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US singer and actor David Hasselhoff returned Sunday to the city where he symbolically sang for freedom in front of half a million people after the fall of the detested Berlin Wall in 1989.
But this time the "Baywatch" and "Knightrider" star was in the German capital to lend star power backing to protesters of plans to remove part of the Wall's longest surviving stretch.
"I've come to lend my support because I believe this is a piece of history," the 60-year-old told a crowd of several thousand who turned out under unseasonably chilly but blues skies.
"And it's very important to remember all the people who lost their lives in search of freedom," he said.
Hasselhoff has a large and loyal fan base in Germany and is remembered for his now legendary performance of his song "Looking for Freedom" at the iconic Brandenburg Gate on December 31, 1989.
Fans in the crowd, some of whom shouted "David you're our hero!" as others held aloft lifebelts, a reference to his role as a lifeguard in "Baywatch", were rewarded by the actor singing the chorus of his hit.
Opponents have rallied several times along the 1.3-kilometre (nearly one mile) stretch of the Wall, known as the East Side Gallery, since the beginning of March when a first panel was taken away.
Since 1990, the outdoor gallery has been covered in brightly coloured graffiti murals, including the famous "Fraternal Kiss" depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and his East German counterpart Erich Honecker.
The 3.6-metre high (11 feet) stretch is a tourist magnet and a must-see for history buffs retracing the dark chapter of Berlin's 28-year-long division who are otherwise hard pressed to find remnants of the Wall to photograph.
Plans to provide access to a 63-metre high residential development along the banks of the Spree river as well as access to a planned bridge require a 22-metre segment of the Wall to be dismantled.
Its removal was temporarily halted earlier in the month and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said that he supported the preservation of the section of Wall and would mediate in the dispute.
The property developer at the centre of the protests says the removal of part of the East Side Gallery is needed for safety reasons but has nothing to do with his firm's building plans and stems from directives from the local authority.
Thrown up in 1961, the Wall stretched 155 kilometres and divided Berlin until 1989, but today only around three kilometres of it still stand.
© 2013 AFP
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