Frequent knife attacks cause heated debates in the NRW state parliament

“Deadly dangers from knife attacks – what further measures will the state government take?” – this was the topic of a current hour with which the plenary session of the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament opened on Friday in Düsseldorf. She had applied for the SPD parliamentary group. And their MP Andreas Bialas began his speech by listing all the knife attacks in North Rhine-Westphalia last weekend. “An unprecedented, incomprehensible trail of blood runs through the country,” he said, speaking of “knife madness” and “rapidly increasing” knife attacks. “Citizens want answers,” he demanded. “There can’t be another bloody weekend like this.”

As suitable countermeasures, the Wuppertal MP proposed the expansion of the weapon ban zones, knife bans in public places and increased surveillance. However, when asked about the perpetrator groups of this relatively new phenomenon, the SPD-Member of the Bundestag held back strongly. Here he used the description “socially marginalized people who are conspicuous”. It was noticeable, however, that Bialas was therefore demanding an increase in the number of police contact officers. However, he did not explain what their function is. In NRW, contact officers are police officers who are responsible for communication between the police stations and local Islamic communities.

“The fact that the SPD, of all people, discovered the topic of knife attacks for itself is not without a certain irony,” scoffed the CDU MP Gregor Golland. “It’s close to populism. In which rows do you actually want to fish here?”. Golland admitted that any knife attack “is of course one too many”. Overall, however, he defended the measures taken by the state government. “We will continue our successful and consistent zero-tolerance policy.”

“The number is an indictment in itself”

But the domestic spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Marc Lürbke, doubted that. He pointed out that there had recently been 4,191 such attacks of this type per year in North Rhine-Westphalia. “That’s twelve a day,” he said. “The number is an indictment in itself.” He described the no-gun zones as a “helpless attempt” to counter knife crime “with the German forest of signs”. Lürbke called for a “prevention offensive” in schools “and yes, also in accommodation for refugees”. He also called for quick penalties for people who are found with a knife: “Anyone who carries a knife with them in NRW at the weekend must sit with the judge on Monday.” In the opinion of the FDP politician, “heavy fines of several hundred euros” are then appropriate .

The debate took a different direction when Julia Höller spoke up. The text of the SPD’s application was “pretty clumsy,” said the domestic spokeswoman for the Greens. “Let’s try to differentiate.” So she could “understand very well” the feeling of insecurity in the population that was mentioned by the SPD. This must also be “taken seriously”. Nevertheless, fear and insecurity among the population should “not be further aggravated”. Höller praised the “clever and factual debates” in the interior committee, but made an exception for the AfD parliamentary group. He accused her of “low motives” because she used the topic for debates about deportations and to “place racist ideas”. The Greens cited “social inequality”, “masculinity behavior” and “patriarchal ideas of masculinity” as the reasons for the increasing number of knife attacks.

“Don’t say what is”

Her speech was almost like a cue for the domestic spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, Markus Wagner, who immediately addressed the disproportionate number of non-German nationals and asylum seekers in the knife attacks: “It is often the same pattern; a refugee without a right to stay who lives on support.” Wagner then criticized non-transparent police reports, which would mostly conceal the nationality of the suspects in knife attacks.

He reminded that Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) and the police unions had also agreed to the demand for the origin of such suspects to be named. “Just don’t say what is,” he criticized several times. The AfD politician also criticized public media, which in this context would always only speak of “men” or “groups of men”: “Objective reporting is different.”

Herbert Reul spoke for the state government in this debate. “We won’t get any further like this,” the interior minister said directly to Andreas Bialas and described the language used in the debate as “slapstick”. The CDU politician repeatedly emphasized that every knife attack, and in particular every fatal one, was “one too many”. However, with references to the declining number of such attacks and the high clear-up rate, Reul’s speech was put into perspective. This was particularly evident when he used Marc Lürbke’s figure of 4,191 annual knife attacks to point out that only 26 people died.

More knife attacks again in summer?

“When it’s complicated, there’s no easy answer,” Reul continued. “It’s a serious problem, but it’s getting smaller, not bigger.” At the same time, the CDU politician admitted that the number of knife attacks could rise again in the near future as temperatures rise. He repeatedly called for more “differentiation” to be taken into account in the debate. Thus, the interior minister, popular with conservatives, remained vague and non-binding, as he had done in the corresponding debates in the interior committee. Andreas Bialas did not agree with this: “I have never seen you as disoriented as you are today,” he said later in the direction of the minister.

After that, the SPD MP Elisabeth Müller-Witt defended the request for the debate again: “Today’s request is provocative,” she said. “But we take the concerns and needs of the citizens seriously.” Müller-Witt located the causes of the increasing number of knife attacks in “wrong media role models” and increasing insecurities of young men: “We have to take a close look at why young men are taking this path.”

Exchange of blows between Greens and AfD

In his second speech, Markus Wagner again spoke of the “clear disproportionality” of non-German citizens and asylum seekers among the suspects. “Many of the perpetrators would no longer be in the country if the law and regulations were consistently applied.” The AfD politician rejected criticism previously expressed by Julia Höller: “The protection of perpetrators that you operate is misanthropic.” At the end of his speech he spoke he knife attacks in stations and trains: “What do the green car enemies who want to force us onto the train actually say about that?” Looking around, Wagner said: “I’m fed up with your politics.”

When Julia Höller also spoke a second time after Wagner’s speech, the debate became even more heated. First, the Greens addressed their word in a friendly manner to Elisabeth Müller-Witt: “I would really like to believe you. But you are adopting highly populist wording here.”

But then Höller went straight for Markus Wagner and described his speech as “disgusting and misanthropic”. “The AfD plays with the fears of the population,” she rumbled. “You defame an entire population group.” The AfD faction reacted indignantly and with loud heckling. The situation only calmed down again when the President of the State Parliament, André Kuper, took the floor. But nobody wanted to get involved in the exchange of blows between the Greens and AfD. Only Andreas Bialas spoke ambiguously of “oaths of revelation” that “everyone noticed”. In the absence of further requests to speak, the approximately 90-minute debate ended just a few minutes later. (wp)

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