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The 2010 Love Parade tragedy
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13 February 2012: Love Parade mayor removed from office
8 February 2012: Voters to decide fate Love Parade mayor
3 August 2010: Love Parade mayor would rather be pushed than jump
1 August 2010: German President reminds Duisburg mayor of his responsibilities
30 July 2010: Duisburg mayor’s motives for clinging to office questioned
29 July 2010: Five days later and Duisburg mayor is still clinging to office
28 July 2010: Duisburg mayor will not attend Love Parade memorial service
27 July 2010: Love Parade tragedy spells the end of a mayor’s vision
26 July2010: Mayor forced to flee scene of Love Parade catastrophe
Love Parade mayor
removed from office
Duisburg, 13 February 2012: The mayor of the German city of Duisburg, where 21 people were crushed to death during a music festival, has been voted out of office in yesterday’s recall referendum. In a vote organized by a citizens’ initiative, 129,833 Duisburg citizens said Mayor Adolf Sauerland should go, more than the roughly 92,000 votes required for his ousting and compared with the 21,557 people who wanted the mayor to keep his job.
The mayor, who has been a virtual recluse in City Hall since the tragedy happened in July 2010, had repeatedly rejected all calls to resign. Critics, including the German President, demanded that Mayor Sauerland accepts political responsibility for the permit that allowed the Love Parade to go ahead despite safety risks.
Some 21 young people died of suffocation and hundreds were injured while trapped in a stationary crowd between concrete walls at the Love Parade, a techno music festival. While the mayor was not personally accused of any wrongdoing, his critics said that the city should never have allowed the festival to go ahead.
A report in the newspaper Kölner Stadtanzeiger said Mayor Sauerland gave the go-ahead for the event just hours before its start, despite concerns from police and fire officials. The newspaper reported that the chief of the Duisburg fire department told the mayor in writing that the location for the event, the city's former freight rail station, was too small for the expected number of more than one million visitors.
Conservative Adolf Sauerland was first elected mayor of Duisburg in 2004, when he surprisingly defeated the Social Democrat candidate in the traditionally Socialist-voting city. He was re-elected in 2009 as the candidate of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). During his time in office, Sauerland has been credited with successfully promoting increased integration of Duisburg’s Turkish minorities.
Duisburg’s Social Democrats and the Greens, parties which supported the removal of the mayor, now call for a non-partisan unity candidate to replace Adolf Sauerland. A new mayor will have to be elected within the next six months. In the meantime, Duisburg’s deputy mayor will represent the city while the city manager will take on of the mayor’s administrative duties.
Voters to decide fate
of Love Parade mayor
Duisburg, 8 February 2012: The mayor of the German city of Duisburg, where 21 people were crushed to death during a music festival, faces a recall referendum some 18 months after the tragedy. After a public petition last October, demanding the removal of Mayor Adolf Sauerland, attracted almost 80,000 signatures, the industrial city in the Ruhr region will hold a recall referendum this Sunday.
The mayor, who has been a virtual recluse in City Hall since the tragedy happened in July 2010, has rejected all calls to resign. Critics have demanded that Mayor Sauerland accepts political responsibility for the permit that allowed the Love Parade to go ahead despite safety risks.
Organisers of the recall are confident that they have the support of the majority of Duisburgers but, in a city where turn out at local elections is chronically low, there are doubts whether enough people will bother to vote. The recall will fail, even if a majority of voters vote to fire the mayor, if less than 25 per cent of eligible voters take part in the referendum. The mayor’s supporters - mainly from his own centre-right Christian Democrat Union (CDU) - point out that almost 92,000 voters - 12,000 more than signed the original recall petition will have to go to the polling stations. However, Duisburg’s local press reported that already some 35,000 postal votes had been received by the authorities.
Some 21 young people died of suffocation and hundreds were injured while trapped in a stationary crowd between concrete walls at the Love Parade, a techno music festival. While the mayor is not personally accused of any wrongdoing, his critics say that the city should never have allowed the festival to go ahead.
A report in the newspaper Kölner Stadtanzeiger said Mayor Sauerland gave the go-ahead for the event just hours before its start, despite concerns from police and fire officials. The newspaper reported that the chief of the Duisburg fire department told the mayor in writing that the location for the event, the city's former freight rail station, was too small for the expected number of more than one million visitors. The German news magazine Der Spiegel added that an official document issued by the city of Duisburg authorised only 250,000 people for the site of the event.
German President Christian Wulff, a member of Adolf Sauerland’s own party, reminded the Duisburg mayor that there was such a thing as political responsibility. The German President said while the presumption of innocence was applicable to all, the mayor would need to consider the accountability his office required. Ironically, President Wulff is currently resisting demands to do the morally right thing and resign over alleged favours he received from businesses during his time as regional premier of Lower-Saxony. He, like Mayor Sauerland before him, claims he had done nothing legally wrong.
Love Parade mayor would
rather be pushed than jump
Duisburg, 3 August 2010: Ten days after 21 people died at Duisburg’s techno music festival Love Parade, the city’s mayor, Adolf Sauerland, still seems to believe that he can dictate the terms of his eventual departure. Yesterday he munificently declared that, of course, he would be willing to face a city council’s deselection procedure, as though he had any choice in the matter. People in the Ruhr city told City Mayors that the mayor had lost all credibility. “He wanted the Love Parade at any price, but now he is not prepared to pay the price!”
With the exception of the mayor’s conservative party (CDU), all parties in Duisburg’s city council now support a vote of no confidence in the mayor. The Free Democrats (FDP) have now demanded an early extraordinary session of the council. Its spokesman said: “We can’t wait until 4 October (…the first regular council meeting after the summer holidays). The city needs a new credible leadership as soon as possible.” While the mayor still has the support of his own party on the council, which believes he should be given the opportunity to actively help in the investigation into who was responsible and what let to the tragedy on 24 July, influential party colleagues in Berlin, including the German president, have been urging him to accept political responsibility and resign.
There is general incredulity among the population of Duisburg over the mayor’s naivety to believe he could still represent the city. Sauerland has maintained that he was only prepared to accept the political consequences after his administration’s culpability was established.
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German President reminds Duisburg
mayor of his political responsibilities
Duisburg, 1 August 2010: German President Christian Wulff has become the latest politician from Adolf Sauerland’s own conservative party (CDU) to remind the Duisburg mayor that there was such a thing as political responsibility. The German President said while the presumption of innocence was applicable to all, the mayor would need to consider the accountability his office required. However, the president would not be drawn directly on whether he would advise Mayor Sauerland to resign following the Love Parade tragedy on 24 July. “If asked, my advice would be given in private,” he said.
Earlier, Adolf Sauerland had denied that his decision not to resign was because over a possible loss of pension benefits, saying the accusations were distasteful. “We are dealing with the death of 21 young people. Any other considerations are irreverent,” he said. However despite the mayor’s protestations, Germany’s most respected newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung und Süddeutsche Zeitung, reported, quoting sources close to the mayor. that he might be willing to be voted out of office by the city council and/or face a public re-call. Losing office through a vote of no confidence or a re-call would leave his pension rights largely intact.
A memorial service held yesterday for the victims of the Love Parade disaster was attended by Germany’s President, Chancellor Angela Merkel and North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Hannelore Kraft. Ms Kraft, whose 17-year old son had attended the techno music event but was not harmed, told the audience that there were many unresolved issues about what went wrong. "There are too many questions and not enough answers," said Kraft, fighting back tears. "How could this happen, who is to blame and who is responsible? These are questions that we have to answer." Mayor Sauerland did not attend the memorial service, saying his presence would be divisive.
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Duisburg mayor’s motives for
clinging to office questioned
Duisburg, 30 July 2010: The desperate reluctance of Duisburg’s Mayor Adolf Sauerland to take political responsibility for the tragic outcome of this year’s Love Parade is starting to overshadow the debate over why 21 young people from Germany and other countries had to die. The embattled mayor’s defence that he did not personally permit the techno music event to go ahead has caused public anger and ridicule. Even members of Sauerlands’s own conservative party (CDU) are distancing themselves from him.
CDU member of parliament and chairman of the powerful interior affairs committee, Wolfgang Bosbach, said the political buck stopped with Sauerland, who ultimately had to answer for any mistakes made by city officials. “Whether he actually signed an order or not is completely secondary,” he added. Bosbach expressed some sympathy for the mayor, saying he understood his reluctance to resign for fear it would appear to be an admission of guilt at a time when criminal negligence investigations were going on. “But the office of every mayor was connected not only with grandeur but every now and then also with a burden,” he pointed out.
Earlier Mayor Sauerland had claimed that he had no knowledge of any security concerns put forward by police and fire departments. He also said that it was not the job of mayor to personally sign off on the plans for big events such as the Love Parade.
Criticism of the mayor’s stand came also from the CDU’s Bavarian sister party CSU. Its interior affairs spokesman, Hans-Peter Uhl, said the Love Parade in Duisburg should never have been given the go-ahead. He also criticised Sauerland’s defence that he was not responsible for the decisions taken by his city officials. “The mayor doesn’t sign official approval notices himself, but they were signed on his watch, and as head of the city administration, he has responsibility,” Uhl said.
In the meantime, City Mayors has learnt that the mayor’s reluctance to resign might not be primarily over ‘who was responsible for what’ but for his desire to protect his pension rights. Under state law, there is no option for the mayor, a civil servant, to step down for political reasons. Instead he would have to ask his superior authority to dismiss him. If he took such a step he would forfeit all pension benefits he accumulated, even those earned during his years as teacher. Financial experts, City Mayors spoke to, said the mayor would be left without a pension. “A solution must be found to help him in this difficult situation.”
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Five days later and Duisburg
mayor is still clinging to office
Duisburg, 29 July 2010: Despite mounting pressure to announce his resignation, Duisburg’s mayor is clinging to office. This morning hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall, calling for Adolf Sauerland to do the decent thing and quit. Earlier North-Rhine Westphalia state premier, Hannelore Kraft, called on the mayor to accept moral responsibility for the deaths of 21 people at a stampede at the Love Parade techno music festival on Saturday. The premier’s statement has been interpreted as a call for the mayor’s resignation.
In an interview with Germany’s biggest-selling tabloid newspaper, Bild Zeitung, Mayor Sauerland refused to accept responsibility for Saturday’s tragic events. However, he did apologise for initially claiming the deaths were caused by revellers falling while trying to escape the stampede, A preliminary report shows that all of the victims have died as a result of crushed ribcages. The mayor insisted that he had not signed the permit, allowing the ill-fated festival to go ahead. “That’s not the job of a mayor,” he explained.
The state interior minister, Ralf Jäger, said he found it outrageous that the city and the event's organisers, Lopavent, had attempted to deny their responsibility for the tragedy. The minister added that the police investigation would focus on finding out why organisers had not implemented their own crowd control plans and why the city had approved the Love Parade's event permit.
"The organisers of the event are solely responsible for the event location," the minister told the press "My impression is that, as the crowd control system fell apart, the police took over the role of the organisers in working to protect visitors from being crushed." Ralf Jäger also critisised City Hall’s organisation leading up to the event. “The city only sent its approval of the Love Parade security concept to the police on the morning of the event,” he explained.
Meanwhile the press has criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel and newly-elected President Christian Wulff for not going to Duisburg. Merkel attended the opening of this year’s Bayreuth Wagner festival the day after the tragedy, while President Wulff is on holiday. However, both have said they would attend Saturday’s memorial service.
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Duisburg mayor will not attend
Love Parade memorial service
Duisburg, 28 July 2010: While German public prosecutors say they are investigating without prejudice, the country’s anger over the Love Parade tragedy last Saturday, which cost the lives of now 21 people and injured more than 500, is increasingly directed towards the event organisers and Duisburg City Hall. City Mayors has learnt that Mayor Adolf Sauerland has privately admitted that his position has become untenable, after he declined an invitation to this Saturday’s memorial service. The mayor, who - after death threats - has been given police protection, said his attendance would arouse further anger. An furious crowd pelted the mayor with garbage when he laid down flowers at the site of the tragedy three days ago.
While the mayor still insists that he was unaware or any safety concerns by the police, the fire services and members of Duisburg’s own public safety department, minutes of a meeting, which took place on 18 June, document severe misgivings about safety arrangements for the techno music festival. The meeting was attended by representatives from the organiser, Lopavent, the fire brigade and City Hall. According to the document, Wolfgang Rabe, Duisburg’s head of public safety, said that the mayor wished the event to go ahead and that any safety concerns needed to be dealt with ‘constructively”.
This morning North-Rhine Westphalia’s state interior minister, Ralf Jäger, issued a statement saying that Lopavent, the festival’s organiser, must shoulder a large proportion of the blame. The company, which is solely owned by Rainer Schaller, who also operates Germany’s largest chain of fitness centres, is accused of downplaying any worries about safety and basing their concept on ideal conditions without contemplating worst-case scenarios.
Since opening his first fitness centre in Würzburg (Bavaria) in 1997, Rainer Schaller has been feted as a businessman, willing to swim against the tide and not being adverse to risk taking. Unlike other German gyms, his 24-hour McFit centres operate similarly to budget airlines. Basic membership costs less than €20 ($26) a month, but all additional services, including showers, need to be paid for extra. McFit has now 118 branches throughout Germany, some 900,000 members and achieves an annual turnover of 134 million euros. In 2009, Schaller said in a newspaper interview that McFit's interest in Love Parade was to use a relatively small budget to gain a high recognition factor. “We spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of crazy thing we could do to make ourselves more well-known. We chose Love Parade," he added.
According to government sources, the results of investigations show that all of the victims had died as a result of crushed ribcages. It had previously been thought that some might have died from injuries caused by falling from a wall at the exit from the single tunnel that led to the site. Of the 21 victims, eight came from outside Germany. They included visitors from Australia, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Bosnia and China.
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Love Parade tragedy spells
the end of a mayor’s vision
Duisburg, 27 July 2010: Following the death of 20 people at Saturday's Love Parade music festival in Duisburg, the city's mayor is coming under increasing pressure to resign. Adolf Sauerland, who defended the city’s security plan and was pelted with rubbish by angry crowds, has faced scathing criticism from several local and regional newspapers as well as from police sources. The mayor, a member of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), was also told by opposition politicians to do “the decent thing and step down.”
While public prosecutors have opened an investigation into the tragedy, more and more details of unrealistic planning, unheeded security warnings and botched operations on the ground emerged in the media. Rainer Wendt, head of the national police union, told the press that police warnings about the dangers of holding the festival in Duisburg were not taken seriously. "I warned the city and the organisers a year ago that Duisburg was not a suitable location for the Love Parade. It is too small and too cramped," he said. "But I was called a killjoy and a security fanatic."
Rainer Wendt also demanded the resignation of Adolf Sauerland. “It is irrelevant whether the mayor was personally involved in the planning of the techno music festival or not. As mayor he is politically responsible for the actions of his administration. His position has become untenable.”
A report in the newspaper Koelner Stadtanzeiger said Mayor Sauerland gave the go-ahead for the event just hours before its start, despite concerns from police and fire officials. The newspaper reported that the chief of the Duisburg fire department told the mayor in writing that the location for the event, the city's former freight rail station, was too small for the expected number of more than one million visitors. The German news magazine Der Spiegel added that an official document issued by the city of Duisburg authorised only 250,000 people for the site of the event. According to Der Spiegel, the document also reportedly exempted the organisers from the minimal width of escape routes and from having fire brigade provisions.
Other newspaper articles describe Duisburg’s desperate attempt to change its image from a drab former coal-mining community to a regional cultural and media centre. The mayor even commissioned Britain’s star architect Norman Foster to present plans to turn Duisburg into the region’s ‘greenest’ communities. In parts of the old harbour, NYC-style lofts and trendy restaurants have already replaced many remnants of the city’s industrial past. Hosting the Love Parade was meant to advance the mayor’s vision further.
Until Saturday’s tragedy, Mayor Sauerland, a former teacher, had won backing for many of his initiatives. Germany’s Green Party supported his environmental plans, while praise came from opposition Social Democrats for the mayor’s efforts to integrate people with immigration backgrounds into the local community. Duisburg is the only city in the region where the building of a mosque was not met by civic protests.
The original founder of the Love Parade, Matthias Roeingh, said in a newspaper interview that he had warned his friends not to attend this year’s techno festival. Accusing the city of naivety, he said the event should never have been held in a closed area with only one principal exit. He also criticised the current owner and organiser of the Love Parade, Rainer Schaller, of simply using the festival to promote his chain of fitness centres, McFit. “For Schaller the Love Parade has become tax-deductible advertising.” Since he acquired the rights to the Love Parade in 2007, Rainer Schaller has been investing some three million euros annually into the concept.
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Mayor forced to flee scene
of Love Parade catastrophe
Duisburg, 26 July 2010: Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland had to flee the scene of the stampede that killed 19 people and injured hundreds at the Love Parade music festival on Saturday. An angry crowd greeted the mayor when he arrived to express his sorrow for what happened. As soon as he got out of his car plastic bottles and other pieces of garbage were thrown at him.
The mayor and City Hall officials have been accused of having invited the Love Parade to Duisburg despite severe misgivings over security and crowd control. According to experts, the city provided the music festival with an area that was licensed to hold a maximum of 300,000 people, while the organisers predicted that up to 1.5 million people would attend the dance culture and techno music event.
The Love Parade started in Berlin in 1989 and was held annually until 2003. In 2007 the festival moved to the Ruhr area, with Essen and Dortmund hosting the event in 2007 and 2008. Last year’s Love Parade was scheduled to take place in Bochum, a city of similar size to Duisburg, but officials withdrew the invitation after crowd control concerns.
German state prosecutors have opened an investigation into the stampede but questions remain as to the exact causes of the tragedy. Eyewitnesses told City Mayors that the opening of narrow stairs to ease the overcrowding in the access tunnel led to a mad dash. “Prior to the opening the atmosphere in the tunnel was uncomfortable but calm.”
Meanwhile Mayor Sauerland has not ruled out his resignation from office. In a radio interview he said he would not shy away from accepting responsibility for any mistakes. “But first City Hall together with the police and the organisers needed to establish what led to this tragedy,” the mayor told the interviewer.
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