BERLIN - Gentile and Jewish activists slammed the Berlin police department for heavy-handed tactics used against their protest of the annual anti-Israel Al-Quds Day march in the German capital on Saturday.
JÃ¶rg Fischer-Aharon, a spokesman for the "No Al-Quds Day" coalition, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the police had aggressively barricaded protesters into a side street, placing unusually strict restrictions on their movement. The officers also clamped down on the display of Hebrew- and English-language banners, including the Jerusalem city flag.
The Al-Quds march advocates the destruction of the Jewish state and has been held each year in Berlin since 1996. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established Al-Quds Day in 1979 and it is now marked in the Islamic Republic and throughout the Arab world to protest Israel's presence in Jerusalem.
Thomas Neuendorf, a spokesman for the Berlin police, said we "are not taking sides" between the sides. There were 600 marchers at the Al-Quds Day protest, and 200 people at the pro-Israel counterdemonstration, he said.
Asked about the allegations of use of excessive force, Neuendorf said the "complaints are being taken seriously," and an internal inquiry is taking place regarding the conduct of the police unit. He expects the results within about two or three weeks.
Fisher-Aharon said 300 people attended the counter-rally titled "Against Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Homophobia: Solidarity with the Democratic Movement in Iran."
According to Fisher, a photographer from the rally was denied entry to the secured area.
The Post observed police officers, after the rally ended, blocking the exit of Dr. Alexander Brenner, a former head of the Berlin Jewish community.
Stefan Krikowski, a member of the executive board of the Berlin-Potsdam German-Israeli Friendship Society, told the Post that policemen seized his poster showing IDF soldier Gilad Schalit and reading, "Kidnapped by Hamas more than three years ago. Gilad is still alive. Free Gilad Schalit."
The officers said English-language posters were banned, according to Krikowski.
After lengthy negotiations with the police, Krikowski had to remove the reference to kidnapping and "Gilad is still alive" in order to display the poster.
"The police failed" to properly handle the counter-rally, said Maya Zehden, a spokesman for the 12,000-member Berlin Jewish community. "I expect from this state [the Federal Republic] that one can differentiate between the NPD [a neo-Nazi party] and democrats."
A sister party of the NPD, the neo-Nazi German People's Party (DVU), issued a call on its homepage to support the Al-Quds Day march. A popular author and journalist, JÃ¼rgen ElsÃ¤sser, urged German leftists to attend the anti-Israel demonstration. The Al-Quds Day march was an amalgam of German "anti-imperialist" leftists, neo-Nazis and Muslims.