People throughout Germany celebrate Labor Day on a slightly different day from Friday previous years, where the first of May is usually marked by loud protests and busy streets.
This year, events and demonstrations were canceled in cities across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has approved around 20 small demonstrations in the city of Berlin, each with no more than 20 participants permitted.
Organizers of the protest including the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) hosted this year’s Labor Day event online.
Berlin’s Interior Minister Andreas Geisel warned the city on local radio that participating in illegal protests was a criminal offense, the German broadcaster RBB reported.
“The police must intervene early,” Geisel said, referring to unauthorized demonstrations, adding that protection against transmission of the virus must be upheld.
Berlin sends 5,000 police officers
While protests on May 1 have been largely peaceful in recent years, controlling infection is crucial during the pandemic, leading Berlin authorities to send on Friday around 5,000 police officers throughout the capital to break up any protests or illegal gatherings that violate social distance rules . .
On the eve of Labor Day, the Berlin police dispersed the crowd who were mocking the coronavirus actions in Berlin-Friedrichshain, but that night was generally peaceful, the RBB reported.
Thursday also marks Walpurgis Night, a festival celebrating the change from long, dark winter days to brighter spring days. Walpurgis Night is usually celebrated with picnics, parties and campfires.
Stage right-wing extremist stage
In recent weeks, demonstrators have gathered in Berlin despite coronavirus actions, including various extremist groups from across the German political spectrum.
Right-wing extremists have also planned to hold small protests on Friday, according to the German Press Agency (DPA).
A large protest usually organized by left groups on Labor Day night has been canceled, dpa reported, adding that some radical activists instead called for spontaneous demonstrations.
Several dozen left-wing groups gathered on Thursday at Rigaer Strasse Berlin and Liebigstrasse. Police officers were reportedly seen encouraging protesters in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Demonstration of a car
The Berlin community group MyGruni is expected to hold protests in the form of a car parade, from the Neukölln region to the Grunewald residential area. According to the RBB, this initiative will compromise eight registered cars.
The Berlin Administrative Court on Wednesday confirmed that the event was permitted, “provided a maximum of 20 participants will be in eight cars, where only people or life partners who have the same household are in the same car”.
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