My Run-In With German Riot Police

Last night I finished up my German class at 7:30pm and headed to the U-Bahn. I had nothing more pressing on my mind than the thought of a wonderful hot shower, when I ran into this scene.

Gänsemarkt had been completely closed off by dozens of riot police.  That’s interesting I thought as I snapped the above photo.  Don’t see riot police out in force much. I still had my headphones on at this point, still not really disturbed or concerned.  That was until a line of heavily armed riot police prevented me from accessing the U-Bahn station.  Headphones off and feeling rather thankful that I can now converse in German, I asked one of policeman what was going on. ‘Demo’, he said. Really? I thought. I couldn’t see or hear any demonstration going on, let alone one that would require this many police. ‘U-Bahn station still open?’  ‘Yes, but not this entrance.’

I would go through this process another 2 times before finally finding a entrance that was open, although I needed to demand access to it.  Good thing, I don’t look the less bit threatening.  I managed to get down into the U-Bahn station only to find another row of riot police guarding a gated up entrance. Despite being told by the police on three separate occasions that the U-Bahn station was opened, their colleagues down here begged to differ. Go to Jungfernstieg, I was told.  This took crossing a couple more lines of riot police, each one not really wanting to let me go anywhere.  Still no sign of the demonstration, except for one loud cheer somewhere off in the distance.

I made it to Jungfernstieg and on the U-Bahn home, which I considered quite an accomplishment.  The wonderful folks on Twitter enlightened me to what was going on.  There was a demonstration in support for asylum seekers, freshly arrived in Hamburg, who had survived the Lampedusa disaster. That’s right, a demonstration for being decent to our fellow humans required hundreds of riot police and a water cannon to watch over it.  Apparently, there had been some bottles thrown at police the night before during a similar protest and they weren’t taking any chances.  A bit of an over-reaction in my view.

So, that was my first run-in with German riot police.  Surely, this must be on an expat bucket list somewhere of all the things you must do as an expat living in Germany as a rite of passage.  Probably it’s ranked somewhere up near surviving a trip to the Zollamt (customs office).

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4 thoughts on “My Run-In With German Riot Police

  1. I was in Würzburg during a neo-Nazi demonstration, and anti-Nazi demonstration following. That left me shaking and clinging to my Dad in tears. I don´t think I have seen that many police in one area ever in my life. And let me just mention, I was in NYC during the days following 9/11.

  2. I echo Scott’s comment. Or watch the demonstrations/bottle throwing/water hosing that occur every May 1st . It used to be more or less limited to Kreuzberg in Berlin, but I’ve seen it in the Schanze in Hamburg too… (Not that I’d recommend it or anything.)

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