Sidewalk columns and columns of A3 lined the streets on Wednesday afternoon in the eastern German city of Berlin, and among them were protesters and politicians from the United States, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia and Denmark. At least 600 people had shown up by the time authorities announced that three more planned protests had been canceled.
The demonstrations were held to show solidarity with the thousands of mostly male clubgoers who said they were turned away from clubs after a German student accused them of sexually assaulting him last month. The student, Christoph Moeller, filed a complaint against a group of more than a hundred young men outside a popular gay bar on late Dec. 15. He said the men sexually assaulted him in his Berlin apartment, bruised his eye and ripped a shirt off his back.
A Berlin prosecutor on Tuesday questioned the three suspects, which added to the ire of critics who said that the police were not moving quickly enough to investigate the case. (The three men said that Moeller had caught them in the act.)
“The entire city has been turned into a battlefield. And that is the punishment for not moving quickly enough to condemn sex crimes,” said Josef Jondre, a board member at the European Pro-Gay Lobby.
A group of Americans, directed to the German embassy in the heart of Berlin on Wednesday, lamented that Germany’s attitude to sexual violence was a “continuation of people in power who don’t want to talk about the reality of consent in all social settings.” That attitude, said Katie Belanger, a systems analyst in the Brooklyn borough of New York, is hurting not only LGBT communities but also women of all nationalities.
“It’s important to be able to protest and show people this is not acceptable behavior,” she said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has faced criticism that her government lacked quick action in the December case, had sought to bridge the gaps in German law and act more quickly in the case, said Christina Thurau, a spokesman for the Berlin government.
She said Mr. Moeller’s case seemed “certainly wrong” and acknowledged that it was one of the reasons the demonstrations had taken place. But she expressed confidence that the district prosecutor’s office would be able to process the case and that it would end up with a guilty verdict in a court.
Christopher Wallace, the national coordinator for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said he was worried about the press attention focusing on German men who had allegedly gang-raped Mr. Moeller rather than the fact that other gay men had reportedly been assaulted.
“We don’t want to abandon the investigation in a way that it feels like not much has changed,” he said.