Police stop train carrying Hamburg football fans for 6 hours. Here's WHY?


Sunday, 18 February 2024 (18:01 IST)
German police halted a train carrying football fans between the northern German cities of Rostock and Hamburg on Saturday night, recording the identities of 855 Hamburg supporters in an operation that lasted around six hours.
The Hamburg (HSV) fans were returning from their team's second-division fixture away at Hansa Rostock (2-2) when some 400 officers stopped the train at around 8 p.m. local time in the town of Bergedorf, just outside Hamburg.
Police said they were looking for 60 people allegedly involved in an incident on September 16, 2023, when a brawl broke out at Mannheim main station between HSV fans who were on their way to the southwestern town of Elversberg and Borussia Dortmund fans who were en route to Freiburg, near the Swiss border.
They were also looking for fans who had allegedly thrown bottles at police at Rostock central station earlier in the evening.
Police 'super-recognizers' set up 'identification lane'
After processing the fans through a so-called identification lane with the help of specialist "super recognizer" officers, police said they successfully identified 52 of those they were looking for.
Meanwhile, hundreds of innocent fans and other passengers were forced to wait their turn on the train.
Police said no arrests were made and that all passengers were allowed to continue their journey at around 2.30 a.m. on Sunday morning.
According to German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, the operation caused delays across the region.
In a statement, police said: "Despite the complexity of the case and the difficulties in identifying the culprits, [police] have made it their aim to identify as many of those responsible as possible.
Operation lead officer Jan Müller said: "Breach of the peace is a serious crime which threatens the security and peace of our society. We take these acts extremely seriously and are deploying all available resources to identify those responsible."
A statement from supporter representatives is expected at some point on Sunday.
Escalating tensions between fans and police
Saturday night's operation came amid rising tensions between police and football fans in Germany ahead of the European Championship in the country this summer, with both parties accusing each other of contributing to the escalation.
While police have accused fans of refusing dialogue with officers and resorting to violence, fan groups and legal aid organizations have criticized police for their increasingly aggressive approach to policing football matches – particularly the indiscriminate deployment of pepper spray in confined areas of packed stadiums.
Fan and legal aid groups have also criticized the police database on which the identities and details of thousands of football supporters are stored for up to five years.
The Gewalttäter Sport — "violent criminals sport" — database (GTS) contains not only the identities of football fans found guilty of criminal offenses but also thousands of people merely caught up in ID checks in connection with football matches, such as that carried out on 855 people in Bergedorf on Saturday night.
Police say that the GTS database, which has shrunk from over 13,000 people in 2011 to 5,600 in December last year, enables officers to "take specifically targeted measures and differentiate between troublemakers and non-troublemakers." Legal aid groups say it infringes data protection laws and have demanded its abolition.
The current German coalition government has promised to review the GTS database regarding "legality, deletion deadlines, transparency and data protection."
Like many other games across Germany, Saturday's fixture between Hansa Rostock and Hamburg was also briefly interrupted by ongoing fan protests against the German Football League (DFL)'s planned deal with a private equity investor.

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