Police assaults in hamburg: with armor into the danger zone

In order to control refugees, the police besieged a backyard in Hafenstrabe. When residents wanted to help, a squad of hundreds arrived.

They were afraid of water and projectiles: Police officers in Hamburg’s Hafenstrabe. Nothing flew Photo: joto

In Hafenstrabe in Hamburg St. Pauli, police officers detained around 25 refugees in a backyard for over nine hours on Monday. They could not leave because the police stood in front of the garden gate from 2 p.m. until late at night. The Africans could only have left the yard by giving their personal details.

Towards evening, neighbors gathered at the garden gate to urge the police to end the siege. The refugees had not been able to get anything to eat or drink or to go to the toilet for hours. The neighbors played music in the courtyard and demanded an end to the "racist controls" in Hafenstrabe by the "Drug Task Force", which had been going on for months.

In response, the police increased their presence and arrived with a hundred riot police, some of whom were equipped with bullet-proof shields. Two police dogs were also deployed and kept a snarling watch outside the garden gate.

Thus, police officers and neighbors faced each other for several hours. Around midnight, the police partially cleared the square by pushing a group of residents towards the landing bridges, using the shields and threatening violence. However, some neighbors had previously managed to smuggle the refugees out of the garden without being checked.

The area around the Balduintreppe in Hamburg’s St. Pauli has been considered a "danger area for drugs" since April 2001.

This means: The target group defined by the police as "potential drug dealers" can be checked here without suspicion. This also applies to potential consumers.

In May 2015 the Higher Administrative Court classified danger zones as unconstitutional. Since then, the justice and interior authorities have been working on an amendment to the law. Until then, the danger zone will continue to be practiced.

The consequence is a permanent police presence in the area and daily checks on black people.

The reason given by the police for the large-scale operation was "to combat publicly perceivable drug-related crime". The intention was to carry out "situation-based controls". Police spokesman Timo Zill explained, "Someone is exhibiting behavior that may be likely to arouse suspicion that they may be dealing in narcotics." The legal basis for the check, he said, is the danger zone (see box).

However, the "perhaps suspected" persons had evaded the check by going into the garden, which is private property and thus not easily entered by the police. When the residents arrived in the evening, the atmosphere became more and more anti-police. As a result, the officers broke up the meeting.

Martin Dolzer, a member of parliament for the Left Party, appealed to the head of operations to find a de-escalating solution. Dolzer described the martial police performance as a show of force – after all, it was clear to everyone that no problems would be solved in this way.

The head of operations, however, indicated that he had instructions to go through with the operation: "Mr. Dolzer, I can’t help it," he said.

For the lawyer Alexandra Wichmann, who represents several clients from Hafenstrabe, the deployment is disproportionate and unlawful: "The legal basis invoked by the police to establish identity without suspicion cannot justify a restriction of freedom of such duration," she said and announced that she would file a disciplinary complaint against the responsible officers.

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