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26 May 2013

Switzerland: Unauthorized Rally Leaves Bern in Shambles

No, this is not the March Against Monsanto demonstration in Bern, the Swiss capital. On the evening of the same day, more than 10,000 people participated in the “Tanz Dich Frei” (Dance Yourself Free) parade. The event deteriorated into violence, resulting in 50 injured, mostly members of the security forces, and 61 arrests. Members of the “Black Bloc” may have been responsible for the violence. Attempts were made to break down the barriers protecting the Parliament buildings. The police responded with tear gas and water cannons, saying they faced an “extremely high outburst of violence”. Shop windows were smashed and food stores looted, resulting in hundreds of thousands of francs’ worth of damage.  The Bern city authorities are asking the public to provide pictures and videos of the riots in order to use them to take to court the self-proclaimed anarchists involed in the clashes with security forces.
The police are lodging a complaint against Facebook for its role in organizing the demonstration, but Facebook so far has not responded. Internet photos of the violence seem to have been censored.

Unauthorised rally leaves Bern in shambles
Swissinfo.ch, 26 May 2013

Authorities in the capital Bern have “severely condemned” attacks against police and damage to property in clashes during an unauthorised and politically-charged techno parade that left around 50 people injured, including 21 members of the security forces.

The city council will hold a special meeting on Monday to discuss the weekend’s events, but it has already warned that any violence was unacceptable.

The authorities had decided to let the "Tanz Dich Frei" (Dance Yourself Free) parade go ahead on Saturday, providing security forces and emergency services in the city’s old town. They said that they were disappointed, especially since there was only a small minority of troublemakers.

Bern police said Sunday they had arrested 61 people. More than 10,000 people took part in the parade’s third edition, calling for more night-time entertainment in the city.

Trouble erupted in the early hours of Sunday, after a standoff between riot police and dozens of masked and hooded "Black Bloc" hardliners on the square in front of parliament.

According to correspondents, one group attempted to break down temporary barriers protecting parliament. Police responded with tear gas and a water cannon which sent the crowd scattering across the square, as a helicopter circled overhead.

Some protesters held their ground, pelting police and the water cannon with bottles, fireworks and flares.

The police said they faced an “extremely high outburst of violence”, leading to facial injuries for one member of the transport police. Emergency services intervened around 50 times, including for 30 people who were transferred to hospitals, mostly because of alcohol abuse.

The authorities reckon that several hundred thousands of francs worth of damage was caused in the city. Around 70 shop windows were destroyed and some food stores were looted.

Police spent most of the night chasing down and fighting demonstrators.

Taking no chances

The heart of the capital was locked down on Saturday ahead of the parade, with crowds of youngsters preparing to take to the streets.

After last year's edition drew huge numbers and saw a minority of black-clad hardliners make for the Swiss parliament to spray slogans on its walls, the authorities were taking no chances.

Barriers were set up on the square in front of the parliament building, and police clad in riot gear deployed at strategic points in the old town.


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