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Youths clash with police on eve of Berlin's May Day
Updated: 2004-05-01 11:43

Youths threw bottles and stones at police and set scattered fires in the streets early Saturday in an annual rite of rioting the night before May Day celebrations in the German capital.

Police in riot gear dragged off several protesters, but could not immediately say how many rioters were arrested. With 8,000 police officers out in force, the level of violence appeared less severe than in past years.

The clashes erupted after a few thousand people gathered in a park to mark St. Walpurgis Night, recalling a medieval rite of spring believed to scare off witches.

When revelers began rampaging, police cleared the Wall Park, located in what was once no man's land between East and West Berlin.

Police were braced for more violence later Saturday. May Day protests in Berlin, separate from traditional labor rallies that mark the occasion, have turned violent every year since 1987.

Last year, police arrested 139 people and 175 officers were injured.

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