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Reitschule protest Police injured in clash at cultural centre

Garbage bins and barriers were set on fire, blocking a road

Garbage bins and barriers were set on fire, blocking a road

(Keystone)

A confrontation between protestors and police at an alternative culture centre in the capital Bern has left 11 police officers injured. Police have begun investigations into assault and breach of the peace.

Police patrols of the area “to prevent crime and provide security” around the Reitschule sparked protests on Friday, which escalated on Saturday night.

Stones, bottles and fireworks were thrown at police, some from the roof of the building. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Garbage bins and barriers were set on fire, blocking a nearby street, later extinguished by firefighters. Several vehicles in the area were damaged. 

On its Facebook page, the Reitschule commented that there had not been any incidents at the centre since last summer, “unusual for a venue that can hold up several hundred people”. It asked whether the police patrols had been a “preventative action or a provocation”.

The injuries were mainly caused by stones and fireworks. Police are appealing for witnesses.

The Swiss federation of police officers issued a statement on Sunday expressing its anger at the outcome. It called on politicians to take tough action and said police were fed up with a “lawless space that is tolerated and, on top of that, is financially supported by taxpayers”.

The city-owned centre has split opinion for decades, with opponents arguing it is a hotbed of leftwing extremism and drug dealing.

In 2010, voters rejected a rightwing initiative calling for the Reitschule to be sold to the highest bidder. The initiative was rejected by 68.4 per cent of those who voted. It was the fifth local ballot in 23 years on the fate of the Reitschule. Every time voters have chosen to save it.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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