Love is all around
July 25, 2010 9:55 AM   Subscribe

The Love Parade is over. 21 years after the first parade in Berlin, disaster strikes and the electro-pop festival that welcomed millions of dance-happy people from all over the world shuts down after a tragic crush in a tunnel that killed 19 people and injured 340. An investigation into the deaths is underway.
posted by dabitch (58 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
(and, hopefully no more in the coming days)
posted by LMGM at 9:57 AM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also: a link to sonascope's insightful comment in the earlier deleted thread.
posted by LMGM at 9:58 AM on July 25, 2010 [8 favorites]

Why didn't they just hire Techno Viking to sort things out?
posted by condiments at 10:00 AM on July 25, 2010

Thanks LMGM.

I'm at a loss for words. Having been there, and felt the joy of just dancing all day with a million happy strangers, it's just so heartachingly sad that this has happened.
posted by dabitch at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2010

What happened was definitely tragic. But it's still sad to see the end of something so huge that inspired positivity in a world that is so often not very positive at all. I think both deserve mourning, in different ways.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:12 AM on July 25, 2010

Damn. A few years ago, I showed up in Rotterdam on the day of their spin-off version of it, having no idea it was going to happen. It was like the entire city turned into one big rave for my arrival; I was joyfully and delightfully surprised. However, I was aware the whole time of how horrible things could have gone if something went wrong and people decided to scramble. The streets were packed almost literally like a nightclub.

posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on July 25, 2010

Love doesn't scale.
posted by tommasz at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2010 [10 favorites]

Even my very square 80 yr old parents are upset this happened. It's a tragedy.

Also panicking mobs are very scary.
posted by joost de vries at 11:08 AM on July 25, 2010

All you need is love.

Love is all you need - one last time in memorium.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
posted by drogien at 11:14 AM on July 25, 2010


I'd heard this had happened at a German festival but I didn't realist it was The Love Parade.

posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on July 25, 2010

Love is all you need

No, I'm pretty sure you need crowd control too, in these situations.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been going to San Francisco's version for the past few years, and usually enjoy myself despite not being a crowd person. Last year, however, it got very much to the point where I was asking myself the same question as sonascope and had to get the hell out. I doubt I'll go again.
What LogicalDash said, pretty much.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2010

If you were one of the organizers, how exactly would you prevent this? You might be able to contain people into smaller sections, but that defeats the whole purpose of having a festival, and it doesn't exactly solve the problem. This is a fundamental problem with people in groups, so I don't think canceling the event will really do anything -- it is just as likely to happen in any crowded public area the moment fear and panic are introduced.
posted by spiderskull at 11:35 AM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

How is this the fault of the organizers and not the fault of the police? They're the ones who closed off one end of the tunnel and still allowed people to continue to try to enter from the other end.
Pretty sure this is crowd control 101. Or hell - matter control 101. If you continue to fill a closed container, you will get spillage. And the items inside the container will pack together more closely.
posted by pomegranate at 11:36 AM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Suppose Burning Man was canceled.

At the risk of sounding argumentative, I am 100% opposed to stopping the Love Parade because of this.

Attendance may have dropped in previous years, but this year attendance was back up, so much so that it surprised everybody and led to a tragedy of poor planning. The original spirit of the Love Parade - universal love, peacefulness, music and dance - is something worth celebrating. That's the best way to honor these dead.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:42 AM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by sacrifix at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2010

Suppose the organizers of Burning Man did decide to cancel it? I'm willing to bet that the regional festivals would still go on in some form. Maybe a new committee would get together and plan an annual gathering in Utah. Just because this incarnation of the Love Parade appears to be over doesn't mean it's spirit is dead.

Also, just because an event has history doesn't mean it must or even should continue forever. I'm familiar with the arts festival sonascope was talking about his comment, and every time I go, I think it's in danger of suffocating under the weight of its own success. I wouldn't blame the organizers if they said, "You know, this is just getting unmanageable. The space is too small for the crowds, the logistics are horrific, we can't make it work any more." I would be sad, I would be sorry, but I would not be the one organizing it so, ultimately, I have to respect the effort they put in and the decision they made.

I never attended Love Parade, but I loved the idea of it. I'm sorry the organizers have decided to cancel it. But I don't even want to imagine how I would feel if people were injured and killed at an event I organized. I'm sad enough thinking about the human cost of this already.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:03 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm all for the Love Parade and its ideals as well but I couldn't agree more with what EvaDestruction said.
posted by blucevalo at 12:08 PM on July 25, 2010

I think that the quote from Rainer Schaller nails it: "The Love Parade was always a peaceful event and a happy party" but would forever be overshadowed by the tragedy". Watching the cellphone camera footage that twoleftfeet linked in the original post is frightening and will be one everyones mind for a long time to come. I presume that you've also been to the Love Parade twoleftfeet, and you know the joy and freedom that it was. But after this, I don't think what we've seen at previous Love Parades can be replicated again.

So . to everyone who perished and . to the Parade itself.
posted by dabitch at 12:16 PM on July 25, 2010

Here's a video taken from somebody in the crowd that gives you a good sense of the athmosphere.
posted by dhoe at 12:26 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The original spirit of the Love Parade - universal love, peacefulness, music and dance - is something worth celebrating.

Love, peace, music and dance can all be experienced in the comfort and safety of your home with small groups. There is absolutely no need to involve hundreds of thousands of people except for the fact that human beings are attracted to crowds of other human beings like moths to flames because of their intrinsic inability to find value in their own accomplishments and the desire to feel a part of something historically important so that they, by proxy, can feel historically important, despite having contributed anything but their presence.

That, and the prospect of seeing thousands upon thousands of boobs.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:39 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Having been in the front row of many concerts, pressed up against the cold metal railing and feeling the terrifying forward surge of the crowd as the first few notes are heard, I can only imagine the profound terror of dying while surrounded by so many people.

posted by rachaelfaith at 12:58 PM on July 25, 2010

"pressed up against the cold metal railing"

Would this have been better organized without the 'cold metal railing'?

On the one hand the organizers failed to protect the punters, but on the other hand, the organization has ensured this sort of mass gathering won't happen again in Germany.

posted by vectr at 1:43 PM on July 25, 2010

Love, peace, music and dance can all be experienced in the comfort and safety of your home with small groups. There is absolutely no need to involve hundreds of thousands of people except for the fact that human beings are attracted to crowds of other human beings like moths to flames because of their intrinsic inability to find value in their own accomplishments and the desire to feel a part of something historically important so that they, by proxy, can feel historically important, despite having contributed anything but their presence.

I can't say I've ever been to a music and dance festival which achieved the size of the Love Parade, but I do know that there is something remarkable and wonderful about being in huge groups of people who are united in dance and music and love. The possibility of transcending the hate and discovering the love culture preached since the hippie heyday feels real at those times. It's not something you can experience in your home. It takes masses of people moving and grooving together to feel that.

. for those who died. But I hope the dream of love and peace and music and dance continues to build across this planet until it is achieved.
posted by hippybear at 2:06 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is absolutely no need to involve hundreds of thousands of people except for the fact that human beings are attracted to crowds of other human beings like moths to flames because of their intrinsic inability to find value in their own accomplishments and the desire to feel a part of something historically important so that they, by proxy, can feel historically important, despite having contributed anything but their presence.

Well, that and humans are instinctively social beings.
posted by blucevalo at 2:09 PM on July 25, 2010

I go to many concerts and music festivals and there is very little in life that scares me as much as the thought of being caught in a human crush. I'm a shorty; this led to me making a decision many years ago that when at a crowded show I either need to be up front on the rail (where I can breathe and if something happened security could immediately pull me out), or way the hell at the back of the crowd. I never, ever allow myself to be in the center, surrounded on all sides by a surging mass I cannot see over/through.

When you find yourself in a crush and you need to get out, either from real danger or you're just panicy & overwhelmed - don't try to move directly forward or back. Move sideways through the crowd to the edge.
posted by Windigo at 2:56 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's been a blistering hot weekend in my neck of the woods, and I've taken advantage of the fact that the air here is like the exhaust from a hair dryer to do loads of heavy, slow-drying laundry, like my duvet and my throw rugs. As I'm hanging my laundry out, there's a constant stream of bees coming and going from my top bar hive, and between each load I hang out, I take a few minutes to approach the hive, where it sits under my mulberry tree. The foraging workers race by, often passing by an ear close enough so you hear them, and the returning workers, laden with nectar and pollen zip in the other direction, landing in one of the three entry holes on my hive.

There are somewhere between forty and seventy thousand bees in my hive, give or take, and watching them, and thinking about the disaster at the Love Parade, I couldn't help but reflect a little on things.

They're an old species, my apis mellifera, older than us by a hundred million years, and a group consciousness in almost every conceivable sense of the word. No bee is irreplaceable, not even the queen, and the intelligence of each bee is immeasurably minuscule, but there's this amazing, impossible clockwork genius to the way they work together, partly because they are evolved to be a macro-scaled group organism.

We're trying to be a group organism, sometimes, fueled by the miraculous innovations in travel and communication, but when we get together in massive groups, we're really lacking the evolved mechanisms that make that kind of clustering feasible.

Last year, in the middle of some work in my other hive, up in Baltimore, I managed to slip up and drop a dozen bars of honeycomb into the hive, snapping them off at the roots and leaving mounds of honeycomb, smashed bees, and other carnage everywhere in the hive. I cursed, quite a bit, in fact, and set to the impossible task of undoing the damage I'd done. With a needle and heavy upholstery thread, I had to essentially stitch pieces of broken honeycomb back onto each top bar in the hive, with nurse bees attending to the hatchlings that were unfortunate enough to emerge as I was sitting at a table outside, covered with honey, flakes of wax, and bee gore.

In the hive body, the housekeepers were already dismantling the pieces I'd left behind, cutting up the bodies of smashed bees and carrying them out of the hive, and as I carefully put each bar of comb back in, swaying like porch swings on loops of thread, the workers, the housekeepers, the nurses, and the rest took over, building comb from the hanging comb back up to attach at the bars. I'd killed or injured the queen, and within a week, they'd built peanut-like supersedure cells ("queen cups") and had tripped the hormonal triggers to turn several workers into candidates for a new queen.

All this is undertaken by some of the dumbest individuals organisms you'll find, but they are built for this kind of thing. In less than a week, they'd reconnected and repaired the broken comb, snipped off the threads, and deposited them on the ground below. A new queen began her rein, going to work in the brood nest, and the old was never heard from again, a victim of either my mistake or the infamous "cuddle death." In a month, the hive was booming again, as if nothing had ever happened.

Watching creatures designed by evolution to live in huge, organized, and importantly self-managed groups reminds me that we've arrived in this awkward cultural space that's almost guaranteed to produce disasters. We're drawn to each other, because we're social, tribal animals, and it's a thing that worked well for us for most of our history, because we had the limiting principle of slow transportation and slow communication as a regulating factor. These days, our instincts to be together come crashing directly into our inability to regulate the zeitgeist in crowds on the scales we can generate almost instantaneously, leaving blind, senseless, and purely physical rules in charge, like fluid dynamics and inertia, among other things.

In the middle of the arts festival last weekend, I had a tense moment while looking for an EMS team for one of our visitors, who'd keeled over from heat exhaustion in the guest services tent, and I was on my radio and cell phone, calling in my PA and volunteers from the nearby information tent to try and catch the EMS minitruck and direct it where it needed to go. It just felt imprecise to me, even though things were resolved quickly and without lasting injury. Our event has the good fortune to be a street festival, with extraordinarily porous boundaries and broad, open escape routes, so I have a hard time imagining the kind of bottleneck that would create the conditions for a disaster, but I'm paranoid enough to have been thinking about it, off and on, throughout the weekend.

As far as anyone remembers, no one has died on-site at our festival in the twenty-nine years it's been held, but likely it's a matter of the particular circumstance of how the event is presented more than being solely due to calculation or preparation.

The hippie in me—the utopian, optimistic, energetic side of me—wants to see these kind of events as transformative, explosive, energizing moments of cooperative enthusiasm, and they are those things, but I wonder if something gets lost in the scale of it all, in celebrating our combined humanity by combining into a clumsy impersonation of an older and more finely-honed collective organism.

Q: Are we not men?

I have to wonder if, maybe, the end of the Love Parade might not be the place to start something new, using the spirit of the moment and all that love and enthusiasm to build a bohemian diaspora, and to mourn and honor those who lost their lives and celebrate the best of the Love Parade with Love Parades, scattered across the globe. Do we lose something by trading off sheer mass for geographical distribution and a broader access, or is it a way to preserve the best of what was there by sharing it with more of us?

In mid-reverie, a pair of guard from the head straight for me, and start head-butting me in that serious, but mildly adorable, way that guard bees let you know that (a) they've noticed you and (b) they would like you to know that you're unwelcome around their hive.

I'm wearing a black shirt today, and bees see people wearing dark clothing and the warning goes out — THERE'S A BEAR OUT THERE! HE WANTS OUR HONEY!

Like I said, they're not very smart, my bees, but they do well for themselves.

As for us, we just need to get smarter, just by a little bit, and find a way to honor our own evolutionary gifts, even as we all want to get together and share the love, joy, and imagination that distinguishes us as a species. Can we do it on smaller scales, spreading out without being caught up in provincialism or losing the esprit du corps?

I have to hope that we can.
posted by sonascope at 3:29 PM on July 25, 2010 [37 favorites]

. For all the people who just wanted to dance and had every expectation that the festival would be competently managed.

Ignorant American here, but was I the only one surprised that over a million people would attend a techo concert? I've never really paid attention to it as a genre but I had some vague idea that it was a bit of a fringe musical style; I didn't know it was so mainstream. I'm probably just old.
posted by octothorpe at 5:00 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, Civil_Disobedient, that is quite possibly the most cynical and pessimistic reading of crowd phenomena that I've ever read—and I've read the classic 19th-century French crowd psychology literature (Le Bon, Tarde), which is pretty sensationalistic/gloomy about crowds.

While I would agree that people who join crowds are rarely driven there by a sense of individualism or narcissism, I think your analysis is off on at least two important points:

1. The love, peace, music and dance one can get in a domestic space with small groups is simply not identical to the kinds of love, peace, music, dance and whatever else one can experience in a (partying) crowd. Part of the experience of being in a crowd can't be reduced to a calculus of personal achievement and social warmth; it's also about the sheer thrill of feeling one's affects/emotions being mirrored / amplified / circulated a thousandfold. It is also about the exhilarating (and sometimes terrifying) experience of being opened up to emotional energies that come from outside of you and aren't in your control. Crowds are affective echo chambers where size does matter.

2. Maybe the individual subject isn't the point of crowds, anyway. Why is individual accomplishment the primary / proper / healthy way to organize one's significance in the world? One of the possible pleasures of partying in a crowd is the sensation of coming undone, of feeling your sense of a bounded, unitary self unravel and fray at the edges. For some people, this sense of being temporarily relieved from the compulsion to be a consistent, coherent subject can feel like total bliss (for the Lacanians among you: I don't quite mean jouissance here, but maybe Jouissance Lite™). And so I end up supporting a part of your analysis by thinking that those people, for whom the world of the fully sovereign individual subject holds little hope, are more likely to see in crowds the potential for something better, something full of potential. The anonymity and de-personalization of crowds can sometimes feel protective (just look at the histories and memoirs of queer nightlife, for example).

In any case, I'm not one to argue that crowds are the answer to human ills or even that they are necessarily good or bad. After all, crowds are the stuff of riots and lynch mobs as well as of parties and pilgrimages. But, in any case, I think it's wrong to assume that the only difference between people who party in a small clusters and people who party in teeming masses is a damaged ego; people can feel good about themselves and still want the company of a thousand friends they've never met.
posted by LMGM at 5:14 PM on July 25, 2010

octothorpe: in Europe, disco never quite died (or went forcibly underground) the way it did in America. As a result, Europe has an electronic dance music industry that sort of resembles rock in North America, in the sense that you have both a very mainstream, commercial market layered over various small-scale, alternative, experimental (and often elitist) "underground" scenes.
posted by LMGM at 5:18 PM on July 25, 2010

Mod note: A few comments removed. Please put metacommentary in Metatalk, not here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:13 PM on July 25, 2010

I think part of the problem - and maybe that many of our peace-keeping and safety(security?)-making authority figures are trained to see things this way as well - is that much of our heuristic model for recognizing dangers consists of the obvious things we can label. We aren't generally encouraged to think critically about what lies underneath. And we (want to be able to) trust those authority figures to let us know where the dangers are and how navigate us out of them. The people with oversight and authority at the show were negligent. To me, those two things mixed together (authority and negligence) crossed the tipping point from odds to an inevitability. Which is horrific and inexcusable.

On a much, much smaller scale, I'm reminded of a common instance of this hidden danger effect.* I used to surf regularly at a beginner's beach break. On weekends, when it was sunny and the winds were calm (probably how it is today), it was glorious out there. But the parking lot, and the overflow lot would be filled with cars...people from all over the bay area, visiting for the day. That also meant there would be that many more people on softops (foamy, beginner boards - just as dangerous as a fiberglass board; and in some ways, more so) out in the water, too. Crowds on the beach and crowds in the water; everybody lookin' out for each other, right?

Days like that always start out great. I get in the water early, soak up the sun and waves for as long as I can, and try not to let the increasing hoards bum me out. As that happens, maybe I just sit in the line-up and look around and daydream a bit. Wait for my turn. But then, eventually, my spidey-sense would start tingling. I'd notice that the mix of blinding sunshine, "gentle" waves, and enthusiastic, non-aggressive newbies created a really dangerous optical illusion. The number of people who are normally looking out for others, understanding the wave patterns, how the swell was changing with the tide, who was out there riding like a freak or kook or asshole, who's not from around there and unfamiliar with the break, who can't steer or turn their board, who can't bail properly, who's riding nine-foot-+-sized weapons, who's taking off in front of others, who's wading in the impact zone or the rip or the 1 foot of water, who's staring at the sun or the beach...this number had dropped to 1 or 2. It's time to get out. And with the increase of people, it's surprisingly difficult and dangerous to do so. I get more panicked about getting safely out of a crowded line-up and back onto the sand than anything else.

But when I talk about surfing, the thing people almost always say is, "Oh, but what about sharks!?" Yeah, sharks.

*Should also be noted that there's nobody 'in charge' of surfing, unlike there is expected to be at an organized concert, where there are authority figures present to prevent dangerous situations. My analogy is not intended to place any blame on the concert-goers here, but rather to point out that "danger" is not something so easily labeled. That, and I expect people who are in fact, in charge at a mass-person organized event, to be able to recognize that.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:32 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just so people have an idea of why the Love Parade is so popular.

Paul Van Dyk - For An Angel 1998

Westbam - Sunshine (1997)

Sasha - Love Parade 2002

Tiesto - Love Parade 2006
posted by empath at 6:36 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

And of course the classic - Da Hool - Meet her at the Love Parade
posted by empath at 6:39 PM on July 25, 2010

Crowd management is not an insurmountable challenge even with attendance of over a million. That level of attendance was expected: what happened here was gross negligence by both the organizers (using a tunnel as a major entrance) and by the police (attempting to close the entrance). Human crushes have been happening for too long and we know why they happen and how to prevent them, and there is no excuse for people who explicitly accept the responsibility of crowd management to fail to do so.

A criminal investigation is necessary to ensure this tragedy is not repeated.
posted by mek at 6:46 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here's another cellphone video from this Love Parade where it looks like Police are simply standing in a line and blocking the tunnel. I can see how a small underpass and 1.4 million people trying to get through it is a recipe for disaster by itself... I'm still wondering what was the spark that caused the mass panic and desperate climb up the sides.
posted by dabitch at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2010


How were the organizers supposed to know police would block off the tunnel? Not a rhetorical question.

Crowd control disasters are actually a fascinating thing. They're often a good example of when security goes very, very wrong.
posted by effugas at 7:27 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The articles that I've read where the major source was the police union blamed the organizers. The BBC articles that source bystanders blame the police.

I have been at a crowded protest where the police tried to push back the barricade against a crowd on a narrow city street and I was mere yards from the police line and I could not make out the police commands. The situation ended poorly, people were hurt and it was a pretty well known event, but luckily no one was trampled.

I've also witnessed cops at flashmob type events try to lecture people about how, "THIS IS REAL LIFE, THIS IS NOT YOUR GAME!" Play is serious business, but either way, it's not the police's job to have an opinion on legal activities. It seems really unprofessional, but predictable, for the police to start playing I-told-you-so with regards to the Love Parade. I'm just now learning about it, but it seems that Love Parade was a literal celebration of human triumph over the police state. It sounds trite, but the question as to whether or not love really does scale is one of the most important ones facing us as a species.

It's not rocket science to figure out that you can't block off *the end of the tunnel* and command the people getting crushed at *the end of the tunnel* to turn back.

I've witnessed exactly this kind of copthink at protests: "People will follow commands, even the impossible ones!" Nevermind that the people in the middle and back have no way to even hear the loudspeakers.

Closing off the tunnel from the front should have been the first thing they did when the event was being closed. Neglecting that kind of thoughtfulness, they should have closed off the front with a one-way exit long before barring exit from the end. Not rocket science, just using common sense over magical "we can tell people to do whatever the fuck and they'll do it out of the kindness of their hearts" authoritarian thinking.
posted by Skwirl at 7:35 PM on July 25, 2010

posted by lester at 8:37 PM on July 25, 2010


Wait...they really blocked the end of the tunnel? And not the entrance?
posted by effugas at 8:42 PM on July 25, 2010

So that no one misunderstands I must say first that this event is unquestionably a tragedy. Hopefully there are others asking why there are no regulations regarding large crowds of people and their movement through confined areas.

This isn't the first incident of people being trampled or suffocated in a large crowd. There are incidents like the Hillsborough Disaster or the case of a Wal Mart Employee who was trampled to death on Black Friday.

There has to be some science behind this sort of mass failure in communication and panic. There must be some sort of switch that turns in our brains and seeks survival at ANY cost.

Does anyone know of any research or books on the mob mentality that would be worth reading?
posted by toni_jean at 9:12 PM on July 25, 2010

How were the organizers supposed to know police would block off the tunnel? Not a rhetorical question.

That's a good question: communication between police and the Love Parade organization in regards to an over-capacity contingency plan is one aspect of this incident which needs to be fully investigated. Such a plan should have been in place, but if one was, it clearly was not executed properly. (Personally I suspect the local police were not properly trained or equipped to handle this size of a crowd, but that is opinion.) This is a basic part of event planning: distribute the entrances over many gates, so the failure of one is not a major catastrophe. Visit any major venue, be it a fair or expedition or Disneyworld and this principle is obviously in action. And the boundaries of any major entrance should not be an impenetrable barrier such as the concrete walls of a tunnel, because overflow is always a possibility. This was a combination of terrible venue and terrible decision-making by multiple parties. At this point it's incomprehensible and deeply upsetting to me that we have not learned the lessons of the Hillborough disaster and other similar tragedies.
posted by mek at 9:25 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The only book I've read that includes research on crowd control is The Unthinkable. The chapter on the physics of crowds begins on page 146.
posted by koselig at 9:25 PM on July 25, 2010

Civil_Disobedient: Love, peace, music and dance can all be experienced in the comfort and safety of your home with small groups.

Good point! But having actually been to the Love Parade, I am going to say that it was a substantially different experience than what the comfort and safety of my own home has to offer.

This is for those who died:

But no dots for the Parade itself; I don't believe it's that easy to kill the Love Parade. It will be back.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:43 AM on July 26, 2010

The main problem seems to have been that the area only has a permit for 250.000 people, but there were 1,4 million people present. It's horrendous.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:16 AM on July 26, 2010

There were lots of warnings from local residents last week that this was going to end in tragedy, e.g.:
sehe ich das richtig, dass die versuchen 1 million menschen über die 1-spurige! TUNNELSTRAßE! Karl-Lehr-Straße mit zwischendurch 2 kleinen trampelpfaden hoch zum veranstaltungsgelände zu führen?
also in meinen augen is das ne falle. das kann doch nie und nimmer gut gehen. wer in essen und dortmund dabei war weiß, wie groß das gedränge schon auf recht weitläufigen zugangswegen war. das war ne katastrophe und die wollen ernsthaft den zugang über nen einspurigen TUNNEL leiten?
ich fass es nicht!!!!

ich seh schon tote wenn nach der abschlußkundgebung alle auf einmal über diese mickrige straße das gelände verlassen wollen.
Quick translation: Do I see correctly that they are trying to get 1 million people through that one lane tunnel street? ... In my eyes is that impossible. It will never end well. Those who were there in Essen and Dortmund (2007 and 2008) knows how crowded it was in areas who had quite spacious access roads ... I don't get it! ... I foresee dead people when everybody tries to leave the area over this small street.

And a few comments later down, the neighbour of a fireman relates that the area wasn't really approved by the fire department, but they were overruled by the city council. The buildings around the open space were only cordoned off with simple low fences, and that was condemned buildings earlier deemed too unsafe to even use as fire and demolition practice for the fire brigade.
posted by brokkr at 3:32 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

The original spirit of the Love Parade - universal love, peacefulness, music and dance - is something worth celebrating. That's the best way to honor these dead.

... but please don't honor them with something called or even related to The Love Parade.

I've not attended one but I have been to some BIG events here in North America. And what generally happens is they eventually, over a period of years, just get too big. That is, whatever was once magical isn't anymore; that critical mass of merging minds/spirits/bodies/grooves ... becomes a different kind of critical mass. Reading through some of the Love Parade history that various links have taken me to tells me that this sort of thing was, sadly, tragically, inevitable ... just as something like Altamont was inevitable in the wake of Woodstock.

The problem ultimately, is a problem of collective freedom. Can we have too much? The answer, for me, is YES. And you know it's become too much when it isn't "free" anymore, when the vibe, the feel, the temper of the crowd shifts into that of a big scared animal, driven by root survival instincts. That is, the brain (certainly the rational part of it) is no longer the boss. This is a big part of the bliss of a big event, but riot/mob-scene/stampede is the flip side of this very dangerous coin.

Something awful happened in Germany. Police, organizers, town officials are all being blamed. And they should be. But the failure, ultimately, is that a good thing just got TOO BIG.

For further reading, I recommend some of Hakim Bey's TAZ stuff (the Temporary Autonomous Zone) wherein he argues that we should be less concerned with notions of utopia (ie: the permanence of perfect freedom) and just embrace the notion that the better a "thing" gets, the more we should just rejoice in its moments of rare and perfect autonomy, knowing full well that they will end ...
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

... and it's a very good thing that they will end. That is, it's a feature, not a bug.
posted by philip-random at 9:14 AM on July 26, 2010

Documents seized in Love Parade crush probe (and attendance numbers are questioned).
posted by hippybear at 9:52 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Death toll has risen to 20. I heard it earlier today on SAT1, now seeing it in online newspapers.
Andreas Schadschneider, a physics professor at the University of Cologne who researches evacuation dynamics, said the smallest incident under such circumstances can be fatal.
"The forces in such human crowds are unimaginable," he said.
The investigations are concentrating on the allegation of negligent manslaughter and negligent bodily harm, says the NYT who also is stating that one end of the tunnel was closed.
posted by dabitch at 1:50 PM on July 26, 2010

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, a regional newspaper, reported Monday that Duisburg’s mayor, Adolf Sauerland, had ignored written warnings in October 2009 that the grounds were too small for the expected crowds.

Rainer Wendt, the head of Germany’s police union and a former police chief in Duisburg, said he had warned the authorities a year ago of the city’s unsuitability as a venue for the Love Parade. “The city was too small and too narrow,” he told N-TV commercial television on Monday.

Pretty damning stuff.
posted by mek at 6:14 PM on July 26, 2010

just as something like Altamont was inevitable in the wake of Woodstock.

Wait. Having Hell's Angels kill a man during a concert was inevitable? I'm not sure I follow your logic here.
posted by hippybear at 10:12 PM on July 26, 2010

I don't think it's that big a stretch to see that the crazy against-all-odds "success" of Woodstock lead directly to some pretty sketchy thinking in the so-called counter-culture. That is, if you believed the hype, Woodstock was a successful "gathering of the tribes". The Angels were nothing if not a tribe and thus were invited to play an integral part in the next big thing.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 PM on July 26, 2010

While that IS what happened, I don't think that it's logical that it was inevitable or would lead directly to sketchy thinking, or anything like that. There's no predictive anything which demands that success at one event must somehow lead to disaster at the next.
posted by hippybear at 4:48 AM on July 27, 2010

There's no predictive anything which demands that success at one event must somehow lead to disaster at the next.

I'm assuming you've seen the Woodstock movie. You don't have to study it too hard to see how closely that "miraculous" event was flirting with disaster. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the whole Woodstock area was declared a disaster area by the Governor of New York so that they could get food and supplies in. So "predicting" a genuine disaster at a future festival would hardly have been reckless at the time. Unpopular for sure, because Woodstock was generally embraced as a stunning success by the counterculture. And, I suspect, it was precisely this optimistic (as opposed to realistic) interpretation of the event that guaranteed something bad would happen ... inevitably.

As for The Love Parade, it's been a while since I've been to a big "rave" (or whatever you want to call it), and never anything on the magnitude of 300 thousand people (or a million or however many people were actually there). But I have definitely had moments of "holy shit, there's a whole lotta seriously wired and wasted young folk all jammed together here; I hope nothing bad happens ... "

Maybe inevitable is the wrong word for The Love Parade tragedy. But now that something horrible has happened, I wish I could say was horribly surprised. In fact, my feelings are a lot like they were after that crush killed eleven fans at a Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979. Which is to say, I feel sick, because I have been there, in big crazy crowds, enjoying myself for the most part (even transcendentally so) ... but I'd be lying if I said I'd never had some serious "What If?" moments.
posted by philip-random at 9:00 AM on July 27, 2010

The Who concert tragedy gives me chills as well (the youngest there was 15, it might have been her first major concert), and it was practically caused by the "general seating" rule (in combination with the late soundcheck). People were rushing the doors to get the best spot, but the doors weren't even open. It has similarities to the Pearl Jam tragedy where the surge moved to be as close to the stage as possible, with dire consequences for the ones who had already made it to the front.

The layout and continuous movement of the Love Parade in Berlin avoided these types of crushes in several ways. First, the trucks toured the streets, so both the music and the audience/dancers were always moving. A good spot is to follow a truck if you like their DJ, and if you are bored with that you had room to dance off to the sides, maybe even into the park, and seek other places to be.
This made sure there wasn't a crush to get the best spot at X - until in the evening when people would try to get as close to the Victory Column as they could (most in there got their spots during the day). Again, to avoid the "must be in this exact spot" crush, all of the 50-odd trucks would air the same DJ set via radio, and there's eight trucks positioned around the statue in the circle so there is no need to be exactly at the Victory Column, just in the vicinity.

Even getting there avoided crushes, I was fascinated how many people swelled out of the S-bahn with their smaller tunnels not made to hold that kind of traffic at once - but there are several, the Berlin Tiergarten and Berlin Bellevue both nearby, so it's not like there was only one entrance to get to the Tiergarden.

Reading the comments that brokkr linked is disturbing, as many there already saw that this venue couldn't handle these crowds. It seems rather obvious in retrospect. What made the Love Parade work with its mass-crowds was the constant movement and the space to be able move.
posted by dabitch at 10:27 AM on July 27, 2010

dabitch: "
Andreas Schadschneider, a physics professor at the University of Cologne who researches evacuation dynamics, said the smallest incident under such circumstances can be fatal.
"The forces in such human crowds are unimaginable," he said.
Yes, Look at the fucked-up portaloo in this shot. Imagine the compression pressure from the crowd it took to do that... and by its position that was on the edge of the mob. Within a crowd like that, not only is there a risk of fractures, hyperthermia and direct suffocation, it's going to be difficult for many to expand their chest wall and so draw air into their lungs, their organs will be under severe pressure, compromising their circulation and oxygenation and possibly even setting off compartment syndromess, clotting and DIC. Even Techno Viking would be powerless to resist.
posted by meehawl at 11:50 AM on July 27, 2010

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