With extra police, Cologne women revel in carnival after attacks

Thu Feb 4, 2016 10:25am EST
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By Erol Dogrudogan

COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - Undeterred by sexual attacks blamed on migrants on New Year's Eve, German women in clown costumes and bright wigs kicked off six days of carnival celebrations in Cologne on Thursday amid unusually heavy security.

Some 2,000 police were on duty, about double last year's number, after fierce criticism of the small force that was helpless on Dec. 31 when gangs of men - many said to be North African migrants - sexually attacked and robbed women revelers.

Floodlights and video cameras were installed in the center of the Rhineland city and sales of pepper spray cans were brisk before Weiberfastnacht (women's carnival), the traditional day when women take over their towns and symbolically castrate men by cutting off their ties.

A security point has been set up outside the twin-spired cathedral for women who feel threatened. Teams of people have been deployed around town to register any complaints.

"I don't think we should hold back. I think this is the safest carnival we've had for years and it'll never be this safe again," said Janina Lange, dressed as a brown cat with a painted face, in front of Cologne's landmark Gothic cathedral.

There were fewer "Jecken" (revelers) out in central Cologne on Thursday afternoon than last year, but rain may have kept some away. While it's traditionally the women's day for the festivities, there were many men in the crowd as well.

The attacks on women at New Year in Cologne and other cities exposed fears about the integration of the 1.1 million migrants who arrived last year, plus more this year, and about a possible clash of cultures with the mostly Muslim newcomers.

The federal BKA police was quoted by Die Welt daily as saying further sexual attacks were possible.   Continued...

Police patrol as revellers take part in the traditional "Weiberfastnacht" (Women's Carnival) celebration in Mainz, Germany, February 4, 2016. Germany is celebrating its traditional carnival with tight security after assaults on women during New Year's Eve celebrations across the country. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach