Around 90 members of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) had gathered to demonstrate against a street festival planned for Saturday in the alternative Schanzenviertel district.
The left-wing festival was organised as a reply to events last July, when police stormed the area in a manner which many locals felt was unnecessarily aggressive and provocative. But officers pointed to around 1,000 left-wing rioters who were challenging the police at the time.
As the NPD held their demonstration on Friday, an estimated 2,700 people of all kinds came to demonstrate their opposition to the neo-Nazis. The crowd included trade unionists, political parties, various organisations and individuals.
The police – there are around 2,000 on special duty this weekend in Hamburg – said their job was to allow the legal NPD demonstration, while trying to keep the two sides apart from each other.
The police came under what spokesman Ralf Meyer said was, “massive attack,” from around 700 leftists who threw stones and fireworks at the officers, set rubbish bins on fire to serve as street barricades, and smashed up a number of cars.
One police vehicle was attacked with stones and a paving stone was used to smash through the windscreen, prompting an officer to fire warning shots from his pistol.
Police have been expecting trouble on Saturday evening after the street festival – before Friday's riot – yet Meyer stressed that the current situation could not be compared to that of May 1 last year, when street battles between thousands of leftist rioters, neo-Nazis and police officers shocked the city.