Berlin to impose New Year’s Eve fireworks ban in two new zones

Fireworks are to be banned in two ‘hotspots’ in the German capital on New Year’s Eve, the state interior senator Andreas Geisel has announced.

Berlin to impose New Year's Eve fireworks ban in two new zones
Fireworks in Berlin over the Oberbaumbrücke. Photo: DPA

Starting next Silvester – New Year’s Eve – people in the German capital will no longer be able to set off fireworks in Schöneberg, around the Pallasstraße area, and at Hermannplatz in Neukölln, German media reported on Monday.

As The Local previously reported, while German law allows the private use of fireworks only for 48 hours surrounding New Year's Eve, in Berlin firecrackers may only be used from 6 pm on New Year's Eve to 7 am on New Year’s Day.

SEE ALSO: 'What's happening on our streets can't be tolerated': Politicians float New Year's Eve fireworks ban

A ban is already in place around the area of the street called Straße des 17. Juni and Potsdamer Platz in Mitte, meaning there will be three prohibition zones in Berlin in total.

The planned crackdown is to due to unsafe “street battles” taking place in these areas, which are putting emergency service workers and members of the public at risk, reported local newspaper Tagesspiegel.

The move came as a nationwide debate on the private use of fireworks continues. Across Germany environmentalists have raised concerns about the air pollution, while others say it makes the streets unsafe.

Yet it is a long-standing tradition to welcome in the new year by letting off fireworks together and many Germans are protective of this ritual. 

Attacks on emergency service staff

According to Geisel, 49 attacks on firefighters and 40 on police officers were recorded during the last New Year's Eve in the German capital. A total of 40 emergency service workers were injured. “Fortunately, none of them had to be hospitalized,” added Geisel.

In addition to the ban, extra police resources are to be put in place around the areas Alexanderplatz, Gropiusstadt, Südstern and the intersection Eberswalder-/Schönhauser Straße, which have also recently become known as ‘hotspots’.

Geisel made the announcement at the SPD parliamentary group meeting in Rostock at the weekend. 

He acknowledged that the previous preventative approach had failed. After around 100 people had clashed in a street battle on New Year’s Eve 2017 in Schöneberg, police had sought to speak to those talking part, telling them of the dangers.

However, those involved continued to meet up and let off fireworks at each other.

SEE ALSO: Fireworks in Germany: What you need to know about ending the year with a bang

Complete ban not possible

The legal basis for the measure is the General Safety and Order Act. According to Section 55, orders can be issued “to avert dangers to public safety”.

However, Geisel said it wouldn’t be possible for a complete firework ban on the city. As well as being difficult to enforce, this would also require law changes at a federal level.

Geisel also rejected demands from the Greens to declare the entire area within the S-Bahn ring of the capital a firecracker prohibition zone on the basis that it would be too difficult to control and the city didn't have the resources.

Geisel said Berlin could not expect police support from other states in order to enforce this kind of ban.

Organized firework displays

SPD faction leader Raed Saleh welcomed Geisel's plans. “Dangerous fireworks at hotspots where the fire brigade and police no longer dare to go are not acceptable at all,” said Saleh.

Jörg Stroedter, deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, said New Year’s Eve couldn’t continue in its current form. 

Stroedter spoke out in favour of taking the long-term path of other major European cities such as Vienna or Paris, where private fireworks are banned in principle and organized firework displays by professionals are carried out instead. “This is a process that we are now pushing ahead with,” said Stroedter.

On Sunday, the SPD parliamentary group passed a resolution supporting Geisel's plans. On Thursday, the topic will be discussed in the Berlin House of Representatives.

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Thirteen in court over death threats to French teenager after her social media tirades against Islam

Thirteen people go on trial in Paris on Thursday on charges of online harassment and in some cases death threats against a teenage girl who posted social media tirades against Islam, which saw her placed under police protection and forced to change schools.

Thirteen in court over death threats to French teenager after her social media tirades against Islam
Mila's lawyer Richard Malka has been involved in several high-profile freedom of expression trials, including the Charlie Hebdo trials. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

The  ‘Affaire Mila’ sparked outrage and renewed calls to uphold free-speech rights after the 16-year-old was subjected to a torrent of abuse on social media after her expletive-laden videos went viral last year.

“The Koran is filled with nothing but hate, Islam is a shitty religion,” Mila said in the first post on Instagram in January 2020.

READ ALSO What is the Affaire Mila and why is it causing outrage?

A second one in November, this time on TikTok, came after the jihadist killing of high school teacher Samuel Paty over his showing of controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohamed to students.

The reactions were swift and virulent.

“You deserve to have your throat cut,” read one, while another warned “I’m going to do you like Samuel Paty”.

Mila had to be placed under police protection along with her family in Villefontaine, a town outside Lyon in southeast France, and was forced to change schools.

Even President Emmanuel Macron came to her defence, saying that “the law is clear. We have the right to blaspheme, to criticise and to caricature religions.”

Investigators eventually identified thirteen people from several French regions aged 18 to 30, and charged them with online harassment, with some also accused of threatening death or other criminal acts.

“This is a trial against the digital terror that unleashes sexist, homophobic and intolerant mobs against a teenager,” Mila’s lawyer Richard Malka told AFP ahead of the trial, which opens on Thursday afternoon.

“This digital lynching must be punished,” he said.

But defence lawyers have argued that the 13 on trial are unfairly taking the rap as scapegoats for thousands of people taking advantage of the anonymity offered by social media platforms.

“My client is totally overwhelmed by this affair,” said Gerard Chemla, a lawyer for one of the accused. “He had a fairly stupid instant reaction, the type that happens every day on Twitter.”

The accused face up to two years in prison and fines of €30,000 for online harassment.

A conviction of death threats carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison – two people previously convicted of death threats against Mila have received prison terms.

Mila, now 18, is to publish a book this month recounting her experience, titled “I’m paying the price for your freedom.”