While Britain's biggest security operation in decades Friday was hailed a great success -- police in London said they made 43 arrests amid an otherwise joyful crowd of 1 million that watched the royal wedding -- officials in Berlin were getting ready to brace for some tougher action.
May 1, a federal holiday in much of Europe, is a traditional day for protests. Union workers are to take the streets in France, Spain, Greece and Portugal, where workers have been angry about harsh austerity measures.
Nowhere is the potential for violence so high as in Berlin, however, a city home to one of the largest far-left scenes in Europe. Officials estimate that more than 1,000 far-left radicals live in the city. Some 6,000 police officers have been dispatched across the city to safeguard the May Day demonstrations.
May Day protests in Berlin's multicultural Kreuzberg district were quite violent in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, since police traded ar hard-line approach for de-escalation tactics, things calmed down -- until 2009.
At the time, hundreds of protesters threw firebombs, broken beer bottles and stones at police, who responded with tear gas and batons. The 2009 clashes resulted in nearly 500 arrests and hundreds of people being injured.
Last year's protests remained relatively quiet, with fewer arrests and injured, but authorities remain alert.
Gentrification has arrived in Berlin, with rents in Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain on the rise and homeowners forcing tenants out to sell the house for big money -- a development that has fueled anger among the left-wing scene.
In February, some 2,000 riot police dispatched to clear out one of Berlin's last squats in the eastern Friedrichshain district clashed with around 1,000 protesters, who threw stones and beer bottles. While police eventually managed to enter the house, which was barricaded with razor wire and sharpened metal poles, the protesters went on a rampage through the district, smashing shop and bank windows.
Hans-Peter Uhl, an interior policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, has called for preventive arrests of well-known radicals before May 1 but authorities in this largely left-wing city are unlikely to revert to such measures.
The locals of Kreuzberg have taken matters into their own hands. Since 2003, in a bid to defuse the violence, locals have been organizing the "Myfest," a multicultural district party with food stands and stages for live music and performances.
Tens of thousands of people flock there every year to dish into homemade kebab and currywurst, listen and dance to live music and experience the colorful side of Kreuzberg, which has turned it into one of Berlin's hippest neighborhoods.
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