German police gear up for May Day riots in Berlin, Hamburg
Thousands of German police officers were preparing Saturday for the annual May Day rioting in the cities of Hamburg and Berlin, reported dpa.
In the capital Berlin, 6,000 officers from across the country will be on duty as thousands of protesters are expected to join the "Revolutionary May 1 Demonstration" organized by left-wing radicals.
A police spokesman said they would keep their distance if the protests remained peaceful, but planned to crack down on any displays of violence.
"This dual strategy has proven to work," the spokesman said.
Left-wing organizations said they were targeting capitalism and the gentrification process which has driven up prices in city neighbourhoods as they become appealing to more affluent residents.
"We are sick of waiting and today choose fire and stone," proclaimed one radical leftwing website.
Since 1987, Berlin has experienced radical left-wing violence on May 1, a date associated with a far older tradition of lighting fires and celebrating to drive out the winter on April 30.
Berlin officials were on the alert ahead of a rally on Saturday in the eastern district of Friedrichshain, where the forced eviction of a squat caused rioting earlier this year.
Berlin has a long-standing autonomous streak and a history of house occupation as a political act of resistance, which began in West Berlin in the 1960s and spread to abandoned buildings in the former East after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Police in Hamburg also anticipated the first outbreaks of violence on Saturday evening, when 2,000 left-wingers are to demonstrate against the clearance of a former theatre occupied by squatters since 1989.
Officers were due to set up a 'danger zone' in which they could search people or detain them without evidence. However they said not all violence was politically motivated.
"Often it is not only autonomists, but simply young people prone to violence," said a Hamburg police spokesman, adding that such people enjoyed clashes with the authorities.
Meanwhile, in the northern city of Bremen around 4,000 people demonstrated against an extremist right-wing rally on Saturday, attended by around 200 neo-Nazis. 3,000 police officers monitored the event.