BERLIN, April 30 (UPI) -- Left-wing extremist crime shot up in Germany last year, with officials now calling for new strategies to contain the violence.
Far-left violence grew by 56 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, Germany's Family Minister Kristina Schroeder said. For the first time in years, the number of injuries caused by leftists was greater than that by neo-Nazis.
"We have played down left-wing crime for too long," Schroeder told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. Seemingly 'noble' causes for protesting mustn't be used as an excuse to turn against other people, she added.
"There is no 'good' and 'bad' violence," she said.
To complement the many existing initiatives against neo-Nazism, Schroeder said she wants to launch programs to prevent far-left crime, and also form new coalitions to combat Islamism.
Her remarks come as Berlin is bracing for a day of tensions.
May 1, a public holiday in Germany, is a traditional day for protests. Nowhere are these as violent as in Berlin, where nearly 6,000 police officers have been dispatched across the city to safeguard the May Day demonstrations announced by far-left and far-right groups.
One of the biggest left-wing scenes in Germany has amassed in the capital, a services-oriented city with little industry, where rent remains relatively cheap and unemployment is high.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, the immigrant-dominated Kreuzberg district saw yearly brawls between police and protesters, with stones hurled, several hundred people injured, and cars and shops set ablaze. In 1987, rioters smashed the glass doors of a supermarket and extensive looting began.
After several calm years, the 2009 May Day saw heavy clashes between youths and police, with more than 400 people injured.
While an overwhelming majority of May Day events in the city remain peaceful and joyous, with people listening to live music and enjoying grilled sausages and kebab, a threat potential remains.
Germany's far-right National Democratic Party has announced a protest march that will draw an estimated 3,000 people. Around 10,000 people are due to protest against the neo-Nazis and officials are concerned that both sides clash -- they have already done so verbally in Web forums.
The people of Kreuzberg are used to this and, as if they would prepare for the arrival of a hurricane, they take precautions. Car sellers move their vehicles inside, Plexiglas plates protect the local banks and small-time store owners nail wooden planks before their shop windows. The motto in Berlin on May Day: Better be safe than sorry.