German police and firefighters' unions have called for a ban on personal fireworks on New Year's Eve, as well as increased surveillance capabilities for emergency services following dozens of attacks on personnel.
"It is unimaginable what our emergency forces had to experience on this New Year's," Lars Wieg, chairman of the police union for Berlin and Brandenberg, said late on Sunday.
At least 33 officers and firefighters were injured in the capital alone, and dozens of similar incidents were reported across Germany — not only accidents, but also "purposeful, targeted" attacks with fireworks, officials said.
"We don't need tougher penalties. I just want these penalties to be enforced," Germany's national firefighters' union President Karl-Heinz Banse told the German news agency dpa. "It cannot be that our people are endangered, almost run over, and afterwards it's presented as a petty offense."
After a two-year moratorium on personal fireworks due to COVID-19 regulations, hundreds of thousands of people across Germany rang in the New Year on Saturday night by setting off personal fireworks.
Police in Bavaria described it as the "most intense" celebrations in recent memory, while in Hamburg they spoke of being "agressively approached" and "literally shot at" with the explosives.
Lawmakers slam attacks
Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey, of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD), condemned the "scale of readiness to use violence and destruction" against firefighters and police. In a statement on Twitter, she also promised to address a "partial firework ban" with the state government.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said that perpetrators would "clearly feel the legal consequences" of their actions.
Through a spokesperson, Chancellor Scholz "condemned in the strongest terms these, in some cases, massive assaults" against emergency services and bystanders.
Serious injuries and fatalities
As with most years, there were several firework-related deaths and dozens of major injuries, including the loss of fingers and hands.
Drunk revelers not only shot off fireworks at emergency workers, but also at random passersby, officials said.
The Berlin-Brandenberg police union called for funds to increase surveillance measures for future New Year's celebrations, including hundreds of more dashcams for cars and bodycams for individual officers.
Conservatives oppose ban
Conservative politicians have come out against a suggested ban. Thorsten Frei, the deputy chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) in the Bundestag, told the Rheinische Post newspaper that "peaceful revelers should not have to suffer" for the actions of the few.
Members of the Free Democrats (FDP), the pro-business party that rules in coalition with the Green Party and the SPD, have expressed similar sentiments.
FDP parliamentary leader Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, also speaking with Rheinische Post, said that "only consistent prosecution of the perpetrators under criminal law can prevent such attacks," and that a total ban was unfair to those who hadn't done anything wrong.
Edited by: Farah Bahgat
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