Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Kiez, Myfest

To fight violence and vandalism with music, food, and community fun is the idea behind Myfest, a large street fair that took place today in Berlin’s Kreuzberg. On the 1st of May 1987, mass riots broke out in the neighborhood’s rougher quarter, nicknamed SO 36, forcing police to retreat for hours while rioters set cars on fire, broke windows, and stole from storefronts. Since then, the 1st of May, which is traditionally a national holiday called “Day of Work” or “Day of the Workers’ Movement,” has also been a time of civil unrest in the neighborhood. However, in 2003 some residents sick of the radical Left’s unruly overtures organized to create a neighborhood celebration dubbed Myfest, a play on the German pronunciation of "Mai" meant to indicate that this is their neighborhood too.

As Myfest’s website explains, the themes of social justice and labor can be confronted peacefully through the medium of music. Today’s Myfest, the fifth, featured twenty stages stretching from Kottbusser Tor to Oranienplatz to Heinrichplatz. Present too were the expected punks and alternative-looking characters, but conspicuously absent were angry revolutionaries inciting the crowd to an uprising. Despite objections from some in the Left who accuse the event of turning a day of resistance into a watered-down carnival and even led counter-demonstrations last year—the banner in this photo says “Myfest is bullshit Revolutionary 1st of May!”--there was no aggression as of 9 p.m. this evening. Long lines of police cars stood idle near Myfest’s entrances while revelers streamed underneath the U-bahn tracks in the mild weather.

In fact, Myfest is both an admirably successful “take-back-the-streets” project and a showcase for Kreuzberg. As organizers promised, here was “the neighborhood in all its diversity”: Turkish families sat behind makeshift börek stands (a doughy pastry stuffed with spinach, cheese, or both) alongside rainbow-headed teens sipping beer. Visitors could sample sausages, pretzels, falafel and döner as they listened to indy-rock, techno, and Arabic-language tunes. Meanwhile, police arrested over 60 people for throwing bottles and other acts of violence around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain last night, reports the Berliner Zeitung. The rowdiness there stemmed from observance of Walpurgisnacht, a pre-Christian tradition more recently linked to witch-hunts in medieval Germany.

Here are some images from Myfest’s decidedly violence-and-sorcery-free happenings.

Punks munch under a revolutionary banner in Turkish and German.

Bands play while visitor pour into Myfest via Adalbertstrasse. Below, homemade böreks for sale and a cigarette break in the shade.
Burnt-out “Bolle” supermarket image from 1987 courtesy http://schule.de/bics/son/wir-in-berlin/kiez/FriedKreuz/bolle/7.htm
Anti-Myfest protest image courtesy http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erster_Mai_in_Kreuzberg

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