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Police brace for May Day protests

Police were out in force in Berlin
Police were out in force in Berlin  

LONDON, England -- Police forces across Europe are on high alert as crowds gather to mark May Day.

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

About 500 protesters in an eastern district of Berlin erected barricades, started fires and threw rocks and bottles at police, who responded with water cannon.

Businesses and police are being extra vigilant as anti-capitalist protesters gather in London, CNN's Diana Muriel is there.

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May Day 2001

Diverse agendas in Europe
Day in pictures
Ancient roots
Police preparations
Monopoly in London
Tension in London
Rallies around the world
Riots, dancing in Asia
Related sites

About 1,500 protesters set fire to a shed after an outdoor street festival near the former site of the Berlin Wall on Monday evening. Firefighters put out the blaze under police protection.

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

She said in one a crowd of 6,000 people confronted police. At least 40 people were arrested and several police officers were injured.

London statues boarded up

In London, police are mounting a massive security operation involving 6,000 officers in an attempt to avert a repeat of riots that broke out in previous years.

Police on foot and motorcycles, along with a circling helicopter, kept watch as about 600 cyclists snarled rush-hour traffic in central London with a peaceful parade.

Barricades have been erected around Parliament Square, where workmen boarded up statues of Churchill and Abraham Lincoln in anticipation of 10,000 anti-capitalist demonstrators.

Last year, a statue of Winston Churchill was daubed with graffiti and a piece of green turf was placed on his head.

London's Mayor Ken Livingstone was to be under police guard as protesters gathered for Tuesday's demonstration.

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, although that claim was later dismissed by London Police Chief John Stevens.

"Such ammunition has never been deployed on mainland Britain and I have no intention to do so (on Tuesday)," said Stevens, who said it was believed the protesters had earmarked 240 commercial targets.

"I personally hope there will be no violence but I firmly believe there will be damage to property and we need to police this," he said.

"If there is any trouble we expect it around lunchtime and in the afternoon and we have to have the resources ready to meet it."

Berlin police
Police in Berlin arrested up to 40 people  

On Monday, UK 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.

Demonstrators have named the protests "May Day Monopoly" after the famous board game.

One of the protesters' Web sites said: "The theme is the Monopoly game. Using the symbolism of the monopoly game diverse groups will perform autonomous actions throughout London relating to squares on the Monopoly board."

An estimated 300,000 people joined rallies in Russia, many carrying Soviet-era relics such as red flags and portraits of Stalin.

In Moscow, the turnout for two rallies was estimated at about 28,000 -- a shadow of the 150,000-strong crowds that jammed Red Square when May Day was one of the most important dates on the Soviet ceremonial calendar.

May Day: Roots in an ancient rite
April 30, 2001
Riots, dancing mark Asia's May Day
May 1, 2001
Berlin protesters clash with police
May 1, 2001
Police prepare for May Day mayhem
April 30, 2001

May Day Monopoly
The Metropolitan Police Service

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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