• Germany edition
 
Police brace for violence at May 1st demos
Demonstrators break the windows of a bank in Berlin during last year's May Day demonstrations. Photo: DPA.

Police brace for violence at May 1st demos

Published: 01 May 2014 08:44 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 May 2014 08:44 GMT+02:00

For decades "autonomen” - anarchists and far-left demonstrators - have held an annual "Revolutionary May 1st protest" in Berlin's Kreuzberg.

Past years have seen overturned police cars, Molotov cocktails flying through the air and hundreds of arrests and injuries.

This year promised to be one of the worst, as the extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD) announced it would march through Neukölln, a multi-ethnic and alternative neighbourhood in Berlin, raising the spectre of street battles between ideological enemies.

But after hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators blocked a similar march through Kreuzberg last Saturday, the NPD decided to cancel the Labour Day event.

IN PICTURES: Neo-Nazi march blocked in Berlin

Far-right and neo-Nazi marches will, however, take place in other cities throughout the country.

The Berlin NPD march has reportedly been moved to Rostock, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where anti-fascist groups are already gearing up for a possible confrontation.

The blog nazisstoppen.eu reported that three counter-demonstrations and a bicycle protest would be held in the city.

"We can't let Nazis march undisturbed within sight of the Sunflower house," said the website, referring to the site of xenophobic race riots in 1992. "Let's be loud and creative and spoil their day!"

Police also confirmed to The Local that an NPD march would be held in Duisburg, in the industrial Ruhr area, where anti-fascist groups are also active.

Warzone Berlin

Even with neo-Nazis absent from the streets of Berlin, left-wing activists are still planning a range of activities that risk bringing them into conflict with law enforcement.

An unregistered protest is set for 5pm on Mariannenplatz in Kreuzberg, with the slogan "Fed up - demonstration for a good life, with access to housing, education and culture for everyone!"

Organizers explain that they have not registered the protest with police because they refuse to "ask permission of those... who throw us out of our houses with brutal violence when we can't afford the rent, who control people daily, and even detain and deport them, just because they don't like the colour of their skin".

They even sent a direct warning to the police stating: "We don't need police for our demonstration - on the contrary. So stay far away from us... lay in the sun and think a little bit about your rotten and evil job as a state employed thug. Or use your free day to write your notice and burn your uniform and weapons."

By 6pm the unregistered demonstration should join the main body of the Revolutionary May 1st protest on Lausitzer Platz in Kreuzberg.

Organized by numerous anti-fascist and socialist groups, the protest traces its history back to the 1987 Kreuzberg riots, which saw police cars overturned, clouds of tear gas and a supermarket set on fire.

The following year, 10,000 people marched through Kreuzberg in the first Revolutionary May 1st protest, which also ended in rioting.

Radical left-wing protesters use the event as a pretext to go to war with police, throwing bottles and stones, breaking windows and starting fires.

Police respond with water cannons, tear gas and brute force. One of the worst years was 2001, when 270 police officers were injured, leading to 289 arrests.

Massive police presence

The past few years have seen some decline in the level of violence, particularly due to a family-friendly festival that has been organized in the same area since 2003, drawing in enough peaceful bystanders to dampen the ardour of protesters.

"My-fest" is still decidedly left-wing, with punk music performances and comedy shows taking place blocks away from an "anarchist academy", but police are still not taking any chances.

Riot police from all over Germany will be streaming into the capital to keep the area under control.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 protesters are expected to attend this year, according to media reports drawing on organizers and police sources. Police are responding with a force of 7,000 riot officers, who will be heavily armoured with 22 kilos of protective gear.

‘Hamburg sees red’

Hamburg is also bracing for possible clashes on Thursday, as left-wing activists organize an event entitled "Hamburg sees red" in the alternative Schanzenviertel district.

May 1st last year saw about 1,600 riot officers on the streets of Hamburg.

Peaceful May Day celebrations will also be taking place across the country, with the Federation of German Trade Unions holding its main demonstration in Bremen.

Union leaders will be placing attention on fighting against exceptions to minimum wage laws, improving pensions and opposing austerity measures across the continent.

But with all eyes turned toward the spectacles of violence expected elsewhere, such demands might be drowned out by the crash of breaking windows and the acrid smell of tear gas.

SEE ALSO: Police damage own water cannon with eggs

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

J. Arthur White (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in
Emergency services use a crane to lift the fallen crane in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in

A Cologne resident was pinned to his bed after a 40-metre construction crane toppled onto his home early on Friday. READ  

Pilots' strike grounds 116 flights
Passengers in Hannover check departure boards showing cancelled Germanwings flights. Photo: DPA

Pilots' strike grounds 116 flights

UPDATE: A spokesman for pilots' union Cockpit said that strike action may continue over the weekend after 116 flights and up to 15,000 passengers of Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings were grounded on Friday. READ  

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel
Merkel looking grave at Thursday's West Balkan conference in Berlin. Photo: DPA

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that European leaders will discuss the worsening Ukraine crisis and possible further sanctions against Russia at a weekend summit. READ  

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League
Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm with fellow World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League

The 2014-15 Champions League draw yesterday brought déjà-vu for English and German clubs as old opponents found themselves facing off once again. READ  

German of the Week
Animal activist fights off murder threats
Photo: DPA

Animal activist fights off murder threats

Friedrich Mülln has been dragged through the courts and threatened with murder during his years of animal rights activism. His latest court case was in Munich this week but he tells The Local he has no plans to give up the fight. READ  

Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?
A Russian tank at a military parade in Moscow in May. Photo: DPA

Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?

A foreign policy expert in Chancellor Angela Merkel's own party said on Thursday Russia was fighting a "war" in Ukraine. Despite dozens of phone calls to President Vladimir Putin, Merkel's policy of restraint seems to have completely failed. READ  

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos
Passengers look at messages about the damage this morning at Ostkreuz. Photo: DPA

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos

Travellers in southeast Berlin can expect disruption on the S-Bahn until Sunday morning after an arson attack damaged a cable duct on Thursday morning, affecting services on six lines. READ  

Germany posts weaker job figures
Photo: DPA

Germany posts weaker job figures

Unemployment in Germany remained steady in August, official data showed on Thursday, as clouds continue to build over Europe's biggest economy and the eurozone as a whole. READ  

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire
The facade of the Mevlana mosque was badly damaged by smoke from the fire. Photo: DPA

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire

UPDATE: Investigators now believe a fire which damaged a mosque in Berlin earlier in August was started deliberately. READ  

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa
The Haus am Bogensee. Photo: DPA

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa

After two failed attempts, Berlin is trying again to sell the sprawling estate and villa once known as Joseph Goebbels' illicit love nest, but so far, nobody's buying. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,707
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd