The scenery in James Simon Park is almost peaceful on Friday evening. It’s not busy. About 100 people hang out in small groups on the green space between the S-Bahn and the Spree and rarely have more than a few bottles of beer with them.
It’s hard to imagine that the police had to evacuate the park here a week ago. Alcohol has been banned between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in James-Simon-Park and the adjacent Monbijoupark since Thursday.
So it seems at first as if the ban is working or at least the groups of young people, who recently caused party excesses and violence, are partying somewhere else today.
Much speaks for the latter: At first, the police are present with several patrol groups in uniform, and there is an emergency vehicle at the park entrance. The police officers speak to almost all groups and point out the alcohol ban.
Very few park visitors have heard of it. Occasionally, the officers light up the contents of bottles. Some visitors leave the park or put away their alcohol bottles. As far as can be seen, the police officers do not issue any evictions.
After 12:00 a.m., there are no longer any stripes, and the emergency vehicle at the park entrance is gone. Most groups continue to consume alcohol. Overall it remains very calm.
Park visitors are divided on the alcohol ban. Many understand, but see the problem of control and enforcement. “You can see what we think of it,” says a group of boys, pointing to the collection of half-empty alcohol bottles around them.
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Three young people from Warsaw say that drinking alcohol in public is only permitted in certain places. That would work just fine.
“Of course, that’s not great for those who just want to have a relaxing drink here,” says a group from Spandau. According to a group of young adults, they could understand the alcohol ban in principle. “But if I can drink outside in front of the park, I’ll just come in here drunk,” says a man in his early 20s. The ban also has something to do with the fact that you can drink alcohol in the bars next door.
An employee at an adjacent club says it has an agreement with police that guests must consume alcohol in the bar’s fenced-off outdoor area or purchase the drinks outside the park.
His colleague doesn’t think much of the alcohol ban: “Then the groups meet somewhere else to drink.” Permanent police presence would help, especially since he occasionally had to wait an hour for the emergency services when the mood in the park escalated.
In the last few weeks, several hundred young people have celebrated in James Simon Park almost every weekend in a heated mood, which in some cases escalated. District Mayor Stephan von Dassel (Greens) announced an alcohol ban a few days ago in an interview with the Tagesspiegel.
A working group is already in session in the Senate administration to find a city-wide solution to the phenomenon of mass parties at night. On Thursday, the Mitte district imposed a ban on alcohol in response to “party excesses”.
Alcohol consumption is considered the main catalyst for such misconduct. A ban on alcohol is the mildest means of protecting the green area and its functions. The ban applies until September 11th.
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From next week, the security service will support the police on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. “within the available resources”. After talks with the police, the alcohol ban was “jointly assessed as expedient”.
It “has a preventive character above all” and allows for issuing dismissals and ensuring alcohol. If necessary, a warning of 50 euros or a fine of 100 to 3000 euros could be levied. The district does not want to accept “the impairment of its green spaces” and “violent excesses” there.
Experts expect that the party crowd will now switch to other parks – such as the Mauerpark in Pankow. The district office there rejects an alcohol ban, but considers it disproportionate – and warns against lawsuits.
The police union (GdP) had sharply criticized the district’s measure on Friday. It is not clear who will enforce the ban and how violations will be sanctioned. “There is still no clear concept for the people in the district,” said GdP spokesman Benjamin Jendro.
The alcohol ban is ultimately nothing more than a helpless attempt to withdraw from responsibility. “It cannot be that everyone goes on summer vacation and trusts that the police and fire brigade, as always, will solve all problems in this city.”