More than 300 leftist rioters set fire to train tracks and vandalized streetcars and buses in the western German town of Dortmund on Tuesday, after a May Day demonstration against right-wing extremism got out of control, Dortmund police said Tuesday.
The fires were extinguished after an hour, but some tracks and wires were so heavily damaged that train service was disrupted, police said. Four police officers were injured, one seriously. More than 130 protesters were taken into custody, the number of injured demonstrators was not known, a police spokesman said Tuesday night.
"This was everything else but a peaceful May 1," Wolfgang Wieland said.
About 1,800 persons had participated in the protest against right-wing extremists in Dortmund. Later on Tuesday, about 650 members of right-wing groups gathered for a demonstration in a different part of the city, Wieland said.
"Luckily, our colleagues managed to keep the right-wing extremists and their violent counterparts away from each other," Wieland said.
The riots in Dortmund were among several outbreaks of violence on May Day in Germany. In the eastern town of Erfurt, several protesters were injured during a right-wing demonstration and various counterprotests, police reported. About 1,300 members of the far-right NPD party marched through the city center, and some hurled bottles and cobblestones at police. Left-wing protesters also caused "severe damage of property," a police spokeswoman said. She would not give details on damage or the number of arrests.
In cities all over Germany, demonstrators marched against right-wing extremism, but most protests remained peaceful.
In Berlin, nightime violence in the May 1 clashes seemed to be falling short of that in some previous years. More than 5,000 people participated in leftists demonstrations in Berlin on Tuesday night and over 5,000 policers officers were monitoring them. Police did not report any violent disruptions.
On Monday night, 14 officers were slightly injured and police took 119 people into custody for throwing stones and bottles, officials said.
In 2006, 179 people were arrested on May 1 in Berlin and 68 police officers injured, most not seriously.
Police in Berlin are keeping an eye on radical protesters before this year's G8 summit in Heiligendamm; there were also fears that the 20th anniversary of the first such disturbances might spur increased violence. In 1987, a supermarket was burned down amid street battles with police but in recent years the rioting has waned.