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Incident in front of the Baila Bar: Bonn bar proprietor criticizes aggressive police tactics

Incident in front of the Baila Bar : Bonn bar proprietor criticizes aggressive police tactics

Seydou Zare wanted to protect his customers from an aggressive drunken man. But when police arrived, they thought Zare was the aggressor and treated him quite harshly. He believes this was because he is Black.

On the night of August 7, Seydou Zare lost his faith in the German authorities. The 47-year-old runs the Baila Café Bar on Heerstrasse. That night, he called the police emergency number because a drunk man was trying to attack him and his customers with a smashed glass bottle. But what happened after the police arrived made him feel like he was being treated like a criminal himself. And Zare thinks that might have something to do with his black skin color.

It was around 4 o'clock in the morning. A dozen patrons were still sitting at the tables in front of the bar in Nordstadt when a 34-year-old man sat down next to the bar and played loud music from a Bluetooth box. Like Zare, the man was from Africa and, according to the proprietor, had been banned from the bar a long time ago. Because of the loud music, Zare asked him to go somewhere else. An argument ensued; Zare took the box and hurled it away. Enraged, the drunken man smashed a beer bottle - 0.5 liters of Frühkölsch, as the restaurant owner remembers exactly - and threatened the 47-year-old and his guests with it. Zare called the police on his cell phone, wrestled the attacker down to the ground and held him there.

At about 4:25 a.m., the police dispatch center received a report of a "brawl involving a large number of people." Four patrol cars drove to Heerstrasse. Seydou Zare describes the following course of events: At least one police officer grabbed him from behind, choked him and pushed him to the ground for two to three minutes with his arm on his neck. But several customers shouted out immediately that he was not the perpetrator, but the victim. It wasn’t only Zare who described the incident as such, the GA also confirmed what he had reported with two eyewitnesses.

When Zare was allowed to get back on his feet and he confronted the officer, the officer reportedly said, "If you keep talking, we'll take you with us." As well as, "Are you going to tell me how to do my job?" The officer also stated that Zare would be charged with assault. According to the bar owner, the police officer addressed him with the informal form of "you" - which is “du” in German, even though Zare had properly addressed the officer with the formal version of “you” which is “Sie.” This was also confirmed by an eyewitness.

Police headquarters calls in the public prosecutor's office

"They treated him appallingly and didn't let him finish," describes a 24-year-old hospital employee from Bonn, who, like the eyewitness, wishes to remain anonymous. "I personally also told a female officer that the bar owner was not the perpetrator." Finally, the police officers took the 34-year-old drunken man into custody and departed - without asking Zare about possible injuries or clarifying whether he wanted to press charges against the man. The attacker is now being investigated on suspicion of making threats.

The Bonn police emphasize that the situation was "confusing" for the responding units when they arrived. "In the situation, the initial impression was that the person pushing the other onto the ground was the suspect," explains presidium spokesman Robert Scholten. And further: "The officers took him from behind in a handhold and pulled him away from the person lying on the ground. When the person being restrained signaled that he was the owner of the bar and was trying to protect his customers, the officers immediately let him go."

Eyewitness: "The bar owner only wanted to protect us customers."

But it is not only Zare who contradicts this explanation from the police. Two bar patrons who were interviewed by GA said the same thing. "It lasted at least one, more likely two minutes," says a 23-year-old woman from Bonn. The customers who were objecting to this treatment were told to "move on" by officers, she says, while a police officer knelt on Zare and pressed his head to the pavement with his hand. The woman still appears shaken days after the incident. "It was my brother's bottle that the drunken man had smashed," she says. "The man looked very threatening, and the bar owner only wanted to protect us customers." In the meantime, the police have also understood this to be the situation, Scholten confirms. The eyewitness suspects that Zare's African origin may have played a role that night: "With a white man, it would probably have been different."

To write that Seydou Zare is still shaking with anger would be rather an understatement. He comes from Burkina Faso, has lived in Germany for 27 years and has German citizenship, as he says. "I've never been to the unemployment office, pay taxes and abide by the law." Zare stresses that he has had many good experiences with police officers, especially those from the nearby Bornheimer Strasse police station. "But that night, it was like being in a bad movie. I can only explain it with my skin color." The night before, he said, he was still discussing racism in other European countries with friends, telling them that he had felt accepted here so far. Since the incident, the bar owner has wondered if he was "naive." He says he is filled with shame, "I just wanted the police to help. But they took away my pride." The least he would have expected was an apology.

The police headquarters has no comment on the alleged remarks made to him by one of the officers. There are no indications of "conduct worthy of disciplinary action," police spokesman Scholten emphasizes. "Nevertheless, the existing investigation process, also on based on the information the bar proprietor provided to your editorial office, is submitted to the public prosecutor's office for examination." It will also deal with possible misconduct of officers involved. Depending on the result, disciplinary measures would be examined again, according to Scholten. Because the public prosecutor's office will be involved, the police will not comment on further details of the case for the time being.

(Orig. text: Andreas Baumann, Translation: Carol Kloeppel)