Cleaning up Görlitzer Park: Help or Hindrance?
For those of you who don’t know Görlitzer, it’s a park in Kreuzberg within walking distance of the East Side Gallery. This park is known for drugs and little else. After a fatal stabbing and a kid finding a bag of cocaine in a sand box, people realized the park's drug problems were no longer a benign nuisance. In late December and early January, the city decided to take action against the drugs and crime. As I live on the edge of Görlitzer park, I greatly appreciate what the city is trying to accomplish.
I was nearly beaten up by a fairly large group of teenagers on the concrete steps near a restaurant. Three friends were with me at the time and one kid said he was going to kill us if we didn't give him our beer. The drunk's friends noticed that he was talking to us; one spoke to him and managed to calm him down. But some of the others were looking for a fight, so when the group started forming a circle around us, I said, “Let’s go.” and handed over my beer. Two of his friends grabbed me by my arms and I was lucky to get away. My friend’s butt was hit by a beer bottle as we retreated, but no major damage was done.
The second time I had a bad experience, I was on my way home. My route home from the U-Bahn station takes me along the edge of the park. While I was walking, a kid yelled at me then ran towards me. I tried to walk away but he pulled me back. He asked if I had any money; I told him I had around three euros. I had more but, obviously, I wasn't going to tell him that. Funnily enough, he didn't ask if he could have the money. Instead, he asked if I had any weed; I had none so I said so. I was getting a bit scared at this stage and wanted him to leave. “Go away. I just want to go home!” I told him. I don’t know if I sounded panicked or calm and manly. While his arm was around my shoulder, I pushed him off with my forearm but this just made him want to fight. He grabbed my shirt, and got into position to punch me, but luckily, his friend pulled him away and they simply walked off. He got away with two euros.
The two euros aren't the problem. My friend’s butt isn't the problem. The problem is that my male pride is wounded and I don't always feel safe walking home. I can’t fight, and I know I wouldn't win, so fighting back is not an option. If I were to carry a knife, it would only escalate any situation that I got into. Getting stabbed vs. getting punched in the face? I'm going to choose being punched every time.
So, what steps is the city taking? First, there was an increased police presence, which is unfortunate for the refugees in the park. I should make this clear; the African refugees have never hurt or threatened me in any way. They always take the first “no” when they ask, “Psst bruder, want some grass?” But, in my opinion, the drug-selling refugees are the indirect cause of the problem; the drugs invite a weird element into the neighborhood.
My friend works with a lot of refugees from Africa, and was told that they leave the park during the night. Also, some of them never imagined that they would end up selling drugs when they got to Europe. It’s a difficult situation to which I can offer no solution.
The second step was to cut down the bushes. German law permits a person to carry a small amount of weed for personal consumption. The drug dealers bypass this rule by storing larger quantities of drugs in the bushes until someone wants to buy. So, when the police search the dealers, there is not enough to warrant drug charges. It’s a clever approach.
The part of the park near Lohmühenstraße is better without the bushes. At first I was skeptical and didn't think it would change anything but, after only two months, I can really see an improvement. The bushes had provided impunity. No one could see in and no one could see out. Without the bushes, there are no secret interactions during the night. Something that could make the park even better is lamps, although, according to my unofficial sources, that won’t happen because of a nature protection group. To an extent, I agree, but I still believe that people’s safety should come before birds'.
I don’t buy drugs in the park so I don't have any personal experience of this, but I've read that the police go undercover and bust drug dealers; if you choose to buy drugs in the park, you should watch out.
Tourists and Berliners alike should not buy drugs in Görlitzer Park. It just creates a big problem that everyone has to deal with. If you want to buy drugs, don't buy them in Görlitzer - have your fun without creating a deep ripple effect.
By Ryan Edgar
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