Hansel, a member of German parliament from the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), told RT that the planned safe zone will likely be ineffective and ignores the root of the problem. “It’s doubtful that this will really prevent attacks,” said Hansel. “You would need to make up special zones for everybody, but this is not tangible. So, I think the policy should change. We should not continue to have this illegal mass migration. We have to count and see who the people are who came to our country; we have to register them.”
The Berlin branch of Germany's police union said such a safe zone is definitely needed to help people. Condemning such measures has nothing to do with protecting people, the union said on Twitter in response to the criticism.
Women on the streets of Berlin also supported the controversial initiative. "That's a good idea. Many people feel like they need help, but they don't know who to ask for it. Having this service is kind of nice," a woman told RT. "Being a woman, I feel frightened. This initiative is good, it's needed – unfortunately," another said.
Germany has experienced a surge in sexually-motivated attacks during public festivities lately. Two years ago during New Year’s Eve events, a wave of sexual assaults, as well as thefts and robberies targeting women, swept through several German cities, including Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.