273 German Police Injured in May Day Riots

BERLIN (AP) - More than 270 police officers were injured in this year's May Day riots in the German capital, prompting criticism Saturday of Berlin security officials and calls for more officers.

Though the majority of the 273 officers suffered only minor injuries Friday, 14 were badly enough hurt that they will need to take time off work, said Berlin police chief Dieter Glietsch. He did not have more specifics.

In all, 5,800 police officers were on hand to try to keep a lid on the violence that has become a yearly ritual in Berlin. They used tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon as some of the roughly 5,000 leftist demonstrators, marching under the motto "capitalism is war and crisis," threw stones and bottles.

Dozens of demonstrators were injured but there were no exact figures; 289 were arrested. A bank and a fire station had windows
broken.

This year's demonstrations turned violent earlier than in previous years, leading to more injuries and arrests. Last year, 112 police officers were hurt and 150 demonstrators arrested.

Rainer Wendt, chairman of one of Germany's national police unions, criticized Berlin interior minister Erhart Koerting's handling of the operation, saying protesters were allowed too much time to get out of hand and urging that a "no tolerance" policy be adopted in the future.

"Whoever throws a stone or wears a mask must be immediately taken out of play," he told the Neuen Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper.

Koerting condemned the violence, but said overall the police response could be considered a success.

"The deployment concept saw many different measures of violence prevention available, which the police quickly and effectively were able to use when it came to criminal acts," he said.

Konrad Freiberg, the head of Germany's other major police union, said forces had been cut back by 10,000 officers across the country since 2000, making it difficult to muster enough police for major confrontations.

"On days like May 1 we are on the fringes of our capacity," he told Bild newspaper. "This is a political issue... The state must recruit more police despite the economic crisis."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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