Hundreds of protesters halt demolition of Berlin Wall, scuffle with police (PHOTOS)

Hundreds of protesters halt demolition of Berlin Wall, scuffle with police (PHOTOS)
Hundreds of protesters have forced construction crews to halt the demolition of the legendary Berlin Wall in Germany's capital. Twenty meters of historic wall are being torn down to make way for a luxury apartment complex nearby.

Some of Berlin's most famous wall paintings, such as Brezhnev and Honecker's Kiss are under threat if the work goes ahead.

Nearly 300 activists gathered in front of the famous East Side Gallery to prevent the demolition of one of Europe's most popular tourist attractions. Protesters carried banners, one of which read "Does culture no longer have any value?", apparently addressed to local authorities.  

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Several arrests have been reported as protesters scuffled with police officers.  

Police arrest an activist during a protest against the removal of a section of the East Side Gallery. (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)

Construction crews managed to remove a meter and a half section of the famous monument before the crowd arrived. To replace the missing part of the world-famous Berlin Wall, demonstrators then wheeled in a mock wall section they set up in front of the gap.  

Protesters are fighting against allowing private interests to destroy the historic wall as they view the action as a “direct act of destruction towards an artwork,” the newspaper cited Kani Alavi, the head of the artists' initiative East Side Gallery, who led a €2.5m restoration project of the wall four years ago.

Activists and artists who painted the murals on the East Side Gallery are now circulating petitions against the demolition, saying it will violate their copyright.

A woman writes on a part of the East Side Gallery. (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)

French artist Thierry Noir, the author of the famous colorful graffiti "Heads with big lips", has joined protesters to fight for his work not to be removed from the gallery and for the wall's survival.

“This is a unique opportunity to preserve a large section of what was once a death strip. If you remove the sections, you're destroying the authenticity of this place," Guardian quotes Noir whose painted section of the wall is to be removed. "It's unbearable to see that the wall here is being so brutally torn down."

Opponents also say the removal will insult the memory about those who died in the former infamous “death strip”. During the years of the Wall, an estimated 136 people were shot dead while trying to cross it in attempt to flee to the Western sector.

The East Side segment is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, which was separating East and West Berlin for almost 30 years.

A combo shows a file photo taken on November 11, 1989 of West Berliners crowding in front of the Berlin Wall as East German border guards demolish a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, and a photo taken on March 1, 2013 of policemen facing protestors as a section of the East Side Gallery, a 1,3 km long remainder of the Berlin Wall. (AFP Photo / Gerard Malie / Odd Andersen)

It was transformed into an open-air gallery months after East Germany opened its borders in November of 1989. Covered with 105 colorful graffiti works painted by some120 artists, the wall attracts up to 800,000 visitors a year - from all over the world.

However, despite its popularity, local authorities ruled to sacrifice parts of the 1,3 kilometer Berlin Wall to provide a site for a luxury apartment complex, a 63-meter-high tower of 36 apartments  and offices, which is now being built on the nearby banks of the Spree river.

The plan is to remove and relocate a 20-meter section.

"The investor has a legal right to demand this, so we'll have to do it," the district's mayor, the Green MP Franz Schulz said confirming the removal plan.

People protest against the removal of a section of the East Side Gallery, a 1,3 km long remainder of the Berlin Wall. (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)

Police remove a piece of fake concrete used by protesters to fill out a whole during the removal of a section of the East Side Gallery, a 1,3 km long remainder of the Berlin Wall. (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)