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Berlin's interior senator condemns unrest

June 16, 2021

Berlin police say they were pelted with stones by 200 people opposed to a city-ordered fire safety inspection of "partly occupied" apartments in Friedrichshain precinct's Rigaer Street.

Police tactical vehicles on Rigaer Strasse, Berlin, Friedrichshain
Police cleared the area of barricades, barbed wire and burning tires so the city can carry out fire safety inspections Image: Andreas Rabenstein/dpa/picture alliance

Police and firefighters in Berlin were caught in a street battle Wednesday with so-called leftist squatters occupying an apartment complex located at Rigaer Strasse 94, in the city's Friedrichshain neighborhood.

On Tuesday, the Berlin Administrative Court had rejected a last-minute attempt to block a Thursday fire safety inspection of the building complex, something occupiers vehemently oppose.

Authorities claimed the situation inside the buildings posed an urgent danger to public safety and order. The complex comprises three houses with 30 apartments. For many, rental contacts exist, but occupants have reportedly long resisted entry to authorities.

Ahead of the inspection, police arrived Wednesday morning with tactical vehicles and a water cannon.

Two hooded individuals stand behind a makeshift barricade of trash containers, one about to throw a stone and the other holding what appears to be an air rifle, taking aim at police.
Squatters had barricaded the building and tried to force police back with stones and other projectilesImage: Dennis Lloyd Brätsch/TeleNewsNetwork/picture alliance

Police said they were pelted with rocks thrown from the roof as well as with fireworks by some 200 people, leaving the street enveloped in smoke for part of the morning.

Three sets of burning barricades were extinguished and pushed aside. Sixty police officers were injured.

'Intimidating' one's own neighborhood

Berlin Interior Senator Andreas Geisel, a Social Democrat (SPD), condemned the unrest.

"Whoever sets fire to car tires, is not fighting for leftist 'free space' but intimidates one's own neighborhood," said Geisel.

Police have declared the zone restricted for vehicle parking until Friday evening and banned demonstrations in the area.   

The Rigaer Street building has been a point of contention since the 1990s, with its occupied premises a gathering point for the local leftist scene. In the past too, police and occupiers have clashed, with searchers carried out.

js, ipj/sms (AFP, dpa)