500 arrested in German May Day clashes: police

3rd May 2010, Comments 0 comments

German authorities said Sunday they made more than 500 arrests in May Day clashes in Berlin and Hamburg that left 100 police injured, but that there had been less violence in the capital than in 2009.

In Berlin, around 450 people were detained in a day of vandalism and pitched battles between far-right skinheads, anti-fascist groups and more than 7,000 police. Eighty-four police were injured, including one seriously.

During the day, several thousand anti-fascist demonstrators staged sit-ins and succeeded in forcing some 700 neo-Nazis to cut short a planned march in the Prenzlauer Berg district, while police managed to prevent serious clashes.

Police also broke up an unauthorised far-right gathering of close to 300 skinheads up on the Kurfuerstendamm, Berlin's main shopping boulevard, authorities said.

The biggest unrest was in the Kreuzberg district on Saturday evening, where demonstrators, many of them leftists and anarchists, hurled bottles and stones at police and set rubbish bins on fire.

German trade unions have traditionally used May 1 to flex their muscles with large-scale, peaceful demonstrations, but for the past two decades the day has also been overshadowed by violence.

In Berlin, authorities this year drafted in hundreds of extra police in an attempt to prevent a repeat of 2009, when some of the worst rioting in years left around 500 officers injured.

Police also used different tactics such as identifying and removing troublemakers from the crowd before they could cause problems.

"Last year the police were unable to deal with the violence in the same forceful and coordinated manner and in such strong numbers as they could this year," Berlin police chief Dieter Glietsch told a news conference on Sunday.

"And this year what really counted was that we got the numbers that we needed to deal ... with all the situations," Glietsch added. "This year we had a pleasing result."

In Hamburg, Germany's second city, a second night of clashes left 15 police hurt as up to 700 people went on the rampage, setting fire to barricades and rubbish bins, vandalizing cars and some 15 banks and shops, police said.

A fireman in the northern port city was hospitalised after being hit on the head with a stone. Police, who numbered around 1,200 and used batons and water cannon, arrested 69 people and said they were "surprised" by the violence.

"It was pretty bad," a spokesman said.

He added that many of the people involved in the violence on Saturday night were not politically motivated but were just "young people looking for the experience of violence."

© 2010 AFP

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