They kept it short and sweet.
At 8.20pm, left-wing demonstrators who had gathered in Lausitzer Platz in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg started throwing stones and bottles at the police, Berlin daily Tagesspiegel reports.
The police, of whom there were 6,200 in action in the capital, immediately struck back, storming the mass of black-clad protesters, mixed in with drunken tourists, and dispersing them.
Throughout the rest of the night there were only sporadic, small outbreaks of violence.
The police commander was so confident that his officers had the situation under control that he thanked them through his Twitter feed at 11pm for their good work and wished the public a good evening.
Left-wing groups were clearly somewhat disappointed with the turnout of events, with one complaining on Twitter that there were "more cameras rolling than stones being thrown," Tagesspiegel reports.
In recent years violence at Berlin's May 1st demos has become ever more of a rarity. While in 1987, left-wing radicals took over a street in Kreuzberg and blocked out police for hours, in recent years there has been more of a party atmosphere with the creation of the MyFest, a street party with live music stages.
Violence at demo in Saxony
There was, however, violence at a right-wing demo in the Saxon town of Plauen, where around 1,000 demonstrators turned out for a march by the neo-Nazi group Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way).
Left-wing activists also gathered from several German states for a counter demonstration in the town, which has been a meeting point for far-right demos in the past.
Police report that both the left- and right-wing wing demos repeatedly attacked their officers with stones and bottles. Five officers were injured in the assaults.
The riot forces eventually used water cannons against the neo-Nazi march.
But the officer in charge said that "despite the provocations, the police managed through decisive action to quickly bring the situation under control and to avoid escalation".
In Hamburg there was also tension on the streets. Around 100 left-wing rioters attacked the police after a trade union demonstration.
One 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of setting a police car on fire.