BERLIN (AP) - Construction crews stopped work Friday on removing a small section from one of the few remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall to make way for a condo project after hundreds of protesters blocked their path.
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 mugging 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 (EURO)2 million ($3 million) to the city.
The wall section stood on the eastern side of the elaborate 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 colorful 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-meter (22-yard) stretch of the 1.3 kilometer (3/4 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 meter (yard) section on Friday from a mural depicting a stylized 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,” artist Thierry Noir, whose painted section of the wall is one likely to be removed, told the dpa news agency.
Ciaran Fahey contributed to this story.