Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Protesters halt Berlin Wall plan

German police officers protect a part of the Berlin Wall (AP)
German police officers protect a part of the Berlin Wall (AP)

Hundreds of protesters have forced construction crews to stop work on removing a small section from one of the few remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall to make way for a luxury flats project.

Crews were only able to remove one section from the famous East Side Gallery before about 300 protesters pressed too close for the work to continue. Demonstrators then wheeled in a mock wall section they had set up in front of the gap.

One protester carried a sign asking "does culture no longer have any value?" in bold letters, with "die yuppie scum" written in smaller letters.

The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall and is one of the German capital's most popular tourist attractions, with Nicholas Cage recently posing for snapshots with his wife Alice Kim during some time off from the Berlin film festival. It was recently restored at a cost of more than two million euro (£1.7 million) to the city.

The wall section stood on the eastern side of the border strip built by communist East Germany and, when the border was closed, carried none of the graffiti that covered the western side of the wall.

It was transformed into an open-air gallery months after East Germany opened its borders on November 9, 1989, and is now covered in colourful murals painted by about 120 artists.

They include the famous image of boxy East German Trabant car that appears to burst through the wall; and a fraternal communist kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and his East German counterpart, Erich Honecker.

Despite its popularity, local city district chairman Franz Schulz told Bild newspaper that historical preservation authorities had given a construction firm permission to remove a section to build a road to access a new luxury apartment complex it is building on the nearby banks of the Spree river.

The plan is for an approximately 20-metre (22-yard) stretch of the 1.3 kilometre (three quarters of a mile) section of wall to be removed and relocated. It's not the first time a section has been removed; a few years ago, a section of wall in front of a new sports and concert arena was taken down.

Crews were only able to remove one approximately 1.5 metre section today from a mural depicting a stylised version of another Berlin landmark, the Brandenburg Gate, before the protests brought an end to the work. "It's unbearable to see that the wall here is being so brutally torn down," said artist Thierry Noir, whose painted section of the wall is one likely to be removed.

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