There were riots in Berlin on New Year's Eve and once again the discussion has turned to immigration

Back in 2015 Germans were shocked when groups of young men in Cologne and other cities were accused of sexually harassing dozens of women in the streets on New Year’s Eve. Here’s how the NY Times reported it at the time under the headline “Reports of Attacks on Women in Germany Heighten Tension Over Migrants.”


Taking advantage of the New Year’s Eve street party, hundreds of young men broke into groups and formed rings around young women, refusing to let them escape, the authorities said. Some groped victims while others stole wallets or cellphones.

Witnesses described the atmosphere around the city’s central train station as aggressive and threatening, with firecrackers being thrown into the crowd. The women who were attacked screamed and tried to fight their way free, a man who had struggled to protect his girlfriend told German public television.

The Cologne police added that they had received 90 complaints from victims, including one who said she had been raped. No arrests have been made.

Jump forward to this year and there were reports of riots and attacks on police and first responders on New Year’s Eve. Today Reuters reported on the incidents in a story headlined, “Berlin New Year’s Eve riots rekindle immigration debate.”

Dozens of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, pedestrians and journalists were injured during attacks as young men lobbed firecrackers and started fires in the streets of the German capital at the turn of the year.

Police detained 145 people, including 45 Germans, 27 Afghans and 21 Syrians, and are still investigating whether the riots were organised or spontaneous.

The majority of the incidents were in neighbourhoods with a higher immigrant population and two-thirds of those detained were foreigners, and a national debate has started up again in newspapers and on television talk shows over how well migrants are integrating into German life.


This video from Bild will give you an idea of what happened. You can set the closed-captions to auto-translate this report to English.

The Reuters story today is the first I’d heard about what happened on New Year’s Eve more than two weeks ago but apparently this topic has been getting lots of attention within Germany. The World Socialist Website published a story a few days later decrying the supposedly racist response from the media.

For days, hardly any other topic has been focused on by the media, which has sought to outdo itself with agitation and the depiction of violence. “The past New Year’s Eve will probably go down in the history of Berlin as one of the most brutal and chaotic,” writes the Berliner Zeitung. The Süddeutsche Zeitungspeaks of “rioting without limits,” and the right-wing Springer press publishes one article after another about the “New Year’s Eve shame.”

The same media outlets and leading politicians are spreading racist hate speech and calling for a strong state. “These riots are also a migration problem,” the Bild newspaper comments, calling for “the German rule of law to finally be defended honestly.”

Discussing reality isn’t spreading “racist hate speech.” If 100 of the 145 people detained for attacking police were young immigrants without German citizenship, that’s a reality worth thinking about. In any case, pretending there’s no problem won’t work because the same issues will just reoccur next year or in a few years.


Finally, this DW story (in English) does a pretty good job discussing what happened and various views of what it means.

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