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Threat to once detested Berlin Wall rouses protest

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Angry demonstrators rallied in front of the Berlin Wall's longest remaining stretch on Friday as a crane dismantled a section of the once-loathed symbol of oppression to make way for new flats.

Police grimly stood between about 200 protestors, some brandishing placards, jeering and shouting, and the Wall after a crane had removed one concrete panel making up the 1.3-kilometre (nearly one mile) stretch, known as the East Side Gallery.

Since 1990, the outdoor gallery has been covered in brightly coloured graffiti murals, including the famous "Fraternal Kiss" depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and his East German counterpart Erich Honecker.

The 3.6-metre high (11 feet) stretch is a tourist magnet and a must-see for history buffs retracing the dark chapter of Berlin's 28-year-long division who are otherwise hard pressed to find remnants of the Wall to photograph.

"It's a cultural heritage and the only place in the world besides Israel with a wall dividing people. We should be able to experience that," Berlin resident Riet Meert, 32, from Belgium, who owns a DJ booking agency, said.

Protestors argued that especially because of the pain the Wall caused, it should be preserved and not forgotten. "They're pulling down our history here," 72-year-old former West Berliner Monika Wang complained.

When police announced through a loudspeaker that work to dismantle the Wall had been stopped for now and the crane was removed from a second panel, the crowd cheered but the mood was sceptical.

"As soon as the crane comes back we'll also be there," vowed Robert Muschinski, a member of an initiative to save the East Side Gallery, describing the halt as an initial "success".

But he said it would take intervention from local politicians to stop the 22-metre segment of the Wall being torn down under plans to create access for a planned bridge and a new 14-storey block of flats.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130301/threat-once-detested-berlin-wall-rouses-protest