Burning Berlin part 3: Fight Night
After two days of small rucks and large protests everyone was prepin' for the massive brawl on Friday night, the police were dressed like concrete dinosaurs and the punks had ripped up the street and filled bags with rocks.
The anti-capitalist protest marched in a figure of eight around Kreuzberg as it always does. For the first time ever though it charged straight through the annual good-vibes street party.
Just to the left of this, a bunch of people are screaming, "Eat the bankers!" But right here, right now we're in Paul Wall's back yard.
Perhaps two hours later, when the acid wears off, she'll wake up on the sofa in her living room in her Dalston flat, wondering if she'll ever stop seeing streaks when she moves her hands, and wishing she had a balloon.
The protest buses had a pure turd-music policy, blaring reggae and the occasional KRS-One remix. As the sun shone the crowd marched and sung; everyone was in a good mood because they were pissed, and families were cheering them from the windows.
The good vibes weren't going to last eternally though. In Berlin they use a protest technique called the black bloc. This is basically when hundreds of kids raise their hoods and charge at the police. It’s a decent sign that trouble’s coming, so when the dark mass appeared, the police locked us in a street for an hour. That was pretty lame and someone pissed on my 511s.
Although I can see why they did lock us in – the second they let us go, the crowd charged forward and bottles started flying. The police responded by charging and retreating every ten minutes. When they charged we all sprinted to the side of the street and huddled by the wall while the police battered whoever they could reach. When they retreated again people ran forward to graffiti abandoned cop cars or lamp a rock in their faces.
This guy was enjoying himself, at least.
Less so this one. He threw a bottle at a cop from about five metres away, so fuck knows what he was expecting to happen.
This went on for hours, up and down a main road. People would chant, attack, and then run off from the police, who began swooping in to beat the majority while pulling away a couple of kids they perceived as ring leaders. The only way to survive was to run or hide. We were pepper-sprayed, forced into a closed underground station, and at one point had to be pulled over a fence by some punks to escape the cops. This is the kind of photo you take when you're in the middle of a riot getting smashed up...
While all this was going on there was a horizontal storm of flying bottles, but right in the middle, one off-license stayed open. Three brothers were in there, one holding the door shut every time the police charged and occasionally dousing a pepper-sprayed dude with a glass of water in the eyes, one handing out beer, and one cheerfully manning the till.
I asked him why they were still open and he shrugged: “Good money.” Conveniently they were selling anarchy badges, so you could drink and crush the establishment in one nice easy move. I did both.
The crowd were pulling down signs and billboards and pelting the cops with them, so while I'd love to be able to say that this copper was about to lance someone with this weapon, actually he was just cleaning up.
To every one protester, there was one cop, and to every cop, there were four observers. There was only one of this guy though.
Moondog here was summoning the dancing spirits just on the edge of the main battleground, which looked like this.
In the middle of this no-man's land where the hurled bottle was king, one dude who was either nuts or trying to impress that revolutionary girl in fishnets, picked up a crash-barrier and charged a crowd of police.
He lost this one. They emptied a can of pepper-spray in his face and once he was on the floor, trampled him. I got a mouthful of that spray and was seeing in waves for ten minutes. These guys got it much worse though.
Try and tell me this gang isn't terrifying.
Eventually, the police's tactics, which were to divide the most terrifying and dedicated protesters from everyone else by charging dramatically, worked and the casual pillagers were now easily dispersed by a second wave of riot cops.
This guy didn't like being moved on, but he did like being on camera, unlike a policeman who threatened first to hit us and then to sue us and then to nick our camera unless we deleted his portrait. Love that guy.
In the end, everyone fought themselves to sleep, absolutely zero Nazis had been confronted, a bunch of police and protesters ended up in hospital, and a lot of bins were torched. It was basically the French Revolution all over again.