Accessibility links

Thousands Demonstrate on Eve of Bush Visit in Berlin - 2002-05-22

Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in Berlin, on the eve of President Bush's two day visit to Germany. The peaceful demonstrators were protesting U.S. policies. With ten-thousand police patrolling its streets and watching government buildings, Berlin is preparing for President Bush's visit Wednesday and Thursday with the heaviest security provided for any public figure since the second world war.

Streets are cordoned off in the center of the city, two water cannon are stationed ready for trouble outside the Adlon Hotel where the president will be staying and close to the historic Reichstag building where he will address parliament on Thursday.

Parliamentary deputies are being asked to approach the building via underground security tunnels rather than through the usual entrances for safety reasons.

Yet, for all the precautions, Berlin tolerated huge demonstrations Tuesday evening, as tens of thousands protested the president's visit in rallies organized by a number of anti-war groups and political parties. Some shouted slogans such as "USA terrorist, George Bush terrorist."

The police said the demonstrations were largely peaceful, and President Bush himself was quoted on German television saying he is not afraid of demonstrations and supported such signs of democracy in action.

But police say they fear there may be violence during Wednesday and Thursday, some of it involving rioters from outside the city. They say they are not letting down their guard.

During the weekend, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made his position clear. He told a Germany newspaper that anyone who confuses freedom to demonstrate with brawling will run into decisive and very hard resistance from the police.

Mr. Bush will travel on to Moscow on Thursday. He also will visit France and will end his six-day European tour with a summit meeting of NATO leaders in Italy.