Berlin Love Parade draws 500,000
BERLIN, Germany -- The attendance was down, there were scores of arrests, but hundreds of thousands of revellers still turned out in Berlin for the annual Love Parade, branded the world's largest techno-music rave.
The Saturday day-long street party -- this year under the motto "Access Peace" -- featured 40 floats snaking their way from the edge of the Tiergarten park toward the Victory Column in the centre of the park.
Young people arrived on more than 60 special trains from around Germany including Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.
Police reported fewer dancers on the streets this year, estimating a crowd of 500,000 and saying the final turnout was unlikely to approach last year's 800,000. The party's organisers put the figure nearer 750,000.
Police said they had made 58 arrests, mostly for drug offences, while almost 800 people sought medical help.
About 500 toilets were strategically placed around the park to accommodate beer-weakened bladders and over 1,000 medical staff were on hand for those with more critical needs.
The attendance was expected to be down from last year's 800,000 after reports of a possible attack in the wake of the September 11 suicide hijack attacks in the United States.
Mass-circulation daily Bild said last month that German authorities had gathered information about a possible attack. Police have since said they have no concrete evidence of any danger, although some 2,000 officers were on duty.
But many thousands were undeterred as they watched the parade of trucks carrying dancers, some of electronic music's best-known DJs and thumping loudspeakers. Later the crowds were to party on in city's clubs to dance the night away.
The first Love Parade 13 years ago attracted just 150 people dancing up West Berlin's main shopping street behind a solitary float, and was intended as a demonstration for "tolerance, respect and understanding between nations."
It steadily grew in popularity until 1999, when a record 1.5 million took part. Last year 800,000 people came to the party, down from 1.3 million in 2000, after confusion over whether the event would go ahead.
For many though the world peace theme has never been number one on their minds at a party now famed for its heady mix of primal tunes and mind-expanding drugs.
"We don't just talk about tolerance, we go one step further. We dance tolerance," Berlin DJ Dr Motte, one of the Love Parade's founding fathers, told Reuters.
"We are in contact with old cultures through our music. With 160 beats a minute we have a similarly fast rhythm to the rain dances of the Indians. Everyone should get out on the streets and dance."
Many in Berlin say the Love Parade's heyday is over. Hard-core techno-heads say it is no more than a commercial extravaganza that has diluted their music's "sub-cultural" edge.
Not all of Berlin's residents support the festival nor relish the clean-up operation afterwards, this year expected to cost the organisers around 140,000 euros ($138,500).
Earlier this month a local resident tried to stop the parade in court, but was told the event was "of considerable touristic and cultural importance for Berlin."
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