Against the fear

"Stop Pegida NRW! No to racist agitation! No to sexual violence!" – under this slogan the alliance "Cologne against right" has called for a demo at the main station. For Hannelore Bartscherer of the Catholic Committee of the City of Cologne a sign against fear.

Interviewer: Massive sexual assaults around the central station on New Year's Eve. Refugees are also said to have been among the men who were on the Domplatte, but whether they were among the perpetrators is not yet known. That people are now worried is clear. But how far may this concern go. One must be afraid now also again that Pegida and Co. start with new agitation.

Hannelore Bartscherer (Chairwoman of the Catholic Committee of the City of Cologne): They will certainly! Whoever was assaulted – it was obviously gangs, it was obviously young men who gathered there in large numbers, something like that is not random – that is criminal, we have laws for that. This must be countered with the severity of the laws that we have. Because from my point of view – as terrible as what happened there is – there is also a dimension about it. This is an attack on our free constitutional state. We feel safe in our state, even with the laws and with the police as a rule. Of course there are always crimes, but there must not be such things and for that we have security organs. And these security organs must be on hand. And if it wasn't like that on New Year's Eve, then of course we have to learn the lesson that we have to deal with it differently in the future. The second thing for me is: as a woman, I want to feel safe in my city, at my station, on my station forecourt. And I expect that this security is also guaranteed with the possibilities that we have. I do not want to move in a city where I live and have to be afraid – in the evening, at night and also during the day. This must not be!

Interviewer: On the other hand, there is also – especially here in Cologne – a very, very committed culture of welcome. And there are certainly many refugees who are only looking for protection here with us. What do you have to do now, so that you don't harm these people who are just looking for protection here??

Bartscherer: First of all, I think we have to differentiate. We have to differentiate that people who are looking for protection from terror, violence and persecution here with us, are first guaranteed this protection by us. And for that there is this incredibly high readiness to welcome. I think that is first of all a fact. And what happened on New Year's Eve – regardless of whether it was refugees or people of German origin or people with a migrant background – must have consequences. People who commit crimes here have to bear the consequences, no matter where they come from. I find a misconceived caution – which groups of people are we talking about and how can I address this – a bit strange. I think that is wrong.

Interviewer: Today first of all the demonstration. "Cologne against the Right" has called for a big demonstration and the alliance "Cologne stands up against the Right" supports this call. How important is it there that many people participate?

Bartscherer: Of course, it's always important that the city community shows its colors at this point. If many people are there, I think that's a good, right and powerful sign. During the day, announced demo – I think, there is also the fear potential is not great. I can therefore also invite everyone to come. But it is also a sign for me that we do not let ourselves be ruled by fear. We must not have to change a behavior because external conditions force us to do so. This is the most devastating thing that can happen to us and we must not allow it. Because fear paralyzes, makes narrow, makes small and seeps into everything. I have already heard this from several people: I arrive at the main station in the evening, don't want to be unsettled and yet I have a very strange feeling in the back of my mind and in my stomach. No! That does not go! And for this we also need measures, among other things also presence of forces of order, which I also see and which also come to the assistance, if I call.

The interview was conducted by Heike Sicconi.

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