The Neubrandenburg police headquarters have demanded that a police station be erected on the grounds of our festival, so that the event can be patrolled without cause around the clock and so that any festival-goer can be checked at any time. In its communication, the police headquarters have also referred to “deficits in the safety concept” for the festival.
That is a smokescreen. If we agreed to police surveillance and supervision of our guests at the festival, the police would have almost no problem in approving our safety concept.
Back on 14 March 2019, at a safety meeting between the police, organizers and medical services, which took place immediately after the meeting with all the authorities relevant to the festival, the legal adviser of the police headquarters of Neubrandenburg stated in front of ten plus witnesses that the police headquarters Neubrandenburg would only agree to the safety concept, regardless of its content, if the organizers complied with its demands for a police station on the festival site and the patrols. This was not recorded in the minutes of this meeting with the authorities though.
That is disinformation. All the Hangars on the festival site have adequate evacuation routes. The Hangars were also not built in the last 12 months and have been a firm fixture at the festival for many years now. The police headquarters did not consider the evacuation plans to be a problem last year, or in any of the years prior. We were also only informed about this alleged “deficit” in early May - when our dispute with the police had already been going on for some time. Despite this, we will look into this and check the safety of the evacuation routes from the relevant Hangar.
The Neubrandenburg Police Headquarters have also warned about the “lack of a public address system” to warn festival-goers about any dangers that may occur.
In all the 22 years that Fusion Festival has been going, that’s the first time that anyone has complained about the sound system being inadequate.
But seriously, the loudspeakers on the Fusion stages have considerable power. At night, noise levels have to be significantly reduced so that the people living in neighbouring communities can sleep in peace. It is ludicrous to suggest that any announcements made on the loudspeakers at the festival would not be heard.
Quite simply, in our opinion, the Neubrandenburg police have spread unfounded and false allegations in this matter and they’ve done this for one reason alone: the required police station and patrols of the site is probably not legally tenable.
These demands, however, were consistent throughout all the communications the police had with the authorities. It might simply be a regulatory order or condition imposed that we assign a place for the station and have to endure the patrols without cause.
If this happens, we would challenge it in court. Because the Chief of Police knows that his demand would be contestable in court, he seems to prefer to challenge us on the deficiencies in our documents. The same documents, which in a much slimmed-down version, were enough for all authorities to give the go ahead for the event for many years previously.
We emphatically reject this statement. In recent years, we the organisers and our external security providers have always worked with the police in a constructive and solutions-orientated way. The conclusion that proper cooperation between the two would be unlikely is only being arrived at by the Chief of Police because we will not accept his demand to be able to patrol the area and will take legal action against it.
We remain clear:
1) Regardless of the outcome of this political and judicial debate, as organizers, we will duly cooperate with all the authorities involved - as has been the case in years gone by.
2) All our external security providers will of course also work effectively with the authorities.
In our opinion, Mr. Hoffmann-Ritterbusch plays a central role in this conflict given that he insists that any decision-making authority and the leading the operations management for the activity rests entirely with him. Mr. Hoffmann-Ritterbusch is questioning the entire approval practice of the past years and claims that both his own predecessors as well as the authorities awarding past permits have made mistakes. He now wants to correct these mistakes and claims to be the only one with the necessary expertise.
He sometimes makes outrageous demands and statements, which he procures from sources "on the internet". For example, he claims that, after a power outage, it is proven that chaos breaks out after 9 minutes and that generally, the relevant area is placed under high-risk. Source? Seen it on the internet! In past years when generators were still used on the site, Fusion has had to deal with power outages that were significantly longer than 9 minutes. What happened? People drummed, sang, and created a great atmosphere until the power was back on.
In the past, the local authorities - including three predecessors of Hoffmann-Ritterbusch, one of which even today has become the highest state police officer - have made no reservations or objections against the event or against the security concept itself. An almost uniquely low number of incidents have been confirmed year after year.
The Chief of Police himself does not have the expertise that would justify the questioning of the licensing practice of recent years. In his civil service career he has probably never been responsible for open-air festivals of this kind. On the other hand, the local authorities and the Kulturkosmos association have been addressing and solving for safety and security at Fusion Festival every year for more than 20 years.
We fear that the Chief of Police creates a security risk himself by exchanging a tried-and-tested concept for his personal, repressive agenda and in this way will create a whole manner of new dangers and conflicts that were previously not an issue.
For such a large event, we have a uniquely responsible audience. Our guests exercise mutual consideration and mindfulness. We are proud of that. In addition to our own security staff, we have about 10,000 coworkers and volunteers who are present across the whole site and are able also to report danger.
In all previous years, we have had a very positive experience with the safety concept and procedures we have developed and we don’t want to jeopardise it with a police strategy form the outside which jeopardises much of what we have built. We are also in favour of a security policy which is grounded in evidence. This means that a measure really has to solve a problem and achieve a safer environment. We do not see this in the desire to patrol the site at will.
No, the police have always had unrestricted access to the site in cases of specific suspicion or cause. Both we the organisers and individual guests have called the police in the past to the festival site and they have carried out investigations there.
Nothing at all. We’ve always had a great relationship with the local police. It’s been a relationship built on trust and has continually only gotten better over the last 21 festivals. The cooperation and partnership with the police are crucial aspects in the safe running of the event.
However, we think that the current plans of the police go far beyond what is reasonable or necessary.
The general police presence in the rural areas of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern appears to be close to zero. 127,590 hours of overtime in 2017 and a sickness rate of more than 10 percent raise the question of whether the police leadership is capable of establishing the right tasks and priorities, or whether they simply want to gain extra overtime with a stupid large-scale operation which is also much to the annoyance of civil servants and the general public.
Fusion is a safe festival. The number of reported violent crimes such as assault or robbery has been in the lower single-digit range for years - an average of 2.5 cases per year. The police themselves have always issued statements to the press which describe Fusion as "trouble-free" (2015), "as expected calm" (2016) or "(with) no special incidents" (2018). Professional companies have been providing security on the festival grounds for years. In cooperation with the festival's own stewards, they have established a fine network of contact points for all kinds of emergencies.
Guests can turn to the security staff who are present on the site. Of course, they can also inform a steward or someone at an Info Point, who will then contact Security. Of course, a criminal complaint can also be filed with the police. The police have unrestricted access to the site when it comes to the specific investigation of criminal offenses. Happily, it is extremely rare that our guests fall victim to crime.
After years of positive experiences, we know that without this police action, things will work perfectly and we’ll enjoy a safe festival. Fusion has always been a field of experimentation on how to change society. Despite the growth in number of guests, we have been able to show that Fusion is different from other major events. This is threatened by the plans of the police now - and unnecessarily so.
The Chief of Police’s plans would change the character of the festival so much that it would discourage many to continue to participate - not only the large Fusion network, but also the vast majority of visitors. Who would the festival be made with and for in the future?
For more than 20 years, Fusion has shown that a society can organize itself in open spaces, maintain safety and order without any problems, and can exist peacefully together. This achievement is being put at risk by the police through their requirements that are without justification. It is an attack on a successful and progressive event and a robust safety concept.
The organisation of a cultural and artistic event, i.e. of the festival, falls under the freedom of art. This includes the ability to create spaces in which people can behave freely without observation. Only then can they truly develop. Fusion facilitates collective experiences in alternative spaces. Each person is responsible for their own actions and behaviour rather than the societal norms. This is not possible under police surveillance. We see this freedom to be yourself and thus the fundamental right to freedom of art to be under threat by the plans of the police.
We have proposed that the police set up a station in the immediate vicinity of the festival area. We would mark this location on the festival programme map and signpost it on the festival site. The location offered is within easy walking distance for all visitors.
We can assume that this is the case. Furthermore, there is a general trend against the liberal society, and towards the abolishment of basic rights and freedoms. We are also seeing the further curtailment of civic and subcultural spaces.
We have always focused on a cooperation formed through conversations that were carried out on an equal footing. The cooperation was grounded in trust and characterised by mutual respect and empathy. That was possible for years and it worked well. This year there is no chance of any equal footing whatsoever.
This year, right from the off, the Neubrandenburg police already acted differently from previous years, especially in relation to the permit approval process. Up until 2018, the cooperation was characterised above all by a cooperation of trust and and both sides remained true to commitments they each had made.
This year, we feel that the police are not being honest with us.
It is clear that the police are planning a major operation at the festival site, but they are trying to convince us that their real goal is to be close to citizens and to enable them to be responsive to festival visitors.
Protocols of the authorities are probably coordinated with the police, but not with us. In recent years, we have never had to object to the minutes of meetings; this year, we’ve had to three times.
Representatives of the Neubrandenburg police met "informally" with several authorities at least two times outside the regular official meeting times in order to ensure that their demand to be able to patrol the site was supported by these bodies.
In the meeting between authorities in Röbel, the police once again demanded the right to patrol at will and threatened that, if we did not concede to agree, then our safety concept would never be approved, regardless of its content.
All in all, the municipal and district authorities seem to be constantly being contacted by the police. We, the organisers, are the only ones not getting any information.
We not only rely on the support of our network and our visitors, but also from the political class. So it’s time now to mount political pressure. On May 26th, elections take place on a European and local level and there should be an increased political sensitivity to our topic. Write friendly letters to your MPs, sign the petition, contact journalists, friends, etc. It is important that you make good arguments and communicate respectfully - remember, we want to persuade. Tell them how many years you’re enjoyed coming to Fusion and that people coexist peacefully there. Tell them why the festival is special to you and why you have never lamented the absence of the police.
Yes, we will exhaust all possibilities and also fight our case right the way through the courts if need be.
We were made aware of it for the first time in November. First, we had to organise ourselves, consult with lawyers and develop a common position. We then negotiated at different levels with the authorities and the police and had hoped for an agreement. In the talks with the police, we were very willing to compromise. But the police didn’t move an inch. It was after that when the conversation was passed up to the Chief of Police, Hoffmann-Ritterbusch. In a recent conversation, on which we continued to have high hopes for a successful resolution, he made it abundantly clear that the police would not budge on their demands and that we should hold out no further hope for compromise.
It is far from clear whether or not the police are legally allowed officially patrol the festival grounds. Police officials avoid this term, presumably to minimise the risk of it being challenged legally. But, in the end, that is exactly what they mean: the site being patrolled without specific reason to do so and without being called by the guests or the organiser. As far as Kulturkosmos is concerned, the event is held on private property and they are responsible for the security and safety of the area. Ultimately, the rights of ownership (§14GG) of the association are affected here. If we can not come to an agreement, we will, of course, have this matter settled in court.
The number of guests at Fusion has remained the same since 2013.
The attempt to counterbalance the commercial festival culture has given birth to a project that has become much more than just a festival in the last 22 years. The concept has also successfully proven that it is essential to create alternatives to consumer and commercial festivals. Part of this counter-proposal is that the police are not on the dancefloor and the free spirit of Fusion doesn’t come with uniforms and repression. That would be the red line crossed and our motivation would be broken - as would that of the majority of the contributors to the festival.
Kulturkosmos is the largest cultural project in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that is self-financed and without state funding. Furthermore, Kulturkomos and its festivals are an important economic factor for the region and contributes significant commercial and tax revenue. All this would disappear in the case that Fusion were to no longer exist.
Over the years, the festival has decisively shaped the image of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as an open, liberal area of Germany. Of the damage to the image of the region and the state that this would cause of course we can only speculate at this point. But probably this would far exceed the direct economic harm.
In addition to the annual revenue from accomodation rentals and catering, Fusion is a tourist magnet. Lots of visitors to the festival also travel to the surrounding area. The value of the festival for tourism in the entire region has a long-term effect. Those who go to Fusion at a young age will again come back to Müritz later in life for a family holiday.