What happened at the Love Parade festival in Duisburg on Saturday is a tragedy.
The deaths of 19 and over 300 more injured shocked a whole nation and will
dominate the news in the upcoming days and weeks. But what makes this tragedy
especially bitter is the fact that not far away from where people were being
crushed to death, others who were unaware of what was happening just kept on
partying in a grotesque clash of life and death.
The other fact which sheds a whole new light onto the catastrophe is that with a
better security plan and a faster reaction on behalf of the police and the
staffers on the site, all these deaths might have been prevented. That is what
makes a tragedy into a scandal.
In the aftermath of what happened, police, city officials and the organizers all
deny any responsibility. But almost hourly new facts are being uncovered.
German media are reporting that not only was the festival site designated for
less than a third of the 1.4 million partygoers, but also that the emergency
exits were too narrow. How could the city Duisburg allow the Love Parade to be
held under these circumstances? Was the deeply in debt city’s wish to boost its
image stronger than the concerns for the visitor’s safety? Anyone who saw the
pictures of the masses streaming into the tunnel cannot help question if it
wasn’t blatantly obvious that mass panic would break out.
The pictures are one thing but what is even worse are the eyewitness accounts
that are being played on the radio and on television. Young people tearfully
tell of how they fell down and no one helped them up, how their legs were
crushed under the weight of the frightened masses. Some were lucky enough to
escape once the police finally did move the metal fences which enclosed the
area. And while many of those who were there have only criticism for the police
and other aid workers, some also came forward and thanked paramedics, orderlies
and sometimes complete strangers for saving their lives.
Who really is to blame for the tragedy will probably not be completely clear for
many more weeks. The office of the district attorney has launched an
investigation into the matter but too little is being done too late. The event
was hyped up in the media and in the masses alike. Those few who voiced their
doubts about the site’s size, the tunnels dual function as entrance and exit and
the lack of proper emergency exits may feel vindicated now, but the dead still
Calling off the Love Parade in the future can also not change what has
happened. Is it fair to cancel a festival that was held peacefully eighteen
times? Is it fair to deprive coming generations of the experience just because
someone, somewhere, screwed up? Canceling the Love Parade seemed smart as an
initial reaction, but whether it was the right decision only time will tell.
Maybe, in five years or so, it will be revived. It might be under another name
and a slightly different concept, but the idea of such a music festival will
What will never go away are the images in the heads of those who were there. In
situations like these, in bouts of mass hysteria, that’s when you really get to
know yourself. That’s when you find out if you will do anything to survive –
including trampling over other human beings – or if you will stop and try to
help others, putting your own life into danger. Can those who ran in panic
really be blamed for not helping others? Can any of us really judge them, not
knowing how we ourselves would have reacted?
What the events at Saturday’s Love Parade should be is a lesson to all
organizers of any big festivals. It’s easy to criticize the city, the police
and the organizers now, in the aftermath of what has happened. But if there had
been no accident, would anyone now be lamenting the site’s size, the tunnel’s
function, and the lack of exits? Probably not. What we need are people who
have the guts not only to call out such blatantly obvious deficits beforehand,
but also to act upon them. What we need are people who don’t care about being
ridiculed for being too picky about security, for not letting in more visitors
than are allowed, for not making light of such events.
Maybe there will never be a clear answer for who is to blame. But if we are
honest, most of us are to blame for putting pleasure before safety all too
often. And that is one of the very real dangers that became apparent in this