Germany calls for fireworks ban after attacks on rescue workers

German police and fire service unions have called for a ban on firecrackers on New Year’s Eve after Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned incidents of firecrackers and rockets falling on rescue workers.

Groups of drunk people setting off their own fireworks are a familiar sight on German streets on New Year’s Eve (Silvester), although shops are allowed to sell not only sparklers but also small rockets, fountains and firecrackers for the last three days of the year.

After their sale was banned for two years to avoid overburdening hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic, German cities have once again echoed with the crackling, hissing and banging of consumer fireworks this year – with an unusual number of injuries and some fatalities.

In the capital Berlin, the authorities reported 33 injured police officers and firefighters in more than 1,700 operations on the evening of December 31st.

“What we are currently seeing in Berlin, but also in Baden-Württemberg, is that firefighters are being ambushed, that police officers are being attacked like on the 1st German Police Union. “This is a new level.”

The police union in Berlin called for a nationwide ban on the sale of customer fireworks. “We don’t think it is necessary for large parts of the population to ignite their own pyrotechnics on New Year’s Eve,” said spokesman Benjamin Jendro for the dpa press agency.

The German Fire Brigade Association called for more of its vehicles to be fitted with dashcams to record attacks like those witnessed this year.

A spokesman for Scholz condemned the “massive” attacks on rescue workers on Monday, while Berlin’s Senator for Culture called for a general ban. “What is this firecracker nonsense,” said Klaus Lederer from the LINKE. “No one needs that.”

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A 17-year-old boy died in an incident involving a home-made firecracker on the outskirts of the eastern German city of Leipzig on January 1. Another man from Saxony-Anhalt died after being hit by a car while setting off fireworks on the open road.