Safety in Our Cities

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 Image: imago images / Ralph Peters

An article published in rbb on 5th of April reports an assault that took place over the weekend in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Danny, a queer person who left his home country exactly five years ago to find a sense of security and freedom was attacked in broad daylight in the middle of the city.

Many people who have heard the event or Danny has been in contact with were very surprised to hear that such incidents take place in Berlin. To some people though, it is not surprising at all. Such incidents happen to them or to their friends almost every day. “In the last year I heard of so many incidents that happened to my friends or to people in my surrounding and now to me” Danny says. There is a gap in the perception of violence that is prevalent in our cities.

Violence in our cities, especially towards marginalised communities is not an isolated event, it is also not location specific. Bastian Finke from the gay anti-violence project Maneo says that almost every day attacks on LGBTI are being reported. Although the number of unreported incidents are estimated to be around 80 to 90 per cent. Even in the cases that do get reported at the end, it is highly unlikely for any real action to take place. Without video evidence or witness statements the proceedings are usually dropped. Even with proper evidence cases similar to this are not pursued so much. Knowing how the process unfolds from his friends Daniel decided to take matters into his own hands and decided to film his attackers and contact the police. 

On a Saturday afternoon, in the middle of one of the most crowded corners of Berlin, nobody came to offer their help to him. On the contrary, people from shops around rushed out to help the attackers, he recalls. Some who eventually came to help were threatened by the attackers. When the police arrived, the attackers laughed at Daniel, “nothing can happen to us” they told him. A 30-year-old suspect in the immediate vicinity of the crime scene was arrested and taken into police custody before being released. 

Bastian Finke notes that Kreuzberg, North Neukölln, Mitte and Schöneberg have the highest number of attacks against LGBTI, but he also underlines that these are only the cases that are reported. “Wherever LGBTI people become visible, they also run a great risk of being attacked”. On March 31, 2022 not so long ago the Trans Day of Visibility was celebrated. Whilst it is a step further to celebrate Trans Visibility and expand the conversation a big criticism from the trans community exists as well. A post on instagram on this day goes “Trans day of don’t perceive me if you won’t protect me”, when a group has visibility without security accommodating it, they put themselves into danger. Visibility without proper framework conditions falls short in offering legitimate solutions to marginalised groups.

Next to visibility we also have to talk about allyship. A trans woman from the Middle East who is a resident of Berlin also noted that in the last 6 months she has been attacked 3 times, mostly in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. All of these incidents took place in broad daylight in crowded places and very little help came from by-standers. How to be an active bystander and ally, offering help in situations like these is also a very important conversation that needs to happen more seriously. 

Amongst the residents of Berlin a big group of people came here to get a sense of belonging and feel safe. Daniel is one of them. He was threatened with death in his country of origin because of his sexuality and religious beliefs. He came to Berlin precisely to get away from this and is now facing similar situations in Berlin. He is asking himself “did it happen because of my jacket or painted fingernails? Shall I now be careful of what I wear?”

Daniel was taken to the hospital with bruises on his head and was released some hours later. He is adamant in pursuing his case “I will not put up with it, not for me and not for anyone else. It’s not easy to be gay. Other people have paved the way for us. Well I have to do mine.”.

This Friday the 8th of April VibeLab is hosting a panel on NTIA’s Nighttime Economy Summit focusing on global nighttime safety and wellbeing. In this event citywide crime prevention and urban safety strategies will be discussed. The policies and methods that have been used so far to make our cities safer, e.g. prohibition, policing or stronger security measures, have proved themselves to be ineffective. We need to focus on sustainable urban development that takes wellbeing and inclusion into consideration.

Read the full article here.