FRANKFURT — Student firebrand "Danny the Red," Daniel Cohn-Bendit, vaulted police barricades here Sunday trying to disrupt a ceremony.
But his followers were immediately beaten back by police, leaving Danny trapped like a frightened lonely deer.
I had wanted a good view of Danny when he led his hundreds of "troops" in a charge, so I moved in front of the police lines with my camera. But I didn't expect him to almost knock me down when he came across.
He had formed his followers into a column about 16 abreast, and was maybe five yards behind the barricades. Then he sprinted forward and vaulted over, with almost no police interference.
Apparently there was a hole in police lines.
I crouched down and aimed the camera point-blank as he hurdled over the barrier. He ran close by me, but then must have realized he was alone, because he turned back. I spun around and shot him again and then saw him get almost back to the barriers.
I turned to the barricades, where police were busy clubbing the students to keep them from turning over the barricades.
I saw guys with their heads bleeding, but I can't blame the police — the demonstrators seemed to be asking for it.
I didn't see Danny get arrested — I thought he might have made it back, he was so close — but they did arrest him.
The rioters never did topple the barricades. So I bent down to change film, and that's when stuff started flying. There were rocks flying, and blue paint. (Next time out, I'm asking for a crash helmet.)
The demonstrators were protesting the awarding of a book publishers' peace prize to Senegalese President Leopold Senghor, at Frankfurt's Paul's Church. Both Senghor and West German President Heinrich Luebke were booed when they arrived at the church. They were inside when Danny the Red jumped the fence.
Right after he was arrested and the students were forced back, German horse-mounted police appeared. There were maybe a dozen horses, and they never moved in among the students.
But the rioters — as soon as they saw the horse police — raised their right arms, saluted in a Third Reich manner, and screamed over and over: "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!"
The police had been very calm and casual before the violence, but because of constant heckling and abuse, some of the police got into heated arguments with demonstrators.
The students formed early at the small entrances police had left in the barricades, and were blocking guests invited to the ceremony. .
One woman and her husband waved their invitations and yelled from the back of the crowd, "Police, help us get in." Student leaders in front hollered to others to "close up and keep them out."
A well-dressed man, about 45 or 50, fought his way through and tunneled under the students far enough so police could help him. Once inside the open area, he turned an told the demonstrators: "You're all a bunch of Nazis."
They yelled back, "You're swine."
A plainclothes policeman right in front of me said to them: "this your education? Calling a man like that a swine?"
A burly demonstrator answered back: "He called Nazis. And I'm from Israel."
I looked around to see if there were Americans or men from other countries I could identify, but I didn't recognize any.
I do remember what a middle-aged housewife said while I was buying a pack of cigarettes: "They (the students) have to be paid."
The demonstrators had been ridiculing older Germans. They also screamed, "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh" part of the time. And though some must have been students, others didn't look the part. There were quite a few girls in the crowd.
Some of the demonstrators had expensive cameras. They may have been hoping for pictures of police brutality.
After the clubbing back of the students — which lasted only seconds, or less — the scene became more peaceful. And something touched me: At least two of the policemen held up students' shoes and asked: "Who does this shoe belong to?"
Before I went back to the office I went into the ranks of the demonstrators, some of whom were trying to turn over a German radio station van. Police sprayed them with tear gas. I only got a little in my eyes. Water cannon were moving in.
One dark-haired girl student — attractive — asked for a cigarette. I gave her one and lit it for her. She may be educated, but she never bothered to say, "Thank you."