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May Day

May 1, 2011

Although some violence was reported, May Day demonstrations in Germany were relatively peaceful. Police in Berlin did break up one rally with water canon after stones and bottles were thrown at businesses.

Demonstrators in Berlin
Demostrations are a regular feature of May DayImage: dapd

In Berlin and Hamburg, two cities which usually witness a significant level of anarchist violence on May Day each year, police reported that there had been less violence than in previous years.

A police spokesman said that the day had been "relatively peaceful," with no reports of police being seriously injured despite attacks against officers.

However, riot police did use water canons to end the march shortly after darkness fell, as protesters threw stones and bottles at banks and shops in Berlin's Neukölln district. Several arrests were made, officials said.

There were about 6,000 officers from across the country on duty in the German capital on Sunday. Officials said that some 9,000 radical left-wing protesters gathered in the early evening for the "Revolutionary May 1 Demonstration," although organizers put the number at 13,000.

Trade union leader Michael Sommer addresses a May Day rally in Kassel
Trade union leader Michael Sommer addresses a May Day rally in KasselImage: dapd

A march through Hamburg city center on Sunday remained largely peaceful, with demonstrators flanked by police. Police in the city had arrested 10 leftists for vandalism on Saturday night, saying that one car belonging to the German military was burned during a demonstration.

In Berlin about 1,500 people staged a demonstration critical of gentrification in the increasingly upscale Prenzlauer Berg district, but police described it as largely peaceful.

Some 423,000 people rallied in towns and cities across Germany for the traditional May Day demonstrations, according to the DGB trade union federation. The turnout was lower than last year, when the DGB estimated that around 484,000 people participated.

May Day around Europe

Around Europe, the May Day activities were generally more subdued than in years past.

In France, the number of workers attending May Day rallies was down significantly from the previous two years.

In Paris, the far-right National Front party staged its traditional "Joan of Arc" march, while the cities of Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg also saw demonstrations of up to a few thousand people each.

A burnt-out trash can after a May Day rally
In Berlin, street violence has marked the evening of May 1st for the past 20 yearsImage: AP

Austria's Social Democratic Chancellor used a May Day rally in Vienna to denounce the banking sector before a crowd of about 100,000 people.

"When everything's going well they fill their pockets," he said. "And when things are going badly, it's the taxpayers who pay."

In the Italian city of Turin, some protesters accused unions of "betraying" workers by agreeing to stricter work conditions introduced by carmaker Fiat as part of its cost-cutting strategy.

In Greece, several thousand people took to the streets to protest the government's deep spending cuts. In Portugal, tens of thousands also marched protesting austerity measures expected to be imposed under the terms of a European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout plan.

"Never has social protest been more important," said Manuel Carvalho da Silva, the head of the CGTP union.

Author: Sarah Harman, Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Kyle James