Read

Search form

This May Day in Berlin: 7,000 Imported Police, with Marching Routes Exposed

This May Day in Berlin: 7,000 Imported Police, with Marching Routes Exposed
Tue, 4/30/2013 - by Matt Carter

Labor Day: it may conjure up the image of a restful day off work or a crowded sun-drenched beach. But in Berlin, the German capital, it means a sudden boost of police personnel to quell the unrest of not-just-another holiday.

Since the 1980s, Berlin’s version of May 1 has marked an eventful, troublesome expression of the sociopolitical concerns of its citizens, and a laundry list of minor property damage by its closure.

This year, protests in the city are centered on the E.U. crisis, which it seems may finally be reaching Germany -- long seen as a pillar of stability amid the southern economies crumbling around it. For years, Germans have watched neighboring nations struggle in debt, and offered more debt, in the form of bailouts, as a solution. May 1 is the day people voice their frustration.

But gaining this freedom to protest May Day was no peaceful road. On May 4, 1886, in Chicago, seven police officers were killed along with four civilians in an explosion at Haymarket Square. The rally in support of the eight-hour workweek, which ended with the result of four accused anarchists being hanged, represented the budding of support for the labor movement in America and worldwide. In 1890 the date grew into what we now know as International Workers Day.

From Seven Police to 7000

Kreuzberg has always been one of the most densely populated and industrial districts of Berlin. Since the 1950s, it has been a melting pot for diverse ethnic families that came to Germany to rebuild Berlin after WWII. By the 1980s, the celebration of May Day in West Berlin was an affair largely organized by trade unions, and left little room for demonstrations by factions of the left.

But the tradition of violent May Day protests started when riots broke out on May 1, 1987, between left-wing autonomists and police. In 1988, left-wing groups in Kreuzberg organized their first official May Day demonstration -- initiating a culture of rioting as protesters clashed with police, which has been a neighborhood tradition ever since.

May Day was no longer just about unions. Over the years, the demonstrations became a reflection of the political conflicts facing Europeans at the time. From mottos like “No liberation without revolution” in the 1980s, to “End the crisis, abolish capitalism” in the late 2000s, the fevered pitch of Berlin's leftists became a May Day institution.

In 2001, when Berlin's conservative government tried to ban the protest, it only strengthened protesters' commitment to demonstrate -- whether the city deemed it legal or not. This made bringing riot police from other parts of Germany to Berlin a necessity, and heaped unwanted attention on local police who were forced to handle the chaos.

This year, the city government brought in an estimated 7,000 auxiliary officials from across Germany to aid in controlling the action.

The Price of Transparency

What's new this year is the filming of “overview images” of the various events, which will be captured by helicopter and from vantage points on residential buildings. Berlin Police Chief Klaus Kandt said at a press conference on April 26 that no images will be stored. Kandt maintained that cameras are in use only as a source of triage for stationing police forces for quick security response.

The police have also revealed the exact known routes of the marches -- both by the left and the right wing -- something authorities had not done previously because they feared it would give neo-Nazi demonstrators and anti-fascist protesters ammunition to square off violently with one another, since they could easily block each other's routes. “That’s the price of transparency,” said Kandt.

About 30 rallies and demonstrations have been registered in the capital, with participation expected by neo-Nazis aligned with the National Democratic Party, and by members of Anti-Fascist Revolutionary Action Berlin (ARAB).

Like most years, authorities will devote special attention to the “Revolutionary May 1 Demo,” which kicks off at 6pm in Kreuzberg and has witnessed repeated riots in the past. This year, the demo’s left-wing organizers want to pull out of Kreuzberg and move towards the city center, where they expect up to 10,000 participants. According to police, the march may end in a standoff at the European Commission office, located at Pariser Platz in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

The May Day demonstrations strike at core topics facing Berliners, such as gentrification, rising property values and the anti-bailout sentiment that is propelled by the current E.U. crisis. “The aim is to protest against German imperialism, E.U. crisis policy, and a massive impoverishment of large parts of the European population,” states the ARAB website.

Bit by bit, Berlin is allowing corporations and wealthy expatriates to change the industrial landscape of its city. And as people in working class neighborhoods see the property values rise, more communities of workers, students, artists and activists may turn to May Day as a vessel for change.

 
 
 

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

climate chaos, carbon emissions, climate movement, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, worldwide climate protests, disrupting dirty power, Climate Mobilization, 350.org, keep it in the ground, renewable energy transition

Starting next week, a global wave of mass actions will target the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects.

protest movements, social mobilizations, movement of the squares, Occupy Wall Street, Podemos Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, protest demands, horizontal democracy, Arab Spring, Nuit Debout

The movements of the squares were a watershed moment that profoundly changed grassroots and institutional politics – they have enthused in equal measure as they have disappointed, both under-delivering and over-delivering on their promises.

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

climate crisis, climate information, Climate Feedback, accurate climate coverage

Climate Feedback brings together a global network of scientists who use a new web-annotation platform to provide feedback on climate change reporting.

Black Lives Matter, ACLU of Oregon, state surveillance, surveillance programs

Monitoring the social media use of BLM activists is an example of "how the level of trust between law enforcement and communities of color has been so damaged," the civil rights group says.

migrant crisis, East African migrants, migrant smugglers, organ trafficking

A week ago, on April 17, 400 East Africans drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat capsized on the way to Italy – and when the numbers get this big, we forget that they are individual lives being lost, like this, every day.

Posted 6 days 4 hours ago
Panama Papers, tax avoidance, tax shelters, corporate tax evasion, Oxfam

The names on the list of "Broken At the Top" are like a who’s who of big business – and some of the headline figures are simply staggering.

Posted 3 days 21 hours ago
British academies, privatized education, lower teaching standards, low teacher pay, National Union of Teachers, Anti-Academies Alliance

“It is a complete bonfire of pay and conditions," said David Gilchrist of the Anti-Academies Alliance, who claims the government has "no evidence to back up the claim that academies improve educational standards – in fact the opposite is true."

Posted 4 days 22 hours ago

In recent weeks, thousands of people marched and were arrested on the steps of the Capitol demanding that the people’s voice be heard: that we the people, not money, be the driving force of our government.

Posted 6 days 4 hours ago

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

Posted 2 days 22 hours ago
Black Lives Matter, ACLU of Oregon, state surveillance, surveillance programs

Monitoring the social media use of BLM activists is an example of "how the level of trust between law enforcement and communities of color has been so damaged," the civil rights group says.

solar energy, rooftop solar, California clean energy policies, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, carbon emissions, San Francisco solar policy

Starting Jan. 1 of next year, new commercial and residential buildings here up to 10 stories high must install rooftop solar systems for heat or electricity – making San Francisco the first major U.S. city to enact such legislation.

Civil Rights movement, environmental movement, green-black alliance, Black Lives Matter, Moral Mondays, Martin Luther King Jr, movement of movements

A beautiful thing is happening: Advocates for racial justice and for environmental protection are coming together in a new way.

protest movements, social mobilizations, movement of the squares, Occupy Wall Street, Podemos Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, protest demands, horizontal democracy, Arab Spring, Nuit Debout

The movements of the squares were a watershed moment that profoundly changed grassroots and institutional politics – they have enthused in equal measure as they have disappointed, both under-delivering and over-delivering on their promises.

act out, occupy, spoken word, poetry, Harriet Tubman, 20 dollar bill, money in politics, regulation, cost benefit analysis, human life, cost of life, value of life, Public Citizen, Amit Narang, corporate accountability, corporate malfeasance, May Day, Int

This week, regulation is the name of the game if you want to hold corporations accountable and keep them in line with the interests of people and planet. Sadly, there's one serious hurdle standing between us and regulation.