BERN – The picturesque heart of Switzerland’s capital, Bern, was shrouded in tear gas early Sunday as police fought back protesters at a politically tinged techno parade.
After a tense standoff between riot police and dozens of masked and hooded “Black Bloc” hardliners, a group attempted to break down hastily erected barriers protecting Parliament. Police responded with tear gas, and a water cannon sent the crowd scattering as a helicopter circled overhead.
The troublemakers represented a minority of what police said was a 7,000-strong turnout at the “Dance Yourself Free” parade, organized by an anonymous collective that mustered participants on Facebook. The event, now into its third year, is tolerated grudgingly by city authorities even though it lacks a permit.
The organizers say that the right to party at will is as much a cause as the other issues they push, including opposition to the gentrification of parts of Bern that they claim has driven up property prices and created a sanitized city where the alternative scene is unwanted. They also push an anticapitalist message, blasting neo-liberal economics, commercialism and heavy-handed policing. Organizers had appealed for the violent few to stay away.