Mai Fest

The first of May is a strange ritual here. Every year for longer than forty odd years the residents of ‘36 fight the police in an odd co-dependent square dance in which the authorities, clad in various shades of Robocop armour, equipped with water cannon discretely parked in the Hinterhoff, floodlights, radar and no less than sixteen vans full of back up stretching all the way down Skalitzer Strasse and Kottbusser Damm, stage a pitch battle with the evil Autonomen horde - which consists, largely, of angry folks with nearly empty bear bottles.

This odd ritual is general best witnessed as night falls. In the day an atmosphere of chilled carnival pleasure presides but come dark der Polizie stop smiling and put on their helmets. Their strategy is a strange one. Small groups of fifteen or twenty walking backwards, turtle like, appeared to retreat beneath a handful of bottles, then changing direction with alarming speed. After an hour or so of this boredom sets in but so does the suspicion that as the streets grow emptier the mood might darken further.

The policing seems curiously provocative. Perhaps, after a day of tax payers overtime in the sun, hanging out with your friends and generally not having much to do it was time to dance. There is no doubt however that this was a weird kind of glamour riot. A re-enactment. A tourist attraction.

In fact the day cops and the nights cops were a different species. The day cops communicative, friendly, ordinary, glamorous, dull, laughing, bored, a range of recognisable emotions. The night cops panicky, aggressive, military and heavily armed, facing jeering citizen journalists with two hundred cheap camerphones and a handful of Raggazzi.

The YouTube video that slickly announced the Kreuzberg Revolution, noted that last year, the anniversary of a riot in Lausitzer Platz, might have seemed a little anti-climatic but was in fact a diversionary tactic, the real riot occurring in a virtual Alexanderplatz in a virtual Berlin.

This year, being forty years after ’68, it threatened to be anything but virtual but at time of writing nothing serious was on fire and the crowd was still parting politely for the occasional ambulance and partying to hip-hop, hardcore, ad-hoc sound systems, reggae, techno and epic psychedelic stoner jams occurring with the appearance of spontaneity at Orranien Platz.

Tomorrow is the first day of the revolution.