Berlin ice-cream seller not so tough in face of 'Sissy Security Force'

 

BERLIN’S GAY neighbourhood is not the best location for a homophobe to run a business.

That’s the lesson Paolo Savaris learned when more than 1,000 gay couples gathered for an unusual protest in front of his “Dolce Freddo” ice-cream shop.

For years, local same-sex couples have endured Paolo’s abuse if they dared kiss in the ice-cream queue on Nollendorfplatz, around the corner from where Christopher Isherwood penned his Berlin novels.

Lesbian couples reported being chased away after a peck on the cheek, and gay men were sworn at if they had a smooch before their sundae.

The final straw came at the end of April when Paolo shouted at a group of bewigged gay men in the queue: “Piss off, you gay pigs!”

He then chased the customers down the street, reportedly hitting at least one.

Local authorities report at least five formal complaints having been made against the ice-cream dealer, none of which had gone to court. Instead, last Saturday afternoon, aggrieved former customers, including a man named Killian, gathered at Dolce Freddo to give Paolo a day he wouldn’t forget.

At 2pm sharp the “kiss-in” began, and literally stopped traffic. Anyone who forgot to bring someone to kiss shouted: “Excuse yourself!”

“To have an attitude like this just isn’t on, not on Nollendorfplatz of all places, our neighbourhood,” a local man, Florian, said.

A visibly alarmed Paolo disappeared into the back of the shop he has run here for 20 years.

He emerged a few minutes later, flanked by police, to talk to the crowd, now numbering more than 1,000, including the self-appointed “Sissy Security Force” and, in habits and wimples, several “Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence”.

“It was nothing, just a misunderstanding,” said Paolo, garnering whistles and boos, before changing tack: “I’m not a hateful man and if something went wrong, I apologise for it.”

The crowd accepted the qualified apology with murmurs of discontent and melted away into the afternoon. Paolo closed his ice-cream shop early.

A departing protester posted a sign on the door: “Closed due to homophobic exhaustion.”