Protests in Germany: How to Avoid Getting Caught Up

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.

For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.

Germans aren't afraid to voice their opinions, and protests aren't just for tree-hugging university students. In fact, they have days set aside where you can just about guarantee there'll be a protest.


Photo © iStock/Cater1965

The recession saw an increase in protests across Germany, but there were no reports of violence towards tourists. It's more about being cautious, to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time and becoming an accidental target.

May Day Protests

The most violently infamous protests in Germany would be the annual May 1 protests. May Day is traditionally marked by union rallies in many European countries, protesting about issues ranging from pension reforms to living standards.

Since 1987 when the Labour Day holiday protests began, police have learnt to brace themselves for car burning, and projectile hurling, as anti-capitalists and members from far right parties, labour unions and leftists march.

Hamburg and Berlin are the main cities for rioters - if you don't want to become a random attack victim, it's best to steer clear of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain in Berlin, where things more often than not, turn ugly. 

Protestors in Germany. Photo credit: iStock

Neo-Nazis have been known to harass or even attack people who they believe to be foreigners so this is NOT a spectator sport. Also, be warned, if you put yourself in the thick of things even just to have a look and take a few photos, you'd better be prepared to pay all your own medical bills and replace the camera the neo-Nazis smashed, because your travel insurance company will want to know why they should help you out when you deliberately put yourself in harm's way?

A number of smaller riots (warm-up protests!) occur throughout Spring in the lead-up to May Day, with posters blanketing major cities, and newspapers reporting them on a daily basis. So it's hard to get caught by surprise by the big demonstrations.

Anarchy Movement in Germany

As well as May Day, most politically related events and holidays will draw some sort of demonstration. For example, the "Black Block," a loose movement of often violent anarchists, led angry demonstrations against the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg. More than 60,000 people took to the streets over 3 days to protest, set fire to vehicles, damage public property and clash with police. 

This obviously wasn't something that police expected, but most public protests in Germany are given prior approval, and security is present. So as a tourist, you can check local media if you are travelling during political holidays, to make sure you won't be stepping into dangerous territory.

Football Fans in Germany

Other angry groups of Germans to avoid are football fans. Like most Europeans, football or soccer or whatever you want to call it is taken very seriously. Throw alcohol into the picture when you are faced with a group of disappointed fans, and you are asking for trouble. Skinheads tend to cause a lot of the soccer crowd violence, and are particularly aggressive to people who don't seem to be German.

This kind of thing will only really happen in the eastern parts of Germany. If you do get into trouble the emergency number for the police is 110.

Get a travel insurance quote for Germany

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Related articles

1 Comment

  • Tilman Oe. said

    As a German I'd like to add, that the given telephone number for emergencies is not the correct number to call!!! 112 is intended for fire emergencies and calling ambulances. The number to reach the German police is 110. Please correct that mistake.

    Also: If you are stuck in an area where a protest is going on, make sure you are NOT taking any photos whatsoever and put away your camera into your backpack. Protestors will usually leave you alone, but as the neo-nazis like to snap photos of left-wing activists for later harrassment, you might be mistaken for one and will very likely get attacked! As a bystander who just watches, nothing can really happen to you and noone will touch you. Also when there is a situation where violence breaks out, the clashes will be between activists and police! Make sure not to panic or run away, but stay where you are, get off the street close to a wall and try to move slowly towards the cops. They will get you out of there, or instruct you on how to behave (e.g stay where you are, ). Do not run, otherwise the police will assume that you are part of the protest. German police are known to bash in heads first and ask questions later, if they consider you a dissident.

Add a Comment