German May Day rallies draw 485,000

2nd May 2009, Comments 0 comments

With Europe's largest economy suffering its deepest slump since World War II, almost 485,000 took part in over 400 Labour Day gatherings in towns and cities across the country.

Berlin -- Peaceful May Day rallies drew nearly half a million people across Germany on Friday, unions said, but police were bracing for clashes with and between far-right and far-left groups after nightfall.

With Europe's largest economy suffering its deepest slump since World War II, almost 485,000 took part in over 400 Labour Day gatherings in towns and cities across the country, the DGB union federation said.

Violence is a regular feature of May 1 in Germany, however, and police nationwide were bracing for more running battles after clashes in the early hours in Berlin and Hamburg and during the day on Friday in Dortmund.

In Dortmund, some 200 far-right extremists used with sticks and stones to attack a rally organised by trade unions. They also fought with police, who dispersed the skinheads with truncheons and took 150 into custody.

Thousands of people across Germany took part in demonstrations against planned far-right marches, including in Berlin where 1,000 anti-fascists tried to stop a gathering of around 200 skinheads in the Koepenick district.

In Mainz near Frankfurt around 600 demonstrators blocked the streets and managed to force the cancellation a far-right march through the city centre, while around 2,000 protestors gathered in the southern city of Ulm.

Some 100 members of the far-right carried out an unauthorised march through the northern town of Rotenburg near Bremen, knocking to the ground and kicking a police officer who tried to block their way.

Other small neo-Nazi demos attracted around 100 people in the eastern city of Dresden and several hundred in the south-eastern town of Weiden near the Czech border.

Far-left demonstrators fought running battles with police in Berlin on the night going into May 1, known as Walpurgisnacht, setting fire to cars, rubbish bins and a pub and throwing missiles at a passing tram.

Police took 57 people into custody, and 48 officers were injured. There were also disturbances in Hamburg with around 100 people setting fire to bins in the Schanzenviertel area and pelting police with beer bottles.

Four Hamburg police officers were slightly injured and three people arrested.

AFP/Expatica

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