A feminist march on the eve of May Day, known as Walpurgnisnacht when witches traditionally meet, kicked off May Day demonstrations in Berlin with a group of around 2,500 Take back the night. The demonstration, described as lively and initially peaceful, was intended to reconquering the night for women, lesbians, intersex and transgender people, according to the organizers. It concentrated on the northern and central Prenzlauerberg and Mitte districts of Berlin and was aided by a large police presence. Some participants set fire to coloured flares and bottles were thrown, but police intervened to stop the march.
Later in the evening, protesters apparently acting independently of the organisers threw paint at shop windows and several panes of glass were broken, leading to three arrests. Anja Dierschke, a police spokesman, told the rbb 24 that charges were brought for breaching the peace, violent assault, bodily harm and criminal damage.
Walpurgisnacht is an event in German folklore when witches meet to hold revels with the devil, traditionally in the region of north central Germany on the Brocken mountain.
Tens of thousands of others took to the streets across the country, drawing attention to a wide range of issues that are dominated by the war in Ukraine, workers rights, rental controls and plans to invest heavily in the German military.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was accused of being warmongering for her support of providing arms to Ukraine after a separate demonstration around an election campaign in the northern state of Schleswig Holstein.
A later event in the day in which she was due to participate had to be called off after protesters sprayed the stage with butyric acid.
Speaking at a May Day rally in D sseldorf, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he respected the values of pacifists but defended his decision to send arms to Ukraine, and said that equipment and aid would continue to come to the country. He pledged Germany's support to help countries in need with a looming food crisis expected to hit Africa in particular, because of wheat and other basic food supplies unable to be shipped from Ukraine.
"I respect all pacifism, I respect all values," said Scholz. It would be cynical to tell a citizen of Ukraine that he must defend himself against Putin's aggression if he has no weapons. After Scholz announced that he would provide €100 billion 840 m to Germany's military, Frank Werneke, leader of Europe's largest trade union, warned against a new arms race. Werneke said that the injection of such large amounts of money from the United States and elsewhere was in danger of disadvantaging poorer sections of society.
He said that he doesn't want a new arms race that comes at the expense of badly needed investments in social welfare, education and climate protection.
In Dortmund, police intervened to break up protests involving leftist demonstrators. A spokesman for the Anti-Fascist group Autonome Antifa 170 accused police of violence and said several of its members had been injured. The group had gathered to prevent a march by more than 200 rightwing extremists.
In Berlin, the far-left Linke party called for a new law to ensure that federal holidays, such as this year s May Day, fall on a weekend, workers are given a weekday off to compensate.