Photo by Seymour Gris
This May 1, things should be action-packed. More than 40 demos have been registered with the authorities so far. And we know what that means.
It starts, as always with the usual pagan Walpürgisnacht bonfires and harmless bottle-smashing in Mauerpark on April 30 - but for you committed anti-Nazis out there, there's a May 1 warm-up demo at which the antifa tries to strike at the heart of the beast by demonstrating outside the neo-Nazi pub "Zum Henker" ("To the Executioner" - cute, eh?). A great chance to see the lovely Neueschönweide, aka the lower end of East Berlin's digestive tract.
On May 1 itself, Nazis and leftists are sure to have a proper go at one another in Prenzlauer Berg, where 1,000 right-wingers are expected to march from Bornholmer Strasse at noon. The "1-Mai-Nazifrei" coalition will attempt to block the route. The big question remains: what should the police do? Protect the neo-Nazis' constitutional rights and clear the streets for them to march - or allow the anti-fascists and hopefully loads of regular citizens to shut the fascists down - as they managed to do peacefully in Dresden in February. If enough counter-demonstrators show up, this could be what happens.
Later in the day, when all the family fun of unionist picnics and the Kreuzberg MyFest is over, that classic piece of street theatre, the "Revolutionären-1.-Mai-Demonstration" in Kreuzberg kicks off at 18:00 at Kottbusser Tor.
This demo is, as everyone knows, usually ends up as a street battle between a couple of hundred brainless stone-hurling "Autonomen" and a rather brutal police presence. EXBERLINER was recently accused by Sabine Rennefanz in the Berliner Zeitung of trivializing the May 1 riot by presenting it as a tourist spectacle in this article. Well, Sabine, sorry. Have you ever actually been to the May Day demo? How many of the people taking part are either Krawalltouristen, kids looking for an adrenaline rush, or else tourists checking out this curious Berlin ritual. A hell of a lot. The actual politically motivated demonstrators who in all earnestness believe they can "shut down capitalism" as the flyers suggest, are a tiny minority.
Sabine also rubbished us for warning readers of police abuse in our May 1 Survival Tips - which somehow means EXBERLINER is a "extreme leftwing publication". HALLO! Anyone home upstairs, Sabine? For demo bystanders, the chances of getting beaten or arrested by the cops are, simply, far higher than getting attacked by anarchists, who are far too busy trying to "murder" hard-working policemen (according to the 2009 police stats, a sharp rise in attempted murder was largely due to 7 attacks against police at last year's demo).
And finally, Sabine: yes, riots - contained to a certain neighbourhood on one day of the year - are great for tourism. How better to keep that edgy Berlin brand alive?