Germany Deploys Thousands of Police to Crack Down On May Day Protests

People throughout Germany celebrated Labor Day on Friday a little differently than previous years, where the first of May has typically been marked with loud protests and crowded streets.

This year, events and rallies were cancelled in cities throughout the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has authorized around 20 small demonstrations in the city of Berlin,  each with no more than 20 participants allowed.

Protest organizers including the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) are hosting this year's Labor Day events online.

Berlin's state interior minister, Andreas Geisel, warned the city on local radio that participating in an unauthorized protest is a criminal offense, German broadcaster RBB reported.

"The police will have to intervene early," said Geisel, referring to unauthorized demonstrations, adding that protection against viral transmission must be enforced.

Berlin sends out 5,000 police officers

While protests on May 1 have largely been peaceful in past years, infection control is paramount during the pandemic, leading Berlin authorities to send out on Friday around 5,000 police officers across the capital to break up any unauthorized protests or gatherings that violate social-distancing rules.

On the eve of Labor Day, Berlin police broke up crowds flouting coronavirus measures in Berlin-Friedrichshain, but the evening was generally peaceful, RBB reported.

Thursday had also marked Walpurgis Night, a festival which celebrates the shift from long, dark winter days to sunnier, longer spring days. The Walpurgis evening is typically celebrated with picnics, parties and bonfires.

Right-wing extremists stage rally

In recent weeks, demonstrators have gathered in Berlin despite coronavirus measures, among them various extremist groups from across Germany's political spectrum.

Right-wing extremists have also planned to stage a small protest on Friday, according to the German Press Agency (DPA).

A major protest usually organized by hard-left groups on Labor Day evening has been cancelled, dpa reported, adding that some radical activists have called instead for spontaneous demonstrations.

A few dozen people from left-wing groups had gathered on Thursday in Berlin's Rigaer Strasse and Liebigstrasse. Police officers were reportedly seen pushing protesters in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Car demonstration

Berlin community group MyGruni is expected to hold a protest in the form of a car parade, starting from the borough of Neukölln to the residential area of Grunewald.

According to the RBB, the initiative will compromise of eight registered cars.

The Berlin Administrative Court confirmed on Wednesday that the event was permitted, "provided that a maximum of 20 participants would be in eight cars, whereby only people or life partners belonging to the same household are in the same car.”

You can read this article as it originally appears at Deutsche Welle here.

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This article originally appeared at Deutsche Welle.