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#40: BVG brutality, corona news, 100-day plan
And another electric carmaker coming to Germany (but probably not Berlin).
Dear 20 Percent,
On the weekend, Berliner Zeitung published a feature about the horrific treatment of Abbéy Odunlami at the hands of BVG ticket inspectors back in December 2020. The article is behind a paywall, but I’ll summarise for those of you who haven’t heard the story: Odunlami, an American academic, was travelling on the U5 with his bike. He was on his way to meet his German wife, who was due to give birth with their first child within a matter of days.
When three inspectors entered the train at Strausberger Platz, he showed them the ticket he’d bought on the BVG app. Apparently, he hadn’t purchased an additional ticket for his bike - something he hadn’t been aware of needing to do at the time. One of the inspectors also said that he had bought his ticket too late i.e. while already on the subway. At any rate, they all left the train at Weberwiese station.
Security camera footage shows the men arguing. An inspector grabbed Odunlami’s jacket, another his shoulders. He pushed them away. Then one of the men grabbed him and slammed him against the tile floor and suddenly Odunlami was on the ground with a shattered shoulder blade, a fractured collarbone and two broken ribs - one nearly puncturing his lung. Instead of being present at the birth of his first child a few days later, he would be getting surgery at another hospital. “The doctor who operated on me said I was lucky,” Odunlami told Berliner Zeitung. “One or two millimetres deeper and I would not have survived.”
What should have been a routine ticket check ended in brutal violence against a non-violent passenger. How did it get to that point? There appears to have been some language issues. Odunlami’s German wasn’t great and the inspectors’ English was patchy. But such a misunderstanding should never justify any kind of violence - let alone such brutality. Ticket inspectors aren’t mandated to use physical force, anyway. Racism appears to have been a factor.
Below is a short video Odunlami made in December 2021, a year after the incident.
A year after that, he has yet to receive a credible response from BVG. The operator says it won’t comment on an ongoing investigation — at least it is performing an investigation. One has to only wonder why it’s taking more than two years. But this is clear: the BVG needs to drastically improve training of its personel. The organisation has done a lot to improve its service and has stepped up its marketing (#weilwirdichlieben!) over the last decade but this is a throwback to the Dark Ages. The transport authority so many Berliners rely on needs to simply own up to its egregious failure in this case, and pledge to treat all passengers with basic dignity.
Finally, here’s a petition that has been signed by tens of thousands calling for an end to discrimination and violence by ticket inspectors on the Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn.
More news below!
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The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, January 18
Note: The eastern district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf hasn’t been reporting its corona cases to the health department or the Robert-Koch-Institut since January 10 because its corona database crashed. Experts are reportedly on the case. Maybe someone has a spare fax machine?
Fully vaccinated: 73.6% (72.2% Friday)
Received booster: 48.2%
New cases in one day: +7,559 (7,238 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,067 (+4 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 962.7 (949.8 Friday)
🔴 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 12.9 (11.2 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 18.4% (18.8% Friday)
The corona news
Since Friday, the estimated 3 million people in Germany who have received a single shot of Johnson and Johnson are no longer considered “fully vaccinated” by German health authorities. To regain that status, they’re advised to get an extra shot of another vaccine.
Spandau health authorities have told schools in the borough to suspend contact tracing, apparently because the sheer number of infections is too high. Schools have been told to just test the best friends and classmates of kids that are positive. Berlin schools are reporting an incidence rate of about 1,800 per 100,000 — twice the city’s average. So far, thanks to the far milder Omicron variant, there are no plans to shut down schools en masse.
Quarantines have, however, clobbered the police. Some 769 Berlin cops are infected or in isolation. The Polizei says its activated level 1 of its pandemic emergency plan — which basically involves an internal reorganisation to ensure the cops can keep doing their thing.
The new city administration or Senat says its wants to get 40 nifty projects underway in its first 100 days (just 70 left, guys). After a cabinet brainstorm out in Brandenburg on Sunday, Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) said key points were: the foundation of an alliance for housing and affordable rent; paving the way to give teachers tenured status (to keep them in Berlin); laying the groundwork for a massive expansion of the protected bike path network (by 280km per year instead of 130km over the entire previous legislative period) — and the presentation of a draft budget by 22 February. With the tried and tested 100-day gimmick, Giffey is already showing she’s at least better at communicating a sense of progress than the last mayor. Let’s hope she’s for real.
Vinfast coming to Germany. Who?
Watch out, Tesla, the competition is heating up. Not only are the German brands cranking out electric cars like there’s no tomorrow, now Vinfast, a Vietnamese upstart founded in 2017, says it’s looking for a spot to build a factory in Germany to begin building its smallish electric SUVs by 2025. The eastern state of Thüringia is reportedly under discussion.
A wooden medieval street has been uncovered during construction in Mitte. Well, more of a walkway made out of planks through what was once some seriously swampy territory. At Molkenmarkt in Mitte, the city’s historic centre, some 2.5m beneath layers of asphalt and dirt, archaeologists have found the 6m-wide path constructed out of birch, oak and pine logs running parallel to the Spree river.
While Karnival der Kulturen has been cancelled again this year (thanks, virus), non-profit CSD Berlin says its powering ahead with Berlin PRIDE next summer. They’re also teaming up with Brewdog (which has a huge location out in Mariendorf). The Scottish craft beer maker will be producing a special edition brew for next summer’s PRIDE event on July 23. Fifty percent of the profits will flow back to CSD and other LGBTQ+ organisations. You can vote on the design of the can through January 31.
Climate crisis: Now what?
The Glasgow COP talks basically flopped, but at least the Greens in the German government are doing something about climate change, right? Where does the climate movement stand right now? This Friday, Hebbel am Ufer theatre hosts a discussion with a number of climate activists from Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and others. In English with German translation. A 2G+ event. The info.
Speaking of activism, the Wir Haben Es Satt demonstration planned for this coming Saturday — an annual march to protest industrial agriculture which always attracts thousands of Berliners and loads of tractors — has been called off due to the corona situation.
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