Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Day Mayhem

Things got a little messy in Berlin this past weekend. May Day is generally when the most cars are burnt, stones are thrown and the police get to try out their favorite pepper-sprays.

This year the district of Kreuzberg, where things get the ugliest, hosted a "May Fest", to counter the normally violent demonstrations. The rationale: with enough live music, good food and good people, there won't be any room for violent protests - I like it. Great things from the day.

One Euro tall boys
Fem-metal band, covered in body paint and various types of tape.

Street performer who spontaneously stormed through the crowd with a bull-horn and flaming stick.
Turkish toddler who made all the girlies weak in the knees with his seamless electric-slide (look close, little guy in orange).

I took a short break at a local beer garden, and returned after sunset to what felt like a war-zone. During anti-fascist and anti-capitalist demonstrations, small groups started to throw stones and bottles at the police. As a result, the entire square (Kottbusser Tor) was sealed off.

I went one street over and found a way in. Even with the visibly heightened police presence, the festivities carried on in good spirits. But, when bands of 10-12 riot police silently walked through the crowds in a box formation, the nervous tension rose.

They would spot a 'suspect' and, without warning, storm them with an unusual degree of force. This did not go over well. The crowd would chant 'let go! let go!' while the police set up a loose barricade around the scene. At times, one or two riot police would break out of formation to chase down those that provoked them. This back-and-forth would repeat itself every 5 to 10 minutes, it was chaotic.

Fortunately, these actions were isolated and didn't affect the wider party. After a few more minutes of watching and taking photos of these shenanigans, I returned to the one euro tall boys and street parties.

On a side note, here is a website that tracks the location and number of cars that have been set ablaze in Berlin over the years. Crazy.


robert said...

1st of may was insane here too- my classes were canceled as the streets are known to be impossible to drive on. Fireworks like gunshots all day.

harrison grrgeron said...

great post/photos paul!

rob post photos/stories of may 1 if you got 'em too.

KDHL said...

Is just Berlin this chaotic? What about other cities in Germany and Europe?

I love that most people in the US have no idea what May Day is.

Paul T. said...

Hamburg was pretty ugly, Mainz and a few other univ. towns in western Germany saw some rioting.

But, from what I've seen, Istanbul had it the worst.