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. US actor Nicholas Cage recently posed for snapshots there with his wife, Alice Kim, during some time off from the Berlin film festival. It was recently restored at a cost of over €2m 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 Nov 9, 1989, and is now covered in colourful murals by about 120 artists.
They include the famous image of a 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 officials had given a construction firm permission to remove a section to build an access road for an apartment complex it is building on the banks of the Spree river.
The plan is for an approximately 20m stretch of the 1.3km section of wall to be removed and relocated. 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 1.5m section from a mural depicting a stylised version of 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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