Blaming the Police Love Parade Organizer Releases CCTV Videos of Disaster Day
Love Parade organizer Rainer Schaller says the police are to blame for the 21 deaths at the event that took place in Duisburg, Germany, in late July. To prove his point, he has released CCTV video material shot at the entrance to the event site. Police are outraged.
The film isn't long -- just shy of six and a half minutes. But it purports to explain something that investigators have been trying to determine for over a month: exactly what happened at the 2010 Love Parade in Duisburg, an event which ended with the death of 21 partygoers and hundreds of injuries.
On Monday, Love Parade organizer Rainer Schaller launched a website containing some 22 hours of video material taken by CCTV cameras set up at the entrance to the event site. In addition, the website includes a brief documentary film explaining what went wrong from the point of view of the organizer.
The conclusion is clear. The police, Schaller's video claims, are largely to blame for the huge crush of visitors which developed at the base of the entrance ramp leading to the party site -- a knot of partygoers which ultimately became deadly. In the mid-afternoon on the day of the Love Parade, police installed three cordons in an effort to control the flow of visitors approaching the site, including one at the base of the entrance ramp.
"The cordons led to a backup and were presumably the cause of the catastrophe," Schaller said in an interview with SPIEGEL, published on Monday. "For us, the question as to why they did this must be addressed." Later in the interview, in reference to the cordon at the bottom of the entrance ramp, Schaller says "I believe that without this cordon, the 21 people would still be alive."
'We Accept This Responsibility'
The video documentation and Schaller's comments come just days before the city of Duisburg is to present its own conclusions as to what happened, an event scheduled for Thursday. "Just like the victims' families, the participants and the general public, we too must understand what happened on 24 July 2010," reads a statement on the website. "This website is an expression of the fact that we accept this responsibility."
According to an article in the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper, state officials had asked Schaller to refrain from making the videos public but had no legal recourse to ban him from doing so. Many see the mini-documentary as just another move in the unsightly blame game that has been pursued by all involved since the deaths last month.
"Mr. Schaller manipulates and obfuscates wherever he can," Rainer Wendt, head of the German Police Union (DPolG), said according to the Associated Press. "He is clearly not interested in the truth, rather he is only interested in saving his own neck."
In a conversation with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Schaller noted that the video material posted on the website ends just before the first deaths occurred, "out of respect for the victims."
The deaths occurred at the base of the main ramp leading to the event site, an old freight train station that is no longer in use. The event plan foresaw the ramp as being both the primary entrance to the site as well as the main exit. A second, smaller ramp was to be used exclusively as an exit. Visitors to the site approached the entrance ramp via two tunnels, one from the east and one from the west.
The Strategy Failed
Access control facilities at the tunnel entrances were to control the stream of visitors, but as crowds grew in the mid-afternoon, event organizers asked for help from the police to temporarily close the access control facilities. Police also established three cordons, one in each tunnel and one at the base of the entrance ramp, to allow a knot of visitors at the top of the ramp time to dissolve.
The strategy, however, failed. Organizers accuse police of ordering the opening of the access control facility at the entrance to the west tunnel, resulting in a stream of visitors flowing into the tunnel. The police cordons both there and in the east tunnel were unable to hold the crowds back and both collapsed shortly after 4 p.m. The situation at the base of the ramp immediately became critical. At the same time, hundreds of visitors were trying to leave the event, meaning that the police cordon at the base of the ramp was pressured by large crowds from both sides.
The videos released on Monday clearly show that the entrance area was largely empty just before the cordons in the tunnels collapsed. Soon thereafter, the crowds at the base of the ramp became suffocatingly dense as visitors pushed toward the entrance and encountered the police cordon at the base of the ramp.
Dieter Wehe from the North Rhine-Westphalia state police has been vehement in his criticism of the event safety plan created by the organizers. On Sunday, he once again defended the police, saying "the organizer asked the police for help because his security plan collapsed. He had promised to close the access control facilities. But that didn't happen." Wehe has been backed up by North Rhine-Westphalian Interior Minister Ralf Jäger.
Jäger's Interior Ministry has said that a Thursday meeting of a parliamentary committee investigating the Love Parade disaster will be used to present its findings to the public. "The interactions between the organizer, the city of Duisburg as the body which issued the permit, and the police will be decisive," Wehe said.
cgh -- with wire reports