Umbrella organisation defends itself against surveillance and arbitrary police violence
Football fans are demanding less violence and surveillance from the police in Germany. At the annual general meeting of their umbrella organisation in Hanover, 22 local associations published a joint catalogue with five central demands against “permanent surveillance, restrictions on freedom, unlawful data collection, lack of action against police violence and the planned control of all digital communication”. The massive police presence at football matches in and around stadiums is criticised.
Often, fans are “treated worse than other citizens” and are approached particularly harshly by the police. At matches abroad, there are also reprisals against the travelling fans, including the refusal to allow them to go to the toilet. “Water cannons, full-body checks and even drone surveillance are now part of the standard police repertoire – even at 3rd division football matches. This reveals a completely exaggerated general suspicion of all fans,” says Linda Röttig, a member of the board of the umbrella organisation. This hostile image of “football fans” must be systematically dismantled.
That is why the fan support groups are calling for compulsory identification for police officers. Only in this way could arbitrary bodily harm such as excessive painful grabbing, punching and kicking be legally prosecuted, according to the paper. At present, however, mandatory identification is implemented in about half of the federal states. The Federal Police also still sends its officers into action anonymously. However, the Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, is planning a corresponding change in the amendment of the Federal Police Act with the introduction of “tactical identification”, reports “Der Spiegel”. The conversion of the uniforms is to cost €30 million, the magazine writes. It is still unclear whether this is a clear individualisation, as demanded by the fans.
Unpopular fans are stored by the police in the “Violent Offenders in Sport” file. The “Zentrale Informationsstelle Sport” (ZIS) at the North Rhine-Westphalian police in Duisburg is technically responsible for this. Physically, the data collection is kept centrally as a compound file at the Federal Criminal Police Office. All German police authorities can enter and retrieve information about “conspicuous” fans. The mere suspicion or fact of being recorded on the fringes of a police operation is sufficient for storage. Every fifth entry is made because of “identification, expulsion and detention”. Records due to a preliminary investigation are not automatically deleted even if the investigation is discontinued due to proven innocence. As of 8 April 2021, a total of 7.485 persons were registered in the “Violent Offenders in Sport” file, by far the most (almost 3.000) in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The umbrella organisation criticises the file as unlawful and demands its abolition. Support, albeit less radical, comes from the state commissioners for data protection and freedom of information. Dieter Kugelmann, commissioner for Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, calls for a reorientation with a strengthening of the rights of those affected. Accordingly, persons who are registered as “violent sports offenders” should be notified of this in all federal states. Only in this way would fans be able to challenge incorrectly stored data in court. Such a reform “with regard to the rule of law, deletion periods, transparency and data protection” is also promised by the government in the current coalition agreement, but initiatives to this end are not known in the Bundestag so far. In its answer to a parliamentary question in spring, the German government only confirmed the “need for a critical review”.
The fifth demand mentioned by the fan aids is the prevention of the “chat control” planned by the European Union. This refers to the attempt to oblige internet platforms to read encrypted communication; a proposal to this effect is currently being discussed by the 27 governments and will soon be discussed in parliament. This would also massively restrict fan rights, writes the umbrella organisation and joins the nationwide campaign “Stop Chat Control” against the planned EU regulation.
Published in German in “nd”.
Image: Police Baden-Württemberg.