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Internal Police Report: Women in Cologne ‘Ran a Gantlet’ to Avoid Predators

A new police report sheds light on what really happened on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany.

Police officers survey the area in front of the main train station and the Cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 6, 2016, where dozens of apparently coordinated sexual assaults were perpetred against women on New Year's Eve.  / AFP / dpa / Maja Hitij / Germany OUT        (Photo credit should read MAJA HITIJ/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers survey the area in front of the main train station and the Cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 6, 2016, where dozens of apparently coordinated sexual assaults were perpetred against women on New Year's Eve. / AFP / dpa / Maja Hitij / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read MAJA HITIJ/AFP/Getty Images)

New Year’s Eve celebrations in the western German city of Cologne were marred by more than 100 reports of sexual assaults on women. To hear the city’s police department describe it, however, it was nothing more than a “relaxed” evening.

That was the surprising word used by the police press department in a statement on Jan. 1. It was also false: According to an internal police report obtained by the German publication Der Spiegel, so many attacks took place simultaneously — and the scene of the violence was so chaotic — that Cologne police weren’t able to take formal reports on all of them.  

“Security forces were unable to get all of the incidents, assaults, crimes, etc. under control,” said the report, which was written by an unidentified senior official. “There were simply too many happening at the same time.”

As a result, the report found, identifying suspects in the crimes “was unfortunately no longer possible.”

It is not yet clear why police officials painted such a rosier picture the morning after the attacks took place. According to Der Spiegel, Wolfgang Albers, a top police official, later conceded that the initial assessment had been “incorrect.”

The report obtained by Der Spiegel and published Thursday makes for depressing reading. It found that over the course of New Year celebrations, police continuously found distressed pedestrians — mainly women and girls — who told officers they had been robbed and attacked by a large mob of men. The report went so far as to label the evening as “chaos.”

“Women, accompanied or not, literally ran a ‘gantlet’ through masses of heavily intoxicated men that words cannot describe,” the report said.

Police officers also reported they were worried someone would be killed and that officers were “bombarded with fireworks and … glass bottles.”

The report’s author said police officers who tried to control the crowds of angry men were treated so terribly that it was unlike anything he had “experienced in [his] 29 years of public service.” Those who were on duty stayed from 9:45 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., and were almost immediately overwhelmed.  It was not immediately clear whether any of the policemen called in for backup.

Police officers who heard civilians calling for help were unable to even reach the victims because clusters of men would not let them through. When police ordered the crowds to disperse, they were ignored — but did not have enough officers on hand to use force.

Some men may have even ripped up their residence permits to avoid being identified, and one man reportedly yelled, “I’m a Syrian! You have to treat me kindly! Ms. Merkel invited me.”

The vast majority of men described by victims were of Arab or North African descent, though Mayor of Cologne Henriette Reker urged away from assuming they were asylum-seekers. She also suggested women who wanted to avoid being assaulted should avoid strangers — a claim that prompted fury in Cologne, where it was disparaged as victim-blaming.

Photo credit: MAJA HITIJ/AFP/Getty Images

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