After 300 demonstrators gathered at Eastside Gallery earlier today to disturb the demolition of parts of the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, the building contractor and police decided to delay further construction. One piece of wall was removed, protestors are afraid that demolition will be continued later today or at night.
When news spread this week, that a local construction project including luxury estates, a hotel and the rebuilding of pre-war Brommy bridge endangered preservation of the protected historical monument, protest formed quickly over the internet and culminated in several hundred activists gathering at the construction site. Police formed a cordon to ensure safety of activists, construction and traffic. When activists crowded the street, police blocked the road from both ends. According to a police spokesperson, both police and the building contractor agreed to delay construction for safety reasons at 11:30 after one piece of the Berlin Wall was removed and displaced. Most construction vehicles were withdrawn.
The demolition of Eastside Gallery, Berlin’s second most frequented tourist spot and longest remaining stretch of the death strip, where several fugitives were shot or otherwise found death during the city’s separation, caused a chorus of outrage. The protest is led by the local activist group “Mediaspree versenken”, a number of local clubs, representatives of all political parties and more than 30.000 signees of a petition addressed to mayor Klaus Wowereit, the building contractor and high-ranking politicians, including chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal President Joachim Gauck.
After demolition stopped for now, activists are afraid that it will continue unnoticed. Police cleared the road block and left the scene at 12:15, few officers and most of the activists remained on the site. A fence was placed where the piece was removed to prevent activists from trespassing the construction site. “Now there’s a gap in the Wall, they’d better fill it with some barbed wire like they used to do it formerly”, an elderly lady lamented.
The incident happened as the situation about the preservation of the river Spree’s banks was still tense. Eastside Gallery is an internationally famous spot, where artists painted the remnants of the Berlin Wall on a distance of more than one kilometer. The demolition of parts of Eastside Gallery to make room for luxury building projects is widely recognized as a violation of the outstanding historical and cultural relevance of the memorial and a further approach by the city’s senate and the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg’s district administration to outsell the riverside.
While both the city and district cast the blame on each other over responsibility in this case, it remains uncertain why a building license was issued. The 300 activists who gathered at the site voiced their indignation about all of these participants and demanded Wowereit to resignate from mayor’s office.
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