Berlin police slam ‘unacceptable’ May Day violence
Nearly 100 police officers were injured and over 300 people arrested after May Day rallies in Berlin descended into “unacceptable” violence, police and local authorities said Sunday.
Around 30,000 people from across the political spectrum took part in several marches in the German capital on Saturday as part of the traditional Labour Day workers’ rights demonstrations.
Most of the demonstrations passed off peacefully, police said.
But the mood darkened in the evening after police pulled far-left “black bloc” protesters out of the crowd for not adhering to pandemic hygiene regulations such as social distancing.
Along with thousands of others, they had been marching in the “Revolutionary May Day” demonstration to protest against racism, capitalism and rising rents in the city.
Heavy scuffles ensued, with protesters throwing glass bottles and stones at police and setting dustbins and wooden pallets ablaze in the streets.
At least 93 officers were injured in the clashes, Berlin’s interior ministry said, and 354 people were detained.
“Violence during demonstrations is absolutely unacceptable,” said Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik.
“The situation did degenerate but was quickly brought under control,” she added.
Berlin state interior minister Andreas Geisel strongly condemned the “blind destruction rage” and violence towards police.
Berlin mayor Michael Mueller said “violence, hatred and ignorance have no place in our society, not on May 1 or any other day”.
Organisers behind the “Revolutionary May Day” rally said in a statement that dozens of protesters were injured in “groundless beatings” by police.
The German capital had deployed around 5,600 officers on Saturday to monitor the May Day protests, which have turned violent in the past.
Large rallies in Hamburg and Frankfurt also saw unrest, with police in both cities using water cannon to disperse protesters throwing bottles or setting off fireworks.
Similar May Day protests took place around the world on Saturday, some of which also descended into skirmishes.
In Paris, police fired tear gas at protesters who smashed the windows of bank branches, set dustbins alight and threw projectiles at police.
France’s CGT union said 21 of its members had been injured in clashes with other protesters in Paris, four of them seriously, although they have since been discharged from hospital.
The union said the perpetrators were “a large group of individuals, some of whom identified themselves as yellow vests”, the anti-elite protest movement that rocked France two years ago.
“In 20 years of unionism, I have never seen anything like it,” CGT official Benjamin Amar told BFM television, saying it was difficult to know who was behind the violence but that they had thrown homophobic sexist and racist insults associated with the far-right.