1 May in Berlin, Germany 2008


Normally on the 1 of May Berlin is chaotic and a tad dangerous… I brought my camera out just in case I came across such action on my daily strut through the park across from my flat in Berlin. This is the video material I gathered on the 1st of May.. (above)



"May 1 is a bubbling sea of discontent. The urban masses are a flurry with protest, parade, and party. Though in recent years a series of more benign events have taken some of the anger out of the day's mood, May Day is traditionally when a motley collection of left and radical groups — communist, socialist, revolutionary, and anarchist — get out for good old Berlin-style demonstrations. In addition to the primary evil, crappy work conditions and compensation, participants protest any and all things negative: racism, sexism, environmental damage, and globalization/capitalism. Other causes are uniquely Berlin: for instance there was last year's march for the release of a jailed Red Army Faction terrorist, a concern that harkens back to West Berlin as the breeding ground for terrorist groups in the late-1960s and 1970s).

Amid the ruckus, Berlin emerges yet again as a metropolis of contradictions. For starters, May 1 in Germany has seen street fights between right- and left-wing radical groups, as when the far right NPD and gangs of neo-Nazi ruffians decide that they can use the day for their own cause, which then leads to battle with Nazi opposition groups. These violent conflicts obviously contradict the messages of coexistence and peace that are the focus of several of the other groups hitting the streets on May Day.

These clashes aside, most of the violence comes from people with little political motivation — a wave of wayward punks and anarchists out for a little destructive fun. More like football hooligans than pensive protesters, these angry champions of disorder charge through the streets come nightfall looking for a chance to throw bottles and/or rocks at cops, vandalize, and, most notoriously, set cars, garbage cans, and such on fire. Their rage against authority just causes grief for a bunch of unempowered average Berliners — the residents of Kreuzberg, street cleaners, and other unlucky souls forced to deal with the aftermath.

I'm eager to see how things play out this year, after the peaceful and goal-oriented activists managed to win the day (but not the night) for constructive purposes last year. But as this year marks the 80th anniversary of Blutmai (Blood May), during which the police injured and killed protesters, it'll be interesting to see who'll claim that as their precedent (and how).

There are eleven demonstrations planned so far this year. On April 1 alone, exactly one month before the Tag der Arbeit, three revolutionary groups registered their May Day protests with the city's police. So, as in years prior, the Revolutionäre 1 Mai Demonstration will begin at 1 p.m. in Kreuzberg (pictured above). Then two other rallies will also hit the streets: Mayday beginning at 2 p.m. and Gegen Kapital und Krieg (literally 'Against Capital and War') at 5 p.m. Once you tire of watching these spectacles, you can wander MyFest, the neighborhood's fantastic street festival. Just be sure to batten down the hatches come nightfall."  From Gridskipper.com