May 1st (1. Mai), or May Day, is a holiday known in Germany and other countries as the International Workers’ Day – a day for political protests, mostly organized by left-leaning groups, which has its history in May 1st protests in Australia and the US during the 1880s.
During the 1987 May Day demonstration in the East Kreuzberg (SO36) neighborhood of Berlin it came to extreme clashes between protesters and police. Ever since then, there’s been a tradition of rioting during the night before (Walpurgisnacht) and the evening of May Day.
People and police travel from all over Germany to Berlin and Hamburg to participate. It’s become a very strange form of tourism for people wanting to set cars on fire, smash in windows, throw stones at the police – and for people who like to photograph and video tape it all. Yes, I had mixed feelings about running around with a camera that day.
To work against these riots, since 2003 there has been a family-friendly street fair called MyFest on Oranienstrasse and other locations in East Kreuzberg.
In my video I wanted to focus on the street fair, the amount of police around, the protest (a lot of which I actually believe in), the bands (including old time favorites Jingo De Lunch), the gawkers and photographers who stuck around until late at night just waiting for something to happen… but then I didn’t think I wanted to try to get actual violence footage – because that pointless, mindless, violent s**t, I definitely don’t support.
Fortunately, this May Day actually went down without any major violence. Maybe the political groups that actually have something to say finally got the message through to the violence tourists and drunk teens: you’re not helping, so please stay out of our neighborhoods. Or maybe the police’s strategy of letting people dance, drink and celebrate later on the streets and then go home tired and happy had an impact.