Eight police hurt in German May Day clashes

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May Day clashes in Germany overnight between police and far-left extremists left eight police and one fireman injured, authorities said Sunday, but violence in Berlin was less severe than feared.

In Hamburg, Germany's second city, a second night of clashes left five police and one fireman hurt as hundreds of demonstrators rampaged, setting fire to barricades and rubbish bins, smashing shop windows and vandalizing two banks. Around 30 people were arrested.

The northern port city was also rocked with violence on Friday night, with 17 police and a passer-by injured and 50 people taken into custody.

In the capital Berlin, two police officers were injured, one seriously, overnight to Sunday as some among an estimated 10,000 demonstrators in the Kreuzberg district hurled bottles and stones and set bins on fire.

Police arrested an unspecified number of people and used water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

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 accompanied by sporadic street violence and pitched battles between far-right skinheads, anti-fascist groups, and police.

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 police injured and resulted in close to 300 people being arrested. This year police with batons attempted to remove troublemakers from the crowd early.

Earlier on Saturday, traditional Labour Day demonstrations organised by trade unions drew 484,000 demonstrators to 440 rallies throughout Germany, the DGB umbrella union said.

In Berlin, some 700 neo-Nazis sought to rally in the Prenzlauer Berg district, but police said about 10,000 counter-demonstrators blocked streets with sit-ins for several hours forcing the far-right extremists to return to their starting point.

© 2010 AFP

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