Berlin mayor criticizes night of violence following May Day protests

By Andreas Heimann, dpa

Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller rallied behind police and condemned a night of violence in parts of the German capital after officers broke up a traditional May Day march for workers’ rights.

Police said 93 officers were injured and 354 protesters detained when a demonstration in the city’s Neukoelln district became violent on Saturday night. Protest groups said dozens of demonstrators were injured and accused police of beating up protesters without reason.

“I have no understanding for some people who are prepared to use violence to take advantage of the tense and difficult situation and attack policemen and policewomen, set things alight and thus also endanger many peaceful demonstrators,” Mueller said on Sunday.

Police say they were pelted with stones and bottles and were forced to break up a march of some 8,000 to 10,000 people joining the so-called revolutionary May 1 demonstration, with around 5,600 police officers from several German states on duty in Berlin.

The protest for workers’ rights, which has taken place annually since before World War II, is often marred by violence between police and protesters, but the 2021 march was particularly unruly after a law protecting tenants from rising rents was overturned in German courts.

Rioters dragged rubbish containers and pallets onto streets and set them on fire, while police used pepper spray and arrested protesters.

Three police officers were treated in hospital with broken bones, GdP state vice president Stephan Kelm said.

“These are clear signs that this is not about political expression, but that the basic right to freedom of assembly is being abused to legitimize serious crimes,” Kelm said.

Protests were also held in numerous other cities across Germany, and a police station in the eastern city of Leipzig was pelted with stones on Saturday night. In addition, projectiles were hurled at a police car and tram, and several bins set alight.

In Hamburg, police used water cannons against left-wing demonstrators after groups of up to 150 people took to the streets despite the left-wing demonstration being banned for health reasons during the pandemic.

In Frankfurt, there were also violent clashes between left-wing groups and the police after 3,000 people joined a protest. Police said several officers were injured and reported protesters hurling fireworks, bottles and stones.

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