May Day action begins

German police earlier scuffled with revellers who had gathered in a Berlin square for a rock concert as part of celebrations to mark a pagan festival on May Day's eve.


Police said protesters threw stones and bottles at police officers during the scuffles, which took place after the concert had ended in the Boxhagener Platz, in the Friedrichshain district of Berlin.

Police arrested at least 40 protesters, though exact not figures were not yet available.

Several people were injured.

Kerstin Mentzel, head of the Berlin Police press office, said she was happy with the deployment.

"We had peaceful gatherings in various parts of the city and that's exactly what we expect for tomorrow as well," Mentzel said. "We cannot exclude anything but if anything, we hope it's only going to be isolated disturbances by individuals."

In the pre-Christian pagan calendar, May 1 was celebrated as the first day of spring.

Some people light bonfires and dress as witches and evil spirits on April 30, or May Day's eve, which is known in Germany as Walpurgisnacht.

The festival is marked by various rituals to ward off evil and herald the end of winter.

In previous years, celebrations in Germany to mark Walpurgisnacht have ended in violence between police and participants.

Police out in force

In Jakarta some 30,000 police were placed on alert as early as Monday to quell possible May Day violence in the capital and surrounding areas.

"We have had over a dozen notifications of planned rallies to mark May

Day," Jakarta police spokesman Ketut Untung Yoga Ana told news agency AFP.

He said police had obtained assurances from organisers that the rallies would be peaceful, but thousands of officers would fan out across the city and surrounding satellite towns in case of unrest.

Various labour organisations have announced plans for mass rallies to mark annual May 1 labour day celebrations today.

The protests will be used to voice demands for better wages and working conditions, as well as for a review of a 2003 labour law in Indonesia that groups say favours employers over the rights of workers.

All rallies in Jakarta today will eventually converge on the main square in front of the palace.

May Day is not a public holiday in Indonesia.

Manila on alert

Meanwhile in the Philippines, troops were placed on heightened alert from Monday night to quell possible May Day violence.

Manila army chief Major General Ben Dolorfino said 2,000 men from the military's anti-riot contingent were ready to back up police against any attempts to destabilise the government through massive street protests planned for Tuesday.

In May 2001, supporters of deposed president Joseph Estrada marched on the presidential palace demanding that he be reinstalled.

The march quickly degenerated into the worst rioting in Manila since the fall for dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, forcing newly elected president Gloria Arroyo to call in the troops to stop what she later said was a coup plot against her.

Four people were killed and more than 100 Estrada supporters arrested.

Ms Arroyo also quelled a rebellion of junior military officers in 2003 and a coup attempt in February last year.

Estrada was forced out of office by a popular revolt in 2001 over charges he amassed a personal fortune worth some $US80 million through illegal means.

He has been under house arrest for six years, and is awaiting a verdict by the courts.

Various campaign groups, including a broad coalition of anti-government and labour organisations, said they would take to the streets on May 1 for the annual May Day celebrations.

"The poor have given their lives so that there will be change," said Nick Salameda, of the anti-government group Kasama, which vowed to honour the "ghosts of those who died" in the May 2001 siege.

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