Germany braces for fiery May Day clashes
Police in Germany were bracing Friday for what could be the worst May Day violence in years, fearing clashes with both leftist and right-wing extremists who plan marches in Berlin and other cities.
The international day of the worker has for the past two decades been accompanied in German cities by sporadic street violence and pitched battles between far-right skinheads, anti-fascist groups and police.
But after several relatively peaceful years, clashes returned to the capital in 2009.
This year, according to the mass circulation Bild daily, some 5,800 officers in Berlin will attempt to police 41 demonstrations from all colours of the political spectrum.
In 2009, police deployed 5,000 officers, of whom nearly 500 sustained injuries. There were close to 300 arrests.
A march by around 3,000 neo-Nazis is planned while some 10,000 left-wing anarchists were expected to gather in Kreuzberg, an ethnically diverse, left-leaning area in the south-east.
The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, issued a last-ditch appeal in Friday's edition of the Bild mass circulation daily for calm in his city.
"I call on everyone to demonstrate peacefully, to reject violence in all its forms and to unambiguously distinguish themselves from the trouble-makers," he said.
But police unions warned there were not enough officers being pressed into service for the expected clashes and that the laws against violent acts were not tough enough.
The violence is not likely to be confined to the capital, however, with extremist demonstrations planned also in Hamburg and other cities across the country.
© 2010 AFP