Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sonntag: May Day in Kreuzberg

Image source: Fabrizio Bensch at Reuters

You may already know this (I didn't, for shame) but May 1st in Berlin is sort of infamous.

Nowadays people across the city gear up for all-night street parties at the annual MyFest celebration in Keuzberg. However, the now-legendary Berlin May Day started out in the late 80's as a day of demonstration and protest by Antifa and Autonome groups, which were met by colossal police resistance and inevitably resulted in rioting, looting and the setting of all kinds of shit on fire. The first May Day riots in 1987 apparently came as quite a surprise to the population, and were notable in that the police force had to withdraw from an entire district and wait for the carnage to run it's course. Intense. Since then, May Day has become a traditional day for anti-capitalist and workers action, with varying degrees of violence being perpetuated by both sides over the past 27 years. This great article by Ramor Ryan is a wonderfully vivid anarchists account of the Xberg riots, and well worth reading.

I assume the Berlin authorities were thinking less of the party-hungry masses and more about the legions of policemen and women who were heartily sick of dodging rocks when they agreed to legitimise the massive district-wide party that now completely takes over the streets of Kreuzberg. These days MyFest is attended by hundreds of thousands of revellers, who hit the closed-off streets en masse to dance, drink and hopefully catch a glimpse of a rogue airborne molotov cocktail (the day is renowned for attracting so-called 'Riot Tourists'). The heavy police presence is still going strong - as we left Schlesiches Tor station we witnessed a convoy of 14 riot vans being deployed - and demonstrations by unions, workers rights groups and anarchists are still very much a part of the proceedings, but the emphasis now lies firmly on block parties, a variety of music stages and excessive beer consumption in a leafy green park. It's a modern twist on the ol' panem & cirences strategy, I suppose. Give the people bread and circuses - or in Myfest's case, beer and a free licence to party on - and they'll effectively distract themselves from any kind of extreme political action. Not sure how much I agree with that particular game plan, but you've at least got to give them some credit for having the balls to try. I wonder how the Tottenham riots would have played out if B.Jo had told the police to hand out cans of Tennents and bribed Dizzee Rascal to play the streets of Lewisham instead.

There was no rioting on the cards for us this May Day, mind. We were out to quench our thirst for beer and sunshine, not tear gas. In fact, despite our well-laid plans we barely touched the bulk of the May Day fiesta, and certainly didn't make it to the centre of the action. Instead we interned ourselves at a street bar for about six hours and watched a jazz band cover film scores, whilst Diana painted faces and Max played chess. I don't think we'll be winning the Nikki Sixx Award for outlandish rock and roll behaviour any time soon...

Bis bald,

Betti Baudelaire xxx

1 comment:

  1. Wow Betti I have been sitting here drinking my morning coffee reading your culturally enriching tales of Berlin. I think I will do this every Saturday. Makes me ache to go there. I had a British friend that lived in Munich and taught English. She said people drank beer and ate pretzels but they ran and exercised a lot so everyone was in good shape. Must have to go to get into those clubs. Anyways, thanks for sharing your work again.