Blockupy Berlin: Anti-capitalist, pro-refugee rallies end in clashes with police, arrests (VIDEO)
The protesters threw stones at police in the area surrounding Ministergarten Street, not far from the German Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, a police spokesman told German media. Some demonstrators also threw firecrackers and smoke pellets.
In another incident, a large group of protesters tried to break a police cordon and eventually were engaged in clashes with police officers. Police had to use tear gas to disperse the protest. Other groups of demonstrators staged sit-ins in the government quarter.
About 9am local time (07.00 GMT) police confronted about 300 demonstrators staging such a sit-in at Potsdamer Platz, according to Tagesspiegel. Another sitting strike was held right in front of the Labor Ministry and blocked a busy intersection, RT’s correspondent at the scene reported.
The protesters held banners and placards that read “exit austerity” and “exit capitalism.” They also chanted anti-capitalist slogans and some of them held banners that read “organize, block, strike - life is too short for capitalism."
At least 44 protesters were arrested as a result of various incidents, according to Tagesspiegel. At the same time, there are no reports of injuries among demonstrators or police officers.
There is no specific information about the exact numbers of the protesters. Organizers say that 10,000 signed up for the rally, while German media report that only about 1,000 people gathered at Potsdamer Platz, where one of the major actions was scheduled to take place.
At the Gendarmenmarkt, where another rally was to take place, there were only about 200-250 people, according to the local BZ daily. At the same time, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung put the number of protesters at just 100.
Witnesses spoke of “hundreds” of demonstrators.
The goal of the Friday demonstrations was to block the Labor Ministry building and to hinder ministry officials from entering the building in order to show the protesters’ discontent with its “policy of exploitation, social division and discrimination.”
The rallies were initially limited only to the two squares. However, after police told the protesters they were not allowed to walk away from those areas, the demonstrators strayed away from the squares, split into many groups and dispersed around the government quarter, RT’s Peter Oliver said.
At the same time, police said that Friday’s rallies were much more peaceful than similar events organized by the Blockupy movement in previous years that resulted in numerous injuries among officers. Police also said that the number of protesters was lower than expected. Between 1,200 and 2,000 police officers from both Berlin and neighboring regions were deployed to the city.
The protest, under the slogan ‘Get to work’, was organized by the same leftist Blockupy movement which rallied against austerity measures and for solidarity with refugees and migrants in previous years.
On top of the anti-capitalism and anti-austerity agenda, the movement accuses the German government of exploiting refugees and criticized a recently adopted integration law by saying it deprives refugees of human dignity.
The integration law, which was passed by the German parliament on July 8, specifically allows those whose requests for asylum were rejected to stay in Germany for two years if they find a job training course, and then for three more years if they find a job. It also says that rejected asylum seekers can receive social benefits during this period, as reported by Die Welt.
The Blockupy movement plans to continue staging various actions all through the weekend. Rallies against state borders, education reforms and racism are already scheduled.
The movement has a history of violence. In March 2015, a Blockupy demonstration against the opening of a European Central Bank office in Frankfurt resulted in massive clashes with police that hurled the city into chaos. More than 150 police officers were injured in the scuffles, as reported by Tagesspiegel. The protesters erected barricades and burned police vehicles. Police later spoke of “4,000 rampant breaches of law.”
In 2013, an anti-austerity Blockupy protest in Frankfurt also ended in clashes with police. It was then followed by another rally against what the demonstrators called police brutality towards the Blockupy protesters.