Violent scenes in Bern as police clash with protestors

Eleven people, including ten police officers, were injured in Bern on Saturday night in a clash between police and protestors demonstrating against the eviction of squatters from a building in the Swiss capital last week.

Violent scenes in Bern as police clash with protestors
Bern. File photo: Patrick Nouhailler
Around 200 people joined with the group RaumRaub in an unauthorized demonstration in the Schützenmatte area of Bern on Saturday evening, reported Swiss media
The protest began at around 8.40pm,  with police blocking off the area to prevent the demonstration moving any further, Bern police said in a statement.
A violent confrontation then ensued between protestors and police, who used teargas and water cannons to combat the various missiles, including stones and fireworks, thrown by protestors.
Police were also blinded by laser beams.
Protestors erected burning barricades, set fire to a van and damaged several cars, before the demo eventually disbanded at around 10.30pm. Some protestors retreated to the alternative arts centre Reitschule, said police. 
Eight police officers and two members of the transport police were injured, along with one demonstrator. 
The protest was the third violent clash with police since a group of squatters were evicted from a house in Bern on Wednesday morning. 
The building, which was owned by the federal construction office, had been occupied by squatters for six months.
After attempts at dialogue failed, the squatters were forcibly evicted on Wednesday after several hours of resistance during which time they threw various missiles at police, including paint pots and firecrackers. Police responded by firing rubber bullets.
Speaking to Blick, Adrian Wüthrich, a board member of Bern police department, said the violence was indicative of a “war against the police” being conducted at the moment. 
The violence of Saturday's protestors was planned, he said, adding that no one goes to a demonstration carrying laser pens and firecrackers if their intentions are peaceful. 
He called for tougher punishments for the perpetrators, saying the police “should not become the target for apparently dissatisfied demonstrators”.
On Monday the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) lodged a motion calling for violence against police to incur a minimum prison sentence of one year, and a maximum of five years, reported 20 Minuten
Currently perpetrators can face a sentence of up to three years, but many only receive a fine.
“As long as people know they have nothing to fear, nothing will change,” said MP Andrea Geissbühler.
Last March another violent demo at the Reitschule resulted in 11 police officers being injured after stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown by protestors.
As a result, the Reitschule’s funded was temporarily suspended, but the centre was later given a grant to secure its future until 2019.

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