I would like to approach you to report an incident which I personally experienced today (07.11.2020) in Berlin Alexanderplatz and perceived as a conduct of racism.
My name is Duy, I am a Vietnamese student living and working (as an intern) in Hamburg. As my study and work are both in English, I have not studied German and am unable to listen or speak in German.
I came to Berlin yesterday (06.11.2020) for the purpose of taking the IELTS examination which took place at Alexanderplatz 1 (British Council), on the next day (07.11.2020).
I had the Speaking test in the next day’s morning (from 10:40 to around 11:00), and had a lunch break from 11:00 to 12:30 until I come in the building again to finish my test at other skills (Listening, Reading and Writing). I spent my lunch break outdoor around the Alexanderplatz area, during which, I was approached by two police officers for not wearing a mask. The two officers have their Police ID of “BE 15227” and “BE 15225”.
This happened when I was standing literally by my own (not near anyone by the distance of 1.5m) and around me there are many people (all are white as much as I remember) who were not wearing the mask as well (which made me assumed that in open space like this it is allowed to not wear the mask, after all I just arrived in Berlin one night before this and was so focus on my exam that I did not hear this policy to wear mask at open space in Berlin from anyone in my connection circle, nor the English press).
And out of all those non-mask wearers, I was picked and asked to check for ID, one officer entirely spoke in German (ID BE 15225) even though I already told them that I can only speak English. Even the other office (ID BE 15227) tried to explain in minimal English to me, but both of them were very aggressive in their tone and attitude. They mentioned that I will get a fine and when I asked them how much it would take, they responded as “we don’t know, may be up to some hundred Euro, maybe less, we don’t know, you have to wait”. I tried to explain very hard that I just arrived in Berlin and did not know the policy (because I acknowledge that I am legally incorrect if this policy is true, even at that point, I was still not aware of this policy myself) yet they did not listen (the German-speaking office continuously shook his head and speaking non-stop in German) and literally gave me a hard time with their attitude and pressure.
One special point here: while I was discussing with those two officers, many – literally many – people without the mask were crossing around the three of us, and I asked them why you do nothing about those people (and I pointed at those people not wearing masks). They did not answer this question of mine. And they just act as they do not see those non-mask wearers.
This happened about 30-40 minutes before the second part of my exam began, during this time, I followed them and found out that for other people there (again mostly white per my observation) at Alexanderplatz, they just friendly reminded some if they do not wear the mask and not even stopped anyone for just one second, and for most of the others, they did not do anything about it. So I was the only special one being checked for ID and have a long talk about this (with most of communication in German) and got the fine. I believe this fact can be verified with the surveillance camera around this area (about the many people not wearing the masks in general at Alexanderplatz, as well as many cross over us during our conversation). I also have some video footage myself about the number people not wearing the mask at Alexanderplatz that day.
So I came to the realization that I was treated differently and assumed that because I look Asian (like Chinese). This thought gave me a nervous breakdown, which made me extremely upset, frustrated and angry as this is the firstly in nearly two years in Germany and two years living in Austria that I have this very explicit expression of discrimination. I thought about confront them directly and even come to the police office on site (the one located right there at Alexanderplatz) to report those officers’ behavior and question them why they only picked me out of all the people out there.
Unfortunately, I did not have time for this as I will be late for the exam if I did not show up at 12:30. So I came to the exam with extreme mental stress to a level of a nervous breakdown (because I was very much shocked by the way I was treated so differently to other people there). Obviously, with this mentality, I performed extremely poorly in my test, which costs me quite a lot of money (around EUR 300 for all the transportation and test fees). This even gave me more stress as being a student in Corona time is definitely not easy and the thought that I will lose EUR 300 and have to take the exam again next month really scared me off (as I live paycheck to paycheck).
Being extremely upset, I went directly to the police office after finishing my test (at around 16:20) and reported the incidence. As opposed to my hope, they did not take any action about this (even not try to investigate who those officers are, because I gave them their IDs but the office does not care to elaborate on this) but just asked me to write to the “responsibility body on the Internet” (and they were unable to name any specific name of those “responsibility body on the Internet”). When I asked the reception officer of the police office there why there are so many people were not wearing mask right now (at the moment I was talking to him, we can see people from the glass window) and you guys did not do anything but when it came to me, a fine is charged and the guy literally said something like: “how many officers who dealt with you? 2 right? So how can they stop and fine the others if they are focusing on you” – not exact his words but he meant that and then something like “we do not have enough people for fining everyone”. So I translated this as “because we do not have enough people to stop and fine everyone, so we just pick you and focus on you, even we see and acknowledge that there are other people not wearing the mask around us right now”. I found this a quite fair and objective translation.
So what he meant is: the police office is aware of the fact that many people not wearing mask and not be stopped at Alexanderplatz and there are just a few people who are stopped, checked ID and fined. And that is just and right for them to be the ones who use their subjective judgement (this can be even very different from officer to officer) to specifically pick which one to stop and have a long conversation with and which one can be passed, based on their own criteria of who will be guilty. And the rationale to make this right is that “we do not have enough people”.
I would have no offense if the two officers or the police office made the same treatment like the one I had for every non-mask wearers there, but the fact that they do literally nothing even I stood there, pointing at those people not wearing a mask and they declined to do anything. For me, this is clearly a significant difference in their treatment and I would name it “discrimination”.
So immediately upon my arrival in Hamburg, I now write you this letter to report this very unpleasant event. I do not know what else to do in this situation.
As I am in a very unstable mental state right now, so the elaboration above might be not so concise and a bit wordy, but I was trying to list out all the details remaining in my memory.
I do very much want to have a support on this. I have no idea which support would I have, but I need to raise my voice as a civil citizen. Obviously with my modest resources, I cannot sue them or do anything like that, so I just give it a try and email you, as well as other anti-discrimination bodies in Germany which I can find via Google.
I hope my concern can reach you. Please contact me if it does.
Thank you very much for your time,