Feminists kick off early May Day rallies in Berlin
Following a couple of years of limited actions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Berliners took to the streets on Saturday to launch this year's May Day protests and festivities.
A feminist demonstration marched under the slogan of "Take back the night" protesting violence against women. German news agency DPA estimated that around 2,500 people were taking part in the march, accompanied by a heavy police presence.
Hundreds of protesters also took part in various other activities around the city on Saturday, including protests against rising rent, and the planned opening of a new police station in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg.
Earlier on Saturday morning, a group of housing activists occupied a vacant hostel in the center of the capital before police evicted them.
"While thousands of people live in crappy mass accommodation, are pitted against each other and have no safe home, 80 rooms have stood here empty for years," the Hotels to Housing group wrote on Twitter.
Protesters 'take back the night'
Berlin has a long history of May Day marches and protests, and large demonstrations are expected for Sunday, May 1 — a day traditionally celebrated by the left for its historical significance to the workers' movement.
A "revolutionary May Day demo" is planned for Sunday evening with police warning of potential violence at an "autonomous," or anarchist, protest in the capital.
But Saturday's main event was the feminist march through Berlin. While this kicked off peacefully, arrests were also reported. Protesters reportedly chanted "No God, no state, no patriarchy."
A reporter for the Berlin Tagesspiegel newspaper wrote on Twitter that the first clashes occurred as police tried to forcefully remove individuals from the protest.
The protest then spontaneously dissolved, leaving the police surprised, according to reports. This came after reports of repeated clashes between protesters and the police.
Berlin prepared for outbreaks of violence
Berlin Interior Minister Iris Spranger told the public broadcaster RBB that some 6,000 police officers were being deployed for the weekend.
Officers have also been brought in from other German states, although protests are also expected in other major German cities.
She said that the police would "intervene massively if it came to clashes."
"Of course, we know that it could come to violence, and it most probably will," she told the radio station.
Edited by: Sean Sinico