Police injured in Berlin anti-budget demo

An attempted manslaughter investigation has been launched after two police officers were seriously injured by a homemade shrapnel grenade during a demonstration against the government savings package in Berlin on Saturday.

Police injured in Berlin anti-budget demo
Police seal off the spot where their colleagues were hurt. Photo: DPA

Both officers had to have surgery after being hurt by the explosion, which was described by a spokesman on Sunday as a shrapnel bomb containing pieces of metal or glass. He said it was thrown from within a group of anti-capitalists at the demonstration.

The injuries suffered by the 36 and 47-year-old officers are not said to be life-threatening. A further 13 officers were slightly injured during the demonstration.

Police came under attack when the demonstrators, estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000 in number, reached Torstrasse in the Mitte district of the capital. The protestors pelted officers with stones, bottles, and then the explosive, injuring the two officers.

At least seven demonstrators were later arrested, while organisers criticised the police for provoking the marchers and arresting people for no reason.

The demonstration had been called by an alliance of more than 100 groups including trade unions, the Left party and social pressure group Attac, under the banner “We’re Not Paying for Your Crisis.”

Organisers had called for the march through the city to be loud but peaceful, saying they wanted to make a stand against the government’s savings plans which they said would increase the gap between rich and poor.

A similar demonstration, under the slogan “Fair is Different,” and also involving up to 20,000 people, took place in Stuttgart, involving a similar range of groups.

“If the government thinks it can continue to protect those who caused the financial crisis and burden the victims even more – then this will just be the start of our protest,” said Nikolaus Landgraf, Baden-Württemberg head of the German trade union association told the crowd in Stuttgart.

And although Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the plans to cut social provision budgets by billions, others in her party seem to be beginning to consider more progressive measures.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has reversed his position on an increased top income tax rate, now saying such a move by the parliament could be possible. “It is the right of the MPs to replace some measures with others,” he told Der Spiegel.

This would also apply to a higher top tax rate. “Why not?” he asked, despite having previously ruled it out.

Peter Müller, fellow Christian Democratic premier of Saarland has spoken out in favour of levying more tax on luxury goods. He told the Wirtschaftswoche magazine he would be in favour of a 27 percent value added tax on things such as yachts, limousines and champagne.

Christine Lieberknecht, Christian Democrat premier of Thuringia, spoke out against the cutting of parental allowances for the long-term unemployed and those on the most basic benefit scheme Harz IV.

“The fate of most Harz-IV recipients is already difficult enough,” she told Der Spiegel.

Other Christian Democrats also made similar statements over the weekend, with even the Free Democratic Party budget expert Otto Fricke noting that there is a constitutional duty to provide for the children of Harz IV recipients.

Merkel told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper she wanted the savings package to be passed without major changes in order to preserve trust in the coalition.

“The measures in the work market area are actually designed to put more long-term unemployed into work,” she said. “Apart from the necessary cuts in the social arena, business is also doing its part, as well as civil servants and the administration.”

Joachim Gauck, presidential candidate nominated by the Social Democratic Party and Greens, warned on Friday that although savings must be made, they must be made in a fair way, and suggested wealthier people pay more.

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Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners