One month on from the New Year’s Eve attacks, on Thursday Cologne’s annual carnival kicked off with the Weiberfastnacht, or “woman’s carnival.” After groups of men surrounded, assaulted, and robbed women on New Year’s Eve, resulting in over 1,000 criminal complaints, including 433 for sexual assault, Cologne’s mayor, Henriette Reker, had advised women to keep “an arm’s length’s distance” from strangers during the upcoming festival. Nonetheless, women garishly costumed themselves and kissed the cheeks of strangers for the Weiberfastnacht, a traditional day of misrule, seen by many as symbolic of female emancipation, during which women are allowed to ambush men and cut off their ties.
Even with an unprecedented number of police officers patrolling the city center, numbered between 2,500 and 3,200, special “women’s security points,” and fewer attendees at the carnival than in previous years due mainly to rain, authorities have said that 22 incidents of sexual assault occurred in the city on the first night of the traditional street party. They reported having 190 people in custody. A suspect was in custody after a woman was attacked and raped while on her way home, they added.
The carnival launch came a day after Berlin declared Algeria and Morocco “safe countries” in a new asylum bill, an apparent response to the majority of the suspected NYE attackers being from said countries. An additional 91,671 refugees registered in Germany during January, and, according to a recent Infratest Dimap poll, 81 percent of Germans believe the government is not in control of the situation.