"Really, dude, it’s going down today," says the bearded man in jeans and a black T-shirt with the evil-looking green dragon head on his chest. He and dozens of other men and women, the majority in their early twenties and younger, trudge through the dark forest near Cologne-Gremberg at one o’clock in the night. The caravan moves over muddy paths, under bridges and along the highway 559.
The action was supposed to be secret. Only two hours earlier, the 196 participants had received the coordinates of the meeting place in the middle of the forest in a closed Whatsapp group. "Cell phone light off and inconspicuous in small groups", they should come, it had been said in the chat. "No boxes or alcohol on the way." Because "already so often" an event was blown up "because of something like that. And on the spot, in the location, then "turn on flight mode or turn off your cell phone," is admonished: "This is important, because otherwise the police will read the GPS data."
Dance ban in NRW: no statistics on violations
Illegal techno parties and other dance events banned under the Corona Protection Ordinance are increasingly keeping authorities busy. In recent months, such events have been broken up by the police in Dortmund and Euskirchen, for example. Although separate statistics are not kept. In several catering establishments in the old town, however, "a disco-like operation had recently been established and corresponding administrative offence proceedings had been initiated," the Dusseldorf regulatory office informed at the request of the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger".
In the past, "in addition to the operational measures in discotheques and clubs – always oriented to the respective regulations of the applicable legal situation – a large number of private parties were broken up, which took place unlawfully in private premises as well as rented gastronomic premises," also lets the press office of the city of Aachen know.
Cologne: regular party breakups on weekends
Cologne seems to be a hotspot of the scene. "Especially on the weekends" such parties are broken up, knows city spokeswoman Simone Winkelhog. The weekend before last, for example, "three discotheques were closed because of violations of the Corona protection ordinance. In all three cases, the investigators found unauthorized discotheques with dancing."The police have filed seven criminal charges on suspicion of falsifying test certificates. And at a party they crashed last Sunday in Cologne’s Mulheim district, police say drugs were seized and 39 charges were written for violating the Corona Protection Ordinance. Some of the guests had fled over adjacent roofs.
Also the party people, who creep in the night to Sunday by the Gremberger forest, experience a bad surprise. Before the party starts, blue light illuminates the darkness. Four patrol cars block the way to the destination, where the DJ system is already set up. A fortress building from the Prussian era, which was used as a bunker during the Second World War. The ravers knocked a man-sized "door" into the 40 centimeter thick exterior wall a few weeks ago. For the steel probation in the masonry was then probably a flex necessary.
The ravers left behind full beer crates and a lot of trash in the Gremberg woods on Sunday morning
"Great location, the music is blasting, and there’s hardly anything to hear outside," says a boy handing out stickers with techno label logos. Inside the bunker, where more often already danced, the rooms are high and stuffy. On the ground are empty bottles and cigarette packets. Climbing through the entrance hole for the first time feels like being in a labyrinth. Only in some areas there is a small ventilation hole at ceiling height. About 200 people dancing here for hours – the supergau for every virologist and aerosol expert.
Via Instagram you can quickly get to the rave in Cologne
It doesn’t take three clicks on the Internet to be notified of upcoming raves in remote locations on the Instagram platform, for example. Afterwards, people proudly post: Videos from New Year’s Eve, for example, show a full room, hall or similar location, and the crowd goes berserk. The relevant profiles have several thousand followers. "Rave Indoor," for example, was how the party was advertised on Instagram, which was planned for last Sunday in Gremberg. Even the line-up with the selected DJs was listed.
So not a private party, a commercially organized event. A single demand is enough to be "invited": Against a "donation" of 15 euros via the payment platform Paypal, one is included in the closed Whatsapp group, which reveals the bunker location on Sunday night. The only requirement for participation: a 24-hour-old rapid test, whether vaccinated or not.
The Gastro Kwartier Latang association has been drawing attention to parties away from any Corona rules for almost two years now. One member, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that the city of Cologne has often been given names of restaurants where there have been violations. "The majority of restaurateurs comply with the ban. But a certain clientele does not". Videos of dance parties would be sent to the club again and again. "2G and 2G-Plus is not controlled there. For the pandemic, this is catastrophic," says the restaurateur. "Since we are fighting against it, we have also already received threats".
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Organizers threaten fines, guests do not
The organizers of illegal parties face a fine of 5000 euros. With the guests the legal situation is more tricky. Because the mere participation in an illegal dance event does not exist as an independent fine offense. Sanctioned can be in individual cases however over detours. For example, there is a fine of 500 euros if you know that the event has been banned by the authorities and this is disregarded.
In a closed Whatsapp group the ravers communicate.
The ravers, who hid in the Gremberger Waldchen on Sunday morning, are not interested in it. It’s a bit like a game of cops and robbers, the way they wait there in the dark. "Keep away from the streets and stop walking across the tracks," it says around two o’clock in the closed Whatsapp group, after the police and public order office have disappeared again. "We are just rebuilding everything."
Empty bottles and other things were left behind by the ravers in the bunker after what was presumably a night of partying after all.
Videos on Instagram show the densely packed vault two days later. The ravers dance to the loud music. It was still "blatantly going on" that night, says a young woman standing in the deserted bunker at noon on Sunday. She is looking for her cell phone, which she lost while partying. In the vault there are still full beer crates, in front of them there is a lot of garbage.
About 200 ravers were on site that night, the city says on request. When the police arrived, they either fled or were asked to leave the area. Against the DJ as presumed organizer a misdemeanor announcement as well as a criminal charge because of trespassing had been placed. And that the ravers, to all appearances, celebrated afterwards after all? "The city of Cologne has no information on this," it says.