Berlin’s mayor and his top security official reassured citizens Monday that the city is safe after weekend clashes between leftist protesters and police, and rejected suggestions that they should hold talks with squatter activists.
Police have called Saturday night’s outburst of violence in the Friedrichshain district “the most aggressive and violent protests in the last five years.” It left 123 officers slightly injured.
German police said two people were still in custody Monday for violating the public peace and 100 protesters were under investigation. City interior minister Frank Henkel has called the rioting, which followed police operations last month at buildings taken over by squatters, a “leftist orgy of violence.”
Since a police operation at a squat started last month, there has been a spike in cases of cars being torched. Friedrichshain has seen increasing gentrification over recent decades but is also home to a thriving leftist scene.
Mayor Michael Mueller, speaking alongside Henkel Monday, said that “we don’t have an insecure situation overall in our city.”
He backed his deputy and rival Henkel’s hard line against the protesters, in the face of some local opposition politicians’ calls for talks with the leftist scene. The weekend’s events mean that “it isn’t the time for roundtables at the moment,” Mueller said.
Berlin holds a state election in September. Mueller’s center-left Social Democrats have been in an uneasy coalition with Henkel’s conservative Christian Democrats for the past five years, and Henkel is Mueller’s challenger in the election. Henkel’s party has criticized Mueller for previously sending conciliatory signals to leftist activists.
Some 3,500 protesters participated in the demonstration Saturday night. Several of them were also injured during the violence, but police had no figures on the number of injured protesters.