At least 26 luxury cars were torched by vandals in Berlin over the past two days, in a fiery spree of destruction that could signal growing unrest in the E.U.'s most populous and economically productive nation.
Bloomberg News reported scene was one of chaos and fear for residents in the upscale Berlin neighborhood where the attacks occurred. West Berlin resident Renate Langanke told Bloomberg about here ordeal that “Fire and smoke were everywhere, you could smell burned rubber, it was awful. I’ve always felt safe here, now I’m scared."
Coming so close on the heels of the British riots in a number of cities that caused widespread chaos and destruction, authorities are on heightened alert. Some worry that acts of arson could be the spark to ignite smoldering class warfare sentiment in Berlin into U.K.-style riots across Germany.
So far in 2011, 138 cars have been torched in Berlin, but arson targeting luxury vehicles is not new to the city this year. A record 221 vehicles were set alight there in 2009, and there was even a website set up that allowed users to track on google maps every location of a burned out car called "Burning Cars of Berlin."
German police have been warning the public about the coming wave of left-wing terrorism since those incidents, even pointing out the similarities between current leftist terror tactics and the Red Army Faction of the 1970's.
Lighting cars on fire has become a precursor to widespread looting and anarchic violence in many European cities, from Athens to London. One of the greatest single incidences occurred on the eve of Bastille Day in France in 2009 when over 300 vehicles were torched to protest a number of left-wing grievances in the suburbs of Paris.
Car-torching as a tactic allows disaffected leftists to claim they are targeting the rich based upon the make and cost of their vehicle. It also makes for compelling imagery to be shared with other radicals on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The German economy has stalled, and the arsonists claim a desire to "hit what they say are fat cats." But that may not be the true motivation behind their attacks. Carsten Koschmieder, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin, told Bloomberg of the rationale behind the riots that it:
“Is not necessarily the financial crisis which is the main motivation for these attacks. The perpetrators see themselves as being from the left, and protest against capitalism, globalization and gentrification.”
Back here in the U.S., torching vehicles has tended to be the preserve of so-called environmental activists (eco-terrorists) going after SUVs. But given the current rhetoric about the rich needing to 'pay their share,' and flashmobs breaking out across the country, a burning BMW on your street may be a very dark portent of things to come.
(h/t Business Insider)