During the May Day protests last week, Berlin police clashed with nearly every kind of demonstrator imaginable -- including one of their own. An off-duty police officer from Frankfurt has been arrested for stone-throwing during riots which left over 450 of his colleagues injured.
This year's May Day riots proved to be a serious headache for the roughly 6,000 police officers on duty in Berlin last Friday. Over 450 of them -- four times as many as last year -- reported injuries, with 19 requiring out-patient hospital care, Berlin police chief Dieter Glietsch reported.
Adding insult to injury is the news that one of the 289 protestors police arrested during the violence was actually one of their own -- a fellow officer with the German Federal Police.
The 24-year-old, usually stationed at Frankfurt International Airport, is suspected of taking part in the May Day riots in Berlin and -- in at least two instances -- throwing cobblestones and striking police officers. He was off-duty and staying in Kreuzberg, the multi-ethnic and alternative neighborhood at the center of the annual demonstrations, during his visit to the capital, where he completed his training in August last year.
The policeman has been suspended and will remain off-duty until the criminal proceedings are over, said a representative for the German Federal Police on Friday. "We are all a bit shocked, because this is not the behavior we expect from a colleague," a spokeswoman for the Frankfurt Airport police told German news agency DDP.
The mass circulation German daily Bild wrote in its Friday edition that the officer, a reported paintball enthusiast, had described his mood online as "looking for a fight."
The Labor Day holiday has been well-known for decades for its regular outbreaks of violence and the disorderly situation has become something of a tradition in Berlin -- and has since spread to other German cities, Hamburg in particular.
In recent years, popular outdoor festivals held on May Day appeared to have cooled down some of the aggression -- although the peaceful performances and gatherings usually morph into some degree of stone-throwing and car-burning as the sun goes down.
This year, however, marked an increase in mayhem, with some speculating that the amplified unrest might be in response to the ongoing economic crisis, especially rising unemployment. Protestors of all varieties -- left-wing, far-right, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, and anarchist -- clashed with riot police in various Berlin neighborhoods.
Until the early morning hours, police were attacked with bottles, stones, and firecrackers -- and responded in turn with tear gas, batons, and pepper spray, arresting twice as many protestors as last year in the process.
On Saturday morning, street cleaning teams battled the trash -- collecting 100 cubic meters of garbage, stones, and shards of broken glass.
jcm - with wire reports
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