Leftist Extremists, Police Brace for Unity Day Conflicts
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ The long, gray row of rundown tenements on East Berlin’s Mainzer Street drips with Communist flags and defiant banners, a splash of color dedicated to the demise of Germany.
Radical leftists have taken over 12 of the 20 abandoned apartment houses on the street, part of a bleak working-class district just east of the city center.
For many of the hundreds of people in this squatters’ commune, the unification of Germany on Wednesday is a call to battle.
″It depends on the police, it depends on the fascists, it depends on what happens that day,″ said a West Berliner who only identified himself as Tommy. He was designated as spokesman when a reporter visited on Sunday.
″I’m quite scared that Germany coming together is already turning Germany against foreigners, against leftist people,″ he said. ″You won’t find anyone on this street saying, ’yeah, a big strong Germany.‴
Radicals and police alike say violent clashes have become a grim probability on the night before and the day of German unity.
Police have beefed up their presence noticeably, especially at historical sites designated for unity day celebrations.
East German Interior Minister Peter-Michael Diestel, a law-and-order advocate, declared Sunday that police should act ″with decisiveness″ against ″radical occurrences.″
West Berlin Interior Minister Erich Paetzold warned of ″an alarming security situation in East Berlin″ in a message to that city’s police.
But he urged East Germany’s police to use restraint and to avoid letting confrontations escalate.
Diestel said safeguarding the official unification events ″is a matter of extreme urgency.″
East Berlin has become a cauldron of extremist violence by neo-Nazi skinheads, self-described hooligans and left-wing radicals.
The groups frequently stage attacks on each other.
Not far from Mainzer Street, neo-Nazi skinheads have taken over a large apartment house.
The city government has said it is up to the federal police to remove them, while the federal government says it has no evidence to link such groups to attacks.
Much of the burgeoning leftist scene in East Berlin has been nurtured by the veteran radicals in West Berlin, who stage firebomb-and rock-throwing riots every May 1, the international labor day.
Much of the right-wing violence is prompted by a resentment of foreigners and is aimed at the large Turkish, Vietnamese and Mozambican populations in Berlin.
East Berlin’s vast main square, Alexanderplatz, has become a focal point for such clashes. On any given night, groups of young Turks warily share territory with rightist skinheads and apolitical young people who label themselves ″hooligans.″
On Friday night, hundreds of hooligans clashed with police on Alexanderplatz and 15 were arrested.
Three days earlier, 200 leftist radicals wearing ski masks slowly marched down East Berlin’s Leipziger Street, stopped at a grocery story that has been trying desperately to compete with a new West German chain outlet nearby, and destroyed its glass facade with iron bars and rocks.
They walked slowly away while stunned pedestrians watched remaining shards of glass crash sporadically to the ground. No explanation was offered for their choice of target.
The leftists say they are united in opposition to what they say will be a right-wing Germany that is a threat to peace and to people from Third World countries.
In leaflets and conversations, they have dubbed unity day ″Action Day,″ and have scheduled protests to counter the official celebrations.
They have scheduled a main demonstration against racism and ″German megalomania″ for Wednesday.
″Just don’t bring a camera you like,″ grinned one of the leftists on Mainzer Street.
The man who identified himself said his group wants peace and is trying to build relations with other people in the neighborhood, but he would not rule out violence at the demonstrations scheduled in the coming days.
He said the group has been occupying the block on Mainzer since April and is negotiating with the city to stay while it renovates the buildings.
He said half of the people living there are West Germans.
East Berlin’s government has been reluctant to evict squatters because of the dire housing shortage.
The whine of drills and circular sanders filled the air along Mainzer Street on Sunday. Huge banners called for a dissolution of Germany and installation of a state based on anarchy.
East German Communist flags fluttered from window ledges and hundreds of slogans were painted across each facade.