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“Disproportionate and stigmatizing”: Neukölln shisha bar operators criticize trade controls – Berlin

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More than 100 emergency services, road closures, heavy equipment: 24 operators of shisha bars and other commercial businesses in Neukölln have sent an open letter to the mayor of the Neukölln district, Martin Hikel, and to the senator of the Berlin Interior, Iris Spranger (both SPD), in which he criticized “disproportionate trade controls”.

The implicit accusation: racism and the stigmatization of people of migratory origin. The letter was signed by Späti and North Neukölln shisha bar operators, among others.

“As Neukölln merchants, we stand for shisha and food culture, hospitality and conviviality in the district,” says the letter, which is available to the Tagesspiegel.

However, the operators have observed a development since 2018 that they consider worthy of criticism: bars, bakeries, night shops and other migrant businesses are regularly controlled by the police and other authorities to an extent disproportionate from their point of view.

These checkpoints would then be called “clan crime raids”, which would make merchants feel stigmatized. The impression is created that the operators of all controlled businesses are criminals. This would be reinforced by the fact that heavily armed police officers and representatives of the press would often accompany the controls.

[Dieser Text stammt aus dem Neukölln-Newsletter vom Tagesspiegel. Den kompletten Newsletter gibt es kostenlos unter leute.tagesspiegel.de]

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“Our neighbors are unsettled by this approach, our guests stay away. We view this as harassment,” the letter said. And more: “We understand that the exchanges are controlled and the rules are verified. But we do not want to be prejudiced and portrayed as criminals without evidence.

We expect the police and regulatory authorities to treat our guests like everyone else, with fairness and respect. I like to investigate crime, bring criminals to justice. But don’t be suspicious of migrant stores in an entire district because of that.”

[Lesen Sie mehr mit Tagesspiegel-Plus: Der Neuköllner Shisha-Bar-Streit: Drogen, Waffen, Geldwäsche – das bringen die Berliner Verbundkontrollen]

When questioned, the district’s mayor, Martin Hikel, rejected the accusation that the controls were specifically targeting “migrant businesses”. The term “raid” is also incorrect. “Trade controls are trade controls,” Hikel said. The district office is investigating “indications of possible illegalities.”

Hikel, for his part, did not comment on the accusation that the number of emergency services was exaggerated and instead referred to Neukölln’s economic development projects that “specifically advise immigrant businesses”. “The migrant trade is an expression of the diversity of Neukölln, also and especially around Sonnenallee,” Hikel continued.

He announced that he would like to meet with the merchants for a joint dialogue, but not “about a public discussion.” Interior Senator Iris Spranger has so far left the Tagesspiegel unanswered.

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