Berlin - The autonomous group calling themselves "Grunewald neighbourhood management" described their bike protest in Grunewald, a wealthy area in western Berlin known for its opulent mansions, a resounding success. The police told Berliner Zeitung that about 10,000 people took part in the May Day demonstration.

The activists want the state to expropriate the property of corporate real estate speculators and the city's residential property to be socialised. The group has staged an annual march through Grunewald for several years.

One of the organisers, Frauke Geldher, said she regretted that the police hadn't permitted a rally event at the end of the demo on Hagenplatz, which would have made it easier for the group to communicate their ideas in a more focussed way. 

Despite their reputation as unruly leftwing agitators, virtually all of the protesters followed the corona rules, wore FFP2 masks and tried to maintain distance while cycling. According to police officers assigned to the protest, the demonstrators were "completely normal, peaceful people" against whom "aggressive action is absolutely not necessary". 

But the masks have a disadvantage: The sporadic Antifa battle cries are muffled and difficult to understand. The police have nothing to do and say they consider the behaviour of the demonstrators to be exemplary. Officers lean against the barriers or their patrol cars without their riot helmets on, looking bored. Bicycle police escort the protest along its route.

Photo: Berliner Zeitung/Volkmar Otto
Demonstrators cycle past a Grunewald mansion.

The demonstration remains non-violent and peaceful. People carry placards with slogans like "Lobster, oysters, caviar - I'd like to have them next year", or "The fat years are over", or "Let the rich pay for the crisis", or "Bike not Benz". Some hold up the Antifa flag. A small child has attached a huge rainbow flag to his bike. Most of the cries are in German, with the odd snatch of Turkish, English or Italian.

Out of a megaphone comes the words, "We'll see which villa we like best. We'll be back." Applause. A man addresses a passer-by who is watching the demonstration from the sidewalk. The bystander keeps his hands buried deep in his coat. The demonstrator calls out, "Well, you've hidden a lot of banknotes, haven't you?" The man is startled, opens his coat, turns to the demonstrator and says, "No, that's my scarf." The demonstrator: "Cashmere, huh?" The man: "No, C&A."

Residents wave from the balcony, demonstrators wave back

Local residents have made themselves comfortable on their balconies, waving at the demonstrators, who wave back. Most residents have parked their cars behind their garden gates, as the organisers had advised them to do in advance. Frauke Geldher says that a wealthy person contacted her the other day and wanted to support the cause.

By and large, it's a harmonious May Day expropriation protest in Grunewald, with only the odd outburst of aggression. At Roseneck, the driver of a gold Bentley convertible curses loudly at the police cordon blocking traffic. Annoyed, he turns right into Miquelstraße, clenches his fist and drives off.

More Berlin news in English.