Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May 1

Having been in Berlin on May 1, 2001 and having lived through 3 years of IMF/World Bank protests in downtown DC, I was excited to see how May 1, 2006 would compare. If I have confused you already, May 1 is Labor Day in Germany and is traditionally filled with a mix of sanctioned and unsanctioned protests and occasionally violence.

While in Berlin in 2001, my friends and I saw a protest, which I remember as being pretty darn scary due to the anti-American slogans that were being chanted down the street. As soon as we realized what was being said, we put our white American sport shoes to good use and got the “heck out of Dodge” and back onto the subway. This year, I did not see anything similar, but rather walked around “Myfest,” a street festival in Kreuzberg that offered fun and entertainment as well as a peaceful way for different interest groups to express themselves.

Overall, I was very impressed! There were lots of smashed beer bottles littering the street and the crowd was a bit more alternative than I am used to, but overall I thought the concept of providing an alternative to the demonstrations was a great idea. What I found most interesting was how the festival differed from other German “fests” I have been to. Tandori chicken replaced wursts on the grill. Couscous replaced potato salad and pakora stands replaced crepe stands. There was not a music group in sight that was playing German umpoppop music or singing American classics. Instead, teenagers danced to Turkish music or hopped around to the sounds of German heavy metal. The Commies, Che Guevara Cuba supporters and pro-Palestine folks were all present, but the afternoon was peaceful.

Later, Carl and I met up with Lexy and Emil for a drink at a cool bar/restaurant on the canal in Kreuzberg called Freischimmer. Definitely a place to visit again as the weather continues to get warmer! As I passed through Kotbusser Tor on my way back to Wilmersdorf, I could tell that the scene was getting a bit tenser, but there had not yet been any violence from what I could see. Heavily armored police vans had moved closer to the crowd though, and police dressed in full riot gear stood watch. Interestingly enough, it looked like the local VW dealership allowed the police to use the sales office as a command center. Create goodwill with the police and keep your cars safe… wise cookies, those VW folks!

So that was May Day in Berlin as I saw it. The news reported that there was some violence and arrests later in the evening, but less than in years past. Another friend who lives in Friedrichshein, Kelly, said that there was also some craziness the night before near her place. The day got me thinking a lot about immigration and Germany, but that is a topic for another posting.

P.S. I think this is the bird that ate the babies! Ugly-ass German bird!!!


At 3:32 AM, Blogger Johnnie Oz said...

If I may say so, Erin was grooving to the Turkish German beats. She was also somewhat disappointed when told that the firefighter stand - you could use real fire hoses to knock down pyramids of cans - was for kids only ;-)
Looking forward to hearing about those immigration thoughts. Carl

At 2:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just a quick correction. das ist nicht freischwimmer in die foto. das ist clubdevisionaire (not sure of spelling). I guess you obviously took the picture from freischwimmer. Both are cool places, but hip germans prefer clubdevisionaire

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Good catch, du hast recht, das ist nicht Freischimmer. Ich habe mich entschieden, dass ich nicht hipster genug fuer Clubdevisionaire bin:-)


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