German carnival bans Charlie Hebdo tribute float

German carnival bans Charlie Hebdo tribute float
A supporter of Pakistan's political and religious party Jama'at e Islami hold signs with others during a protest against satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad as the cover of its first edition since an attack by Islamist gunmen, in Lahore January 25, 2015.

BERLIN - Germany's biggest carnival procession, which often includes edgy political satire, has banned a float paying tribute to the slain cartoonists of French magazine Charlie Hebdo due to security fears, organisers said.

The float design, selected in an online popular vote, featured a man dressed in black with an explosives belt and a drawn gun and a jester shoving a pencil down its barrel.

The carnival committee in the western city of Cologne said in a statement released late Wednesday that it backed the message of the float defending free speech and freedom of the press.

But it had received "messages from concerned locals which we take seriously", though organisers admitted there was "no indication" from the police of a credible terror threat.

"Carnival shouldn't make people worry -- we should be able to have a carefree celebration together," the statement added.

"We do not want a satirical float that curbs the freedom and light-hearted style of the carnival. For this reason we decided today to stop the construction of the 'Charlie Hebdo' float and not to allow it to join the Rose Monday procession" on February 16.

Some criticised the decision as a capitulation to extremists.

"I voted for the design and don't understand this move at all," the head of the state chapter of the Greens party, Sven Lehmann, said.

"How can there be broad participation in the selection process and then the result be summarily cancelled? If fear overcomes carnival, terror has won."

Cologne's carnival in the heart of Germany's predominantly Roman Catholic Rhineland is usually a potent mix of beer-soaked revelry and elaborately decorated floats that poke fun at political leaders.

Previous send-ups have included then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2012 slamming a nuclear missile into the United Nations headquarters in New York, the pope brandishing condoms, and a scandal-plagued German minister in a fighter plane crashing into Angela Merkel's chancellery with the words "Merkel's September 11".

Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people, including some of France's best-loved cartoonists, in an attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7.

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