German police watch over seasonal rallies | News | DW | 01.05.2013
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German police watch over seasonal rallies

Police in Germany are on guard amid fears of clashes between far leftist and far rightist protestors. The more extreme political factions often use May Day to mobilize their membership for shows of support.

Thousands of police were in the Berlin district of Schöneweide on Wednesday where a far rightwing anti-immigrant parade drew around 250 demonstrators. Approximately 2,000 people were protesting against them, authorities said.

Four parade opponents chained themselves to a road, temporarily blocking the route. Officers struggled to remove them, as they had locked their hands inside hollow concrete weights.

Police were deployed to protect the constitutional right to assemble and to keep the two groups separated.

May Day protests

The district of Kreuzberg saw the beginning of the traditional May Day "Myfest" - a combination of the English word "mine" and the German word for the month of May. Leftist groups are set to demonstrate along the historic Unter den Linden Boulevard Wednesday evening, with thousands of trade unionists expected to be rallying at the nearby Brandenburg Gate. Some 10,000 people in total are expected to participate in the May Day demonstrations.

Berlin regularly sees May Day protests, which date back more than two decades in Germany and often coincide with Walpurgis Night celebrations that lead into May Day.

Behavior at Walpurgis gatherings late Tuesday that ran into the early hours of Wednesday was relatively muted compared to past years. Seven police officers were injured in brawls that led to 17 arrests. Authorities called it one of the quietest Walpurgis Nights in years.

Some 7,000 officers in total, most dressed in riot gear, were on standby in the city for possible rioting during the evening.

In the financial hub of Frankfurt, police said around 600 leftist protesters blocked a railway platform to disrupt public transport and prevent the arrival of supporters from Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) who demonstrated against the euro currency.

dr/ipj (dpa, AFP, epd)