“Unconventional thinker” scene: The violence of the “mask opponents”



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Status: 01.11.2021 2:03 p.m.

In Germany there are repeated acts of violence by “mask refusers” and “lateral thinkers”. But why are the cases not systematically recorded?

By Florian Flade, WDR, and Georg Mascolo, NDR / WDR

What happened that evening of September 18 at the Aral gas station in Idar-Oberstein should be well documented. The surveillance cameras recorded the crime, but there is no sound, only pictures. The shot should show a 49-year-old man approaching the cash register, pulling a revolver – caliber 3.57 – and shooting the cashier in the head. The 20 year old student died.

The shooter had been to the gas station shortly before, and that too was recorded by the cameras. He wanted to buy a six pack of beer. The cashier is said to have pointed out to him that he had to wear mouth and nose protection. As a result, the man is said to have angrily thrown the beer on the counter, drove home and came back with the gun.

The next day the perpetrator, a self-employed software developer, turned himself in to the police. He is said to have declared that he wanted to set an example. The corona pandemic had a heavy burden on him.

The young gas station cashier from Idar-Oberstein is possibly the first person to be killed in an act of violence by a “mask refuser” in Germany. The case therefore made headlines and great horror nationwide. In fact, however, hardly a week goes by without physical violence, attacks and threats occurring somewhere in the country from people who are apparently opponents of the measures to contain the pandemic. Through mask refusers, self-proclaimed “lateral thinkers” or radical opponents of vaccinations.

Shops and local transport often have crime scenes

Again and again people refuse to wear mouth and nose protection; such incidents often occur in buses, trains or at train stations. But also in shopping malls, stores and even doctor’s offices. Just a few messages from the past few months:

  • February 09, 2021: Mask refuser attacks man on market in Sindelfingen.
  • March 11, 2021: Mask refuser attacks bus driver in Fürstenfeldbruck.
  • April 01, 2021: Mask refuser attacks pregnant employee in Berlin bakery.
  • April 21, 2021: Mask refusers attacked the federal police in Zug Nürnberg.
  • May 04, 2021: Mask refuser attacks city employee in Hildesheim.
  • May 11, 2021: Mask refuser attacks Bahn employees in Braunschweig.
  • July 12, 2021: Mask refuser attacks man in S-Bahn in Cologne.
  • August 28, 2021: Mask refuser flies from ICE Erlangen and becomes violent.
  • September 22, 2021: Mask refuser attacks railway employees in Dortmund.
  • October 06, 2021: Mask opponent threatens gas station employee in Mülheim.
  • October 13, 2021: Mask refuser attacks bus driver in Hamburg.
  • October 18, 2021: Mask opponent rioted in the bus Berlin.
  • October 25, 2021: Mask opponent intervenes in law enforcement Dortmund an.

Acts not yet systematically recorded

In some cases alcohol apparently played a role, in others there are said to be signs of mental illness in the attacker. What is noticeable, however, is that there is no systematic, nationwide recording of such offenses and no evaluation of whether there is possibly a certain type of offender, regional focuses or particularly affected locations.

In spring 2020, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) began to record and evaluate the effects of the corona pandemic on crime. The authority regularly created a situation report from the data supplied by the federal states and the federal police. However, this picture of the situation has not been continued since early summer – even though there are still regular acts of violence that are apparently related to pandemics.

Motives often difficult to assign

However, the exact motivation is often anything but clear, especially if the person has so far not been noticed in the context of politically motivated crime. In many cases, police officers therefore tick “not assignable” after such acts in the documents when asked about motivation.

“The mere fact that there is a corona reference does not automatically allow the conclusion that the person belongs to the ‘lateral thinker’ milieu,” says Lower Saxony’s interior minister Boris Pistorius (SPD). Not everyone who refuses to wear a mask is a “lateral thinker” or an extremist. It is often difficult for the police to make an exact assignment, so you have to rely on the protection of the Constitution for the analysis, according to Pistorius.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution examines the biographies of perpetrators

In the constitutional protection authorities, which have also been observing the “lateral thinker” scene for a few months, reference is made to a persistent phenomenon of violent corona deniers and mask refusers. One takes a close look at the biographies and possible ideological backgrounds of the perpetrators, according to a high-ranking constitutional protection officer. However, the police would only inform you about such incidents occasionally.

“The question arises to what extent these acts are recorded and classified,” said Hamburg’s head of the protection of the constitution, Torsten Voss.

Probably murder charges for the act in Idar-Oberstein

In the case of the fatal shots at the Idar-Oberstein gas station, the Bad Kreuznach public prosecutor assumes that there will be a murder charge. The act was well documented, including by three witnesses who were in the building, it is said. With the motive, however, it becomes more difficult.

According to previous investigations, the shooter is said to have read and disseminated ideological conspiracy content in social networks, and there he also expressed his rejection of the measures to contain the pandemic. In addition, the investigators found numerous firearms during the house search.

After his first visit to the gas station, the accused is said to have recorded a mobile phone video in selfie mode that he apparently sent to a relative in the USA. He is said to have railed against the cashier in English, but did not express any intention to kill.

At the time of the crime, the man was apparently drunk. An expert opinion will now be obtained for this purpose. However, the blood sample was only taken around twelve hours after the fatal shots, which now makes it necessary to laboriously recalculate the blood alcohol level. The accused is now silent about his act. He is also said to have refused to participate in a psychiatric assessment.


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