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

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.

 
 
 

Article Tabs

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, community bill of rights, Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods

Across the country, battles are raging as communities attempt to protect the air, soil and water within their borders and the safety of their residents.

prison divestment campaign, criminal justice reform, Columbia Prison Divest, Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, Dream Defenders, incarceration rates, Student Alliance for Prison Reform

Columbia Prison Divest pressured the university to dump $8 million in Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison company, as well as shares in other behemoths of the private security industry.

Barnesville, Gulfport Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Antero

A tiny town in eastern Ohio is being sued by an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company that bought more than 180 million gallons of water from the town last year.

History shows that liberals need radicals.

American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, BP, climate change denial

Oil company BP said on Monday it has stopped supporting conservative political group ALEC, becoming the latest corporation to end its membership in a group critics say works to deny the existence of climate change.

Until the federal government gets serious about bailing out America’s students and instituting free, public higher education for all who apply, America’s student debtors should refuse to make any further payments.

Posted 3 days 15 hours ago
fracking studies, anti-fracking movement, fracking ban, Real Media, Debt Resistance UK, Anti-Daily Mail week, WailOnline, Blockupy, Occupy Rupert Murdoch

Imagine a world where the 1% doesn't have a monopoly over science and news – but where we can instead think for ourselves.

Posted 4 days 12 hours ago

A report that Rahm Emanuel’s administration invested money from the city teachers’ union in private equity funds run by some of the mayor’s biggest campaign donors is adding fuel to the charges that he neglects all but his wealthy backers.

Posted 3 days 14 hours ago
healthcare privatization, National Health Service, Cancer Not for Profit, 38 Degrees

Last week saw the biggest leak in the history of the U.K. National Health Service, with the publication of a document that revealed clinical commissioning groups were looking for a private company to accept a £1.2 billion contract for cancer care.

Posted 2 days 14 hours ago

In this week’s episode of Act Out!, Eleanor talks clowns, burning cars and the riots against austerity in Europe, while looking at the role of art in activism and giving you some tools to get started.

American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, BP, climate change denial

Oil company BP said on Monday it has stopped supporting conservative political group ALEC, becoming the latest corporation to end its membership in a group critics say works to deny the existence of climate change.

Three men have accused police of a "common plan to falsely arrest, illegally detain, and physically abuse" them – and are suing the city of Chicago over their black site-style detention at Homan Square.

Canada, The Intercept, Citizen Lab, Security of Information Act, QUANTUM, Communications Security Establishment

Canada has adopted aggressive tactics to attack, sabotage and infiltrate targeted computer systems.

fracking, fracking rules, fracking moratorium, fracking ban, Sally Jewell, fracking regulations, American Petroleum Institute, oil and gas industry

The Obama administration on Friday made its most significant move yet toward regulating hydraulic fracturing, forcing companies to disclose which chemicals they're injecting into the ground and enabling government inspection of drill sites.

Sign Up