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Police prepare for May Day mayhem

London prepares for protests

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- Police are on high alert in cities across Europe as thousands of anti-capitalist protesters take to the streets for May Day.

In Berlin, where 9,000 police are on alert for the expected protests, there have already been violent incidents.

CNN's Bettina Luscher said police and rioters clashed in two separate incidents in the east of the city on Monday night.

She said in one a crowd of 6,000 people confronted police, while elsewhere another 500 were involved in clashes.

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At least 40 people were arrested and several police officers were injured. Police in London are mounting a massive security operation involving 6,000 officers in an attempt to avert a repeat of rioting that rocked the city last year.

And in Berlin, a court has upheld a ban on a planned May Day demonstration by far-left militants protesting under the slogan "Fight capitalism -- Social revolution worldwide."

Berlin's upper administrative court said the ban was justified because the organisers of the march had done nothing to prevent a repeat of violence that has accompanied the event in the past.

Police, fearing clashes despite the ban, have called out 9,000 officers and announced special protection for government buildings including the chancellery.

However, a march organised by the far-right National Democratic Party has been given permission to go ahead.

In London more that 10,000 anti-capitalist demonstrators are expected to take part in a May Day protest which last year turned violent.

Barricades have been erected round Parliament Square where workmen boarded up statues of Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln.

Britons were outraged last year when Churchill's statue was daubed with graffiti and a piece of green turf was slapped on his head in a Mohican-style haircut.

Prime Minister Tony Blair promised his full support for police who warned they would adopt a "zero tolerance" approach to protesters if rioting erupts on Tuesday.

Blair said: "I want to express our absolute and total backing for the police in dealing with anyone who seeks to bring fear and violence to our streets."

May Day
Barricades burned in Berlin in last year's May Day protest  

He told the London Press Club: "The limits of tolerance are passed when protesters, in the name of some spurious cause, seek to inflict fear, terror, violence and criminal damage on our people and property.

"It is not idealism, It is idiocy. It is not protest, it is crime pure and simple."

Anarchists, drawing on the experience of anti-capitalist protesters in Prague, Seattle and Quebec, have recommended that protesters wear military-style protective gear and scrawl their lawyers' telephone number on their arms.

Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Todd said: "We will be highly visible on the streets of London and anyone committing a crime will be held to account. I am absolutely clear about that."

Lord Harris, chairman of London's Metropolitan Police Authority, had warned police might use rubber bullets for the first time on the British mainland if rioters ran amok.

But that avenue was firmly closed by London Police Chief John Stevens who said: "Such ammunition has never been deployed on mainland Britain and I have no intention to do so tomorrow."

The anarchists accused the police of over-reacting. Mark, a spokesman for the Reclaim The Streets group, said protesters will not get fair treatment.

"No doubt they are going to feel scared and intimidated," he told BBC Radio. "The only antagonism there is likely to be is from the police."

In Berlin, Eckart Werthebach, the city council member in charge of law enforcement, promised that any violence will be met with "the full force of the law."

"We have had street terror for the last 14 years in Berlin on May 1, approaching civil war proportions," Werthebach told Westdeutscher Rundfunk radio. "I believe that should no longer be permitted."

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The Metropolitan Police Service
MAYDAY 2000 anti-capitalist conference

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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