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Germany

Pressure grows on Duisburg mayor to resign over Love Parade deaths

Germany is looking for someone to take the blame in the tragic crushing deaths of 21 Love Parade festival-goers. A preliminary investigation said event organizers and the city of Duisburg should accept responsibilty.

Protestors at Duisburg Town Hall

Germany is looking for someone to take the blame

Hannelore Kraft, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, has called on the lord mayor of the western German city of Duisburg to accept moral responsibility for the deaths of 21 people at a stampede at the Love Parade techno festival on Saturday.

In a statement in Thursday's edition of the regional paper Rheinische Post, Kraft said Adolf Sauerland "and those responsible in the city government will ultimately have to take political responsibility."

Kraft's statements have been interpreted by German media as an indirect call for Sauerland's resignation. Meanwhile, a group of 150 young protesters gathered in Duisburg Thursday morning, demanding that Sauerland step down.

Preliminary report finds city and organizers to blame

Criticism against Sauerland has increased in the last 24 hours, after a preliminary investigative report stated Wednesday that organizers of the Love Parade failed to adhere to their own safety concept and that the city government, which approved their event permit, had been unorganized.

Ralf Jaeger, an interior minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, presented the report, saying he found it "outrageous" that the city and the event's organizers had attempted to deny their responsibility for the tragedy, as it took place within the festival grounds.

He said the continuing police investigation would be focused on finding out why organizers did not implement their own crowd control plans and why the city had approved the Love Parade's event permit.

Adolf Sauerland

Sauerland is accused of shirking moral responsibility

"The organizer of the event is solely responsible for the event location," said Jaeger, adding, "My impression is that, as the crowd control system fell apart, the police took over the role of the organizer in working to protect visitors from being crushed."

"The police attempted to do what the organizers were supposed to do," said Jaeger, adding that a combined police force of 5,300 was present, but organizers were responsible for controling the flow of traffic.

Unmanned entrance gates caused traffic jam of 20,000

Jaeger also spoke of poor organization on the part of city authorities, who approved the event. He said that the city had only sent its approval of the Love Parade security concept to police on the morning of the event.

In the weeks before the festival, police had expressed to organizers their concern about the use of the tunnel as the sole entrance and exit, North Rhine-Westphalia police inspector Dieter Wehe said Wednesday.

According to the inspector's chronology of the events, organizers opened the festival grounds shortly after noon, over an hour later than planned. This led to huge queues as visitors tried to get in.

The organizers' plan for crowd control detailed 24 access gates around the perimeter of the Love Parade festival grounds. Eight of these gates were found by police to be unmanned and left open when police were asked to disperse a growing crowd on a ramp leading to the festival ground. This meant thousands more people were able to pour in.

"There was a clear agreement between the organizers and the police to close all points of entry at the same time as the operation designed to disperse the crowd began," said Wehe. "This would prevent more people reaching the crowded ramp."

Duisburg police chief and the event organizer

Jaeger wants to know why the event organizer (right) didn't follow his own plans

Organizers lost control; asked police to step in


Festival organizers asked police at 3:30 p.m. to step in and conduct crowd control due to the mass build-up of people at the tunnel entrance.

Wehe explained that police "have a philosophy of holding back at peaceful festivals" and that they had not stepped in earlier, as the task of controling the flow of visitors was the organizers' reponsibility.

At 3:46 p.m., organizers ordered crowd-control staff to close the access gates and prevent more festival-goers from entering the tunnel. This order was never implemented, according to Wehe. Additional festival-goers then entered the scene through gaps in the fences created to allow in ambulances.


Jaeger cited an eyewitness report that stated that the police had formed a line in order to keep new visitors from entering the tunnel, but that the people had pushed their way through, forcing the officers to give up their efforts.


Suffocated in the crush


At 5:02 p.m. the crowd broke through the police fence in front of the ramp over the entranceway, and several of the festival-goers climbed to the top of the ramp, flashing the "victory" sign to those below. The 14 victims who died on the scene were suffocated when a mass of people charged the ramp stairs.

Without the successful work of paramedics, Jaeger said, the magnitude of the tragedy would have been much greater.

festival-goers walking up stairs

Loveparade victims were suffocated when crowds charged ramp stairs


Memorial services


The first memorial ceremony took place Wednesday in the city Muenster for three female students, two of them Spanish exchange students, who were killed in the crush.


The official memorial for the victims of the tragedy is to take place next Saturday in Duisburg. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff are both expected to attend. However, the mayor of Duisburg Adolf Sauerland, who has faced several calls to resign over his handling of the event, will not be present. Sauerland said he wanted to avoid upsetting the family and friends of the victims with his presence.


Author: David Levitz (dpa/KNA/AFP/Reuters)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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