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Dozens arrested as leftists battle police

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Dozens arrested as leftists battle police
Photo: DPA
15:31 CET+01:00
Rampages by left-wing extremists in Berlin on Wednesday night following the eviction of residents at a former squat left 61 police officers injured and ended with 82 arrests, police reported.

Berlin police chief Dieter Glietsch said on Thursday that 22 of the people arrested would face court after a spate of “politically motivated vandalism” by up to 1,500 leftists.

Injuries to police resulted from bottles, stones, fireworks and difficult arrests. None of the injuries was serious.

O2 World stadium and a department store at Ostbahnhof both suffered stone-throwing damage, a police spokesman said. Bank branches were also attacked.

The attacks came in response to the controversial eviction of residents from Liebigstraße 14 in the Friedrichshain district, which police carried out early Wednesday morning.

“The groups went with blind destructiveness through Friedrichshain,” Glietsch said.

After police stopped a protest march, the demonstration organisers disbanded and protesters broke up into small groups and headed to areas around Ostbahnhof and the foreshore of the Spree River.

Groups of between 20 and 200 people ran through the streets vandalising property until the early hours of morning, smashing shop windows, destroying bus shelters and road signs, and damaging cars.

Solidarity demonstrations were held in Hamburg, Kiel and Dortmund.

Glietsch said the total amount of property damage topped that which took place during last year's May 1 protest – the traditional day of action for leftists. He said the damage could reach €1 million, but added the figure was only speculation.

Nine people were arrested when police evicted residents of the Liebigstraße 14 former squat, which has become a lightning rod for Berlin's anti-gentrification battles. Among them were four Germans – two of them women – three Italians, one Spaniard and a French woman.

Glietsch called the eviction and the operation to combat the violent protests – which had been announced in advance – “an extraordinarily complex and difficult job” which could only be carried out with a massive force of officers.

“It was a case of carrying out measures against violence in a whole city district over 24 hours,” he said.

The Berlin police together with 13 units from other state police forces as well as federal police officers had done “outstanding work,” he said.

The deputy chairwoman of the socialist Left party, Halina Wawzyniak, condemned the violence in an interview with broadcaster RBB. The rampage undermined the cause of the residents of Liebigstraße, she said.

Wawzyniak, who is also the head of the Left party in Friedrichshain and neighbouring district of Kreuzberg, also stressed, however, that owner of the property had escalated the situation by rejecting any kind of political solution to the issue. The Greens member of parliament in Friedrichshain, Hans-Christian Ströbele, made similar criticisms.

But Berlin Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting warned against “false political sympathy.” The legal situation with the property on Liebigstraße had been clear, he said.

Although Liebigstraße 14 had been occupied as a housing project with a legal rental contract, it was bought from the city by private owners in 1999, who cancelled the lease in 2007.

After two years of legal wrangling, the residents were given an eviction order in November 2009.

DAPD/The Local/djw

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