Facebook blamed for Bern techno parade clash

Malcolm Curtis/The Local/AFP
Malcolm Curtis/The Local/AFP - [email protected] • 27 May, 2013 Updated Mon 27 May 2013 11:43 CEST
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A Bern city councillor blamed Facebook for feeding the trouble that led to 61 arrests and left 21 police officers injured when a dance parade involving 10,000 people turned violent in the Swiss capital on the weekend.

Police clashed with protesters in Berne's picturesque Old Town in the early hours of Sunday during the unauthorized "Tanz Dich Frei" (Dance Yourself Free) parade.

“Two months ago we read on this page (Facebook) that organizers fixed a date (for the parade),” said Reto Nause, Bern city councillor responsible for security, according to a report from Le Matin.

“We wrote to Facebook to ask if they were behind this page — the company never responded,” said Nause, who now wants to launch a complaint against the social media company.

“Facebook must give us the names of organizers,” he said.

“There is damage here and injured people.”

The parade was not authorized by the city but was grudgingly tolerated by officials.

Nause said the city decided against banning the parade because the previous year the same event went off “more or less” without problems.

“To ban all that would have provoked more significant damage,” he told Le Matin.

Police said the vast majority of the parade participants were peaceful.

But a standoff between riot police and dozens of masked and hooded "Black Bloc" hardliners turned ugly when a group attempted to break down temporary barriers protecting parliament.

Police responded with tear gas and a water cannon which sent the crowd scattering across the square, as a helicopter circled overhead.

Some protesters held their ground, pelting police and the water cannon with bottles, fireworks and flares.

Braving rain and unseasonably chilly weather, the eclectic crowd snaked through the Swiss capital with trailers carrying huge speakers that pumped out dance beats.

Hardliners spray-painted and smashed windows of banks, shops and the Swedish embassy, which was on the parade route, before small groups fanned out in the city centre to skirmish with police and target other buildings, looting shops.

An initial estimate put the damage at several hundred thousand francs, police said.

Ambulance workers were called out at least 50 times, mostly due to heavy drinking in the crowd.

Tanz Dich Frei was organised by an anonymous collective which mustered participants on Facebook.

In a statement posted on their page Sunday, the organizers lashed out at the authorities, saying many protesters had acted in self-defence and that city officials had conducted a smear campaign.

"The state made its intentions clear," they said.

"The protection of parliament was more important than that of thousands of people." 

Ahead of the event, organizers had appealed for the violent few to stay away.
"It's a pity the event couldn't pass off peacefully," they said on Sunday.
The organizers said that the right to party is just one cause, along with opposition to the gentrification of parts of Berne where the alternative scene used to thrive, which they claim has driven up property prices and created a sanitised city for the rich.
They also pushed an anti-capitalist message, blasting neo-liberal economics and heavyhanded policing.



Malcolm Curtis/The Local/AFP 2013/05/27 11:43

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