Secret paper: What the police expect in Berlin on May 1st


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Kreuzberg, riot, May 1st. What still sounded like a natural symbiosis at the end of the 80s and 90s has calmed down more and more recently. Especially because of the colourful Myfest in Kreuzberg there were no serious riots. The calculus behind it: where there is celebration, no stones are thrown. Images of burning fire engines and looted supermarkets were a thing of the past.

Although there were no serious riots in previous years with hundreds of injured police officers and arrested rioters, there have been regular short but sometimes violent outbreaks of violence in recent years.

May 1, 2021 is symptomatic of this. At that time, 10,000 people passed through Neukölln despite Corona requirements. Because, according to the police, there were various violations of the Infection Protection Act along the way, the officials intervened. As a result, massive bottles and stones were thrown on Sonnenallee. The police didn’t manage to get to the scene for about an hour.

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Several things are different this year. There are no longer Corona requirements, the Myfest will no longer take place, the Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg now has a police station and Berlin a Governing Mayor of the CDU. From the point of view of the radical left scene, this could provide additional mobilization.

The “Revolutionary May Day Demonstration” is to start this year on Hermannstraße in Neukölln and move from there via Hermannplatz, Kottbusser Damm, Kottbusser Tor and Oranienstraße to Oranienplatz. The police are expecting a total of 15,000 participants. Only 2000 are registered.

The mobilization takes place mainly via the Internet. Calls for a “revolutionary break with the ruling system and for the construction of a classless and gender-liberated society” are required.

There will be no Myfest this year either

There will be no Myfest this year either

Source: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

The demonstration itself consists of several blocks. The mobilization is primarily from the “class struggle bloc”, which consists of various, mostly migrant groups. Another radical left group wants to form in the block “The price is hot”. The followers essentially belong to the autonomous Antifa spectrum and to the scene of the so-called post-autonomists. They are concerned with the climate crisis and the drop in wage levels.

The most problematic part of the demonstration for the police is the “anarchist block” in which the violent anarcho scene will run. The police estimate the potential of this group at 400 to 500 people. At the 6 p.m. demonstration, they usually appear masked and dressed in black. The “black block” also includes people from the vicinity of the partially occupied house on the Riga Street 94 and the already vacated house at Liebigstrasse 34 in Friedrichshain. They are considered particularly violent.

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Police Chief Inspector Olaf Hecht was already on duty in Kreuzberg on May 1, 1987.  After the serious riots in the 1990s, a lot has improved, he says

According to an internal police risk analysis, the new Kotti police station at Kottbusser Tor is a major hot topic. In the radical left-wing scene, attempts are being made to denigrate the police station as a “beating and torture station”. An anonymous anarchist call for action from the beginning of April states: “We call for people to take part in the May Day demo with actions and to support them in advance with decentralized actions.” The aim is not to get the location of the conflict from the police to dictate.

Call for “big riot demo”

In Kreuzberg, a lettering had already been noticed: “1. May: Big riot demo. New Year’s Eve 2.0, Boddinstraße 6 p.m.”. A reference to the starting point of the demo and to the violent riots on New Year’s Eve in Berlin. The radical left-wing scene apparently wants to build on this.

On April 21, a list of upcoming activities appeared on the left-wing website “Indymedia” under the heading “Berlin: More than 48 hours of revolutionaries May 1, 2023”. On the same day, 25 vehicles burned in a car dealership in Marzahn, one day later a self-incrimination letter appeared on “Indymedia”. It said: “Our solidarity goes to all those who fight the presence of the cops on the streets.”

According to internal police analyses, it can be assumed that militant actions will take place during the demonstration. Lane narrowing and construction sites along the way are likely to make police measures more difficult. For example, throwing stones and bottles is possible.

Burning off pyrotechnics is routine on May Day

Burning off pyrotechnics is routine on May Day


Last year, the demonstration on Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg ended in a police encirclement. That means: Several operational teams were ready and took rigorous action when bottles were thrown. Special evidence preservation and arrest units picked out criminals in a targeted manner. An appeal from the anarchist bloc said they would not repeat this mistake and fall into this trap again. This can be understood as an indication that the demonstration will not run to the end and that participants will try to break away beforehand and disappear into the street canyons of Kreuzberg.

According to WELT information, the police assume in their internal situation assessments that pyrotechnics will burn off hooded people on house roofs right at the beginning of the demonstration at Hermannplatz. In the further course there will probably be stone and bottle throwing. It is also to be expected that the Palestinian groups will chant anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist chants.

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Riots and riots have a long tradition in Berlin on May 1st. The first riots happened in 1987, when the violence caught the police completely unprepared. In the old postal delivery district SO36, there was a state of emergency for many hours, the few police officers were exposed to a hail of stones and left the field largely to the left-wing radical “revolutionaries” and their followers for hours, who took advantage of the moment to plunder shops in peace and quiet. A “Bolle” supermarket went up in flames.

In the years that followed, police tactics repeatedly became the plaything of basic political convictions. In 1989, an SPD interior senator tried a concept of restraint. The police could hardly be seen. The result: the rioters took advantage of the freedom and once again reduced parts of Kreuzberg to rubble and ashes. The CDU tried hard a little later. The results weren’t much better. The scene felt provoked and used the verbal reinforcement to mobilize. Again there were many injured, the scenery in the streets around the Kottbusser Tor resembled a civil war scenario in the evening and night hours.

Kreuzberg mix: punks and police officers always serve as popular photo motifs on May 1st

Kreuzberg mix: punks and police officers always serve as popular photo motifs on May 1st


The left-wing militants were hardly ever convicted because the police couldn’t find any way of documenting acts of violence in the turmoil of the street battles. In the years that followed, the cat-and-mouse game repeated itself. A means of pacifying the situation only became apparent in the 2000s. On the one hand, the police now relied on de-escalation and the concept of the “outstretched hand” did not want to provide the left-wing radicals with a cheap excuse for throwing stones and bottles. The water cannons stayed in the background. Criminal offenses were documented as evidence, for example with the help of specially trained officers and through video recordings.

From 2003, local residents also initiated Myfest, a street festival with political speeches, punk and hip-hop music. The Kreuzberg families, so the idea, should no longer barricade themselves in but take the neighborhood back from the rioters, including the sale of köfte and caipirinha. The interaction of the professionalization of police tactics and the Myfest worked. Gradually the situation calmed down. The spark for mass militancy no longer jumped over.

Since 1987, Berlin has still not experienced a completely peaceful May Day. But the number of violent crimes has dropped significantly. With a few exceptions and at least in comparison to previous years, the police could generally be described as masters of the situation.

Whether it will stay like this this year cannot be reliably predicted. In any case, the police assure us that they are well prepared. Around 6,300 police officers would be deployed, said a police spokeswoman. Last year there were “only” 5,500. One of the reasons for the increase: On this year’s “Labour Day”, the emergency services do not only have to concentrate on the demonstration events and possible riots. One also prepares for blockades of the climate movement “Last Generation”, said a spokeswoman.

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Quelle: AFP, AFP/ AFP/ Saul Loeb

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