German and Dutch authorities fear repeat of NYE firework violence

Young people erect a burning barricade at the Sanderstrasse and Kottbusser Damm intersection in the Neukölln district of Berlin
Image caption,Some of the worst violence last year came in the Neukölln district of Berlin

By Ido Vock

BBC News

Hundreds of people have been seen buying fireworks in Germany and the Netherlands ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations, despite pleas from authorities to tone down the use of the festive explosives.

Berlin saw violent riots last year, with fireworks being fired at police, sparking fires and causing injuries.

Some Dutch cities including Amsterdam have banned the use of pyrotechnics.

But the ban is expected to be widely ignored.

Fireworks are traditionally used to ring in the new year in Germany and the Netherlands, with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day the only times they can be set off without permission.

But in recent years, celebrations have come under increased scrutiny.

Last year, dozens of police and firefighters were injured during riots in Berlin. Authorities said some were deliberately targeted with fireworks.

Other cities including Hamburg, Bonn, Dortmund and Essen, also saw violence.

In the Netherlands, last year’s celebrations led to serious injuries, including to a child in Utrecht who had to have his hand amputated and right eye removed.

Authorities in Amsterdam linked the use of fireworks to a fire at a primary school and attacks on police officers.

In anticipation of similar scenes to last year, Berlin police conducted raids on shops suspected of selling illegal fireworks on Friday.

Officials said they had found seven alleged violations of the law, mostly in the southern Neukölln district.

Hundreds of Berliners had been seen queuing to purchase fireworks on Thursday night.

Barbara Slowik, Berlin’s police chief, said the policing operation on New Year’s Eve would be the “largest for decades”. She added that she expected the Israel-Gaza war to worsen tensions.

Around twice as many police officers as usual will be on the streets in the northern German state of North Rhine-Westphalia on 31 December.

Following the violence last year, mayors and police unions in the Netherlands and Germany called for a ban on the sale of fireworks. Some municipalities such as Amsterdam have already implemented bans.

In the Dutch capital, igniting fireworks has been illegal since 2021, although the ban was widely ignored last year.

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