‘Most peaceful in years’: no riots at Labour Day rallies across Germany

Protesters and revellers alike took to the streets of Deutschland on Tuesday. Despite a large police presence in some cities, the gatherings were largely peaceful.

‘Most peaceful in years’: no riots at Labour Day rallies across Germany
Demonstrators in Hamburg on May 1st, 2018. Photo: DPA

With May 1st marking Labour Day in many countries across the globe, thousands of people gathered in Germany’s two largest cities, Berlin and Hamburg.

There were around 6,000 participants at a rally in the Brandenburg Gate area of the German capital, which is fewer than in previous years, according to the police. Around 2,200 people took part in Hamburg.

SEE ALSO: Why is May 1st a public holiday in Germany?

Several thousand officers were deployed in both cities as a precautionary measure.

“It was a great day,” said a Berlin police spokesman, adding that there were significantly fewer crimes compared to last year and that the number of arrests was in the “low double-digit range”.

One of the largest marches campaigning for workers' rights nationwide typically occurs on May 1st in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. The last time serious riots occurred in the capital was in 2009 and in recent years, it has calmed down.

In Hamburg, despite some clashes between emergency services and demonstrators and some bottles being thrown at officers, there were no major riots on Tuesday. “We had it all under control,” a police spokesperson said.

“It has become calmer bit by bit,” he added.

Past Labour Day demonstrations in the Hanseatic city have led to riots, though these too have decreased in the past few years. On Tuesday, several firecrackers were set off and some cars were scratched, but no major incidents occurred.

“We have recorded the most peaceful operation in years,” stated a Hamburg police report.

Further rallies took place in Nuremberg, Koblenz, Erfurt and at other spots across the country.

Although the International Workers’ Day rallies are traditionally used to call for increased workers' rights, figures released by the Federal Statistics Office (Destatis) on Monday revealed that the majority of the working population in Germany is satisfied when it comes to their work.

About a third (33 percent) of respondents said they were very content with their work. Meanwhile 83 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied which is relatively high, according to Destatis.

READ ALSO: Germany's most bizarre May 1st traditions

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May Day rallies in Berlin and Frankfurt marred by violence

Politicians in Berlin have expressed anger after demonstrators at a far-left rally threw bottles at police and burned rubbish bins. Clashes between police and protesters were also reported in Frankfurt and Hamburg.

May Day rallies in Berlin and Frankfurt marred by violence
Police at a protest in Frankfurt on Saturday. Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa

Several arrests were made in Berlin on Saturday evening after violent scenes at a demonstration in the Neukölln district that was attended by up to 10,000 people.

Protesters threw stones and bottles at the police ranks, or dragged rubbish bins and pallets onto the street before setting them on fire.

Riot police responded by using pepper spray.

Some 5,600 officers patrolled the streets of the capital on Saturday during demonstrations on Labour Day, which has a history of violence in Berlin.

Protest organizers have accused the police of beating demonstrators for no reason.

The protest was ended after its organizer was himself was attacked by the crowd, the police have stated.

Berlin Social Democrat politician Tom Schreiber tweeted that left-wing and right-wing extremists are “enemies of democracy” who don’t care about Covid-19. Both stand for hatred and violence against police officers, he said.

Broken curfew

By midnight, the situation in Berlin had largely calmed down. There were still small fires here and there but no more major “operational events,” police reported.

But after the city’s 10pm curfew, numerous people were still out and about in the central Kreuzberg district, while crowds fathered in Mauerpark in the north of the city to listen to music.

The aftermath of a violent demonstration in Berlin on Saturday evening. Photo: Annette Riedl/dpa

The demonstrations during the day were peaceful, police said.

About 10,000 cyclists rode through the wealthy Grunewald district on Saturday afternoon to demonstrate against housing policy and rising rents.

At a gathering of about 200 opponents of lockdown measures in Berlin-Lichtenberg, the police filed charges against several dozen people who were not wearing face masks.

Disruptions in other cities

In Frankfurt, another far-left demonstration called “day of rage” descended into violence, with police using water cannon against the demonstrators.

Two protesters needed treatment from medical teams while several police officers were also reported to have been injured.

In Hamburg, police used water cannons to disperse an unauthorized demonstration that had formed in the Schanzen district. Throughout the night they were involved in isolated operations against black-clad anarchists.