Protesters at Berlin's East Side Gallery before demolition

Amid protests, a section of the Berlin Wall was removed from what is now referred to as the East Side Gallery memorial on Wednesday in part of plans to build a road to a high-rise luxury construction project. At 1.3km (3/4 of a mile) long, the East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. Protests began earlier this month when hundreds turned out to block workers from dismantling the wall after a 1.5 yard section of the wall was removed.

Thousands eventually joined in demanding the wall stay intact, successfully bringing the deconstruction to a stand still as politicians sought out solutions to keep the wall untouched. Given prior permission to do so, the constructor moved forward, removing four more sections of the wall. 250 police officers were present when work crews removed the sections around 5 a.m. and soon a wooden fence was placed within the 15 feet of open space.

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Protesters argued that by removing even a section of the wall, it’s “sacrificing history for profit.”  Planned to be built on the banks of the Spree River, the road to the luxury apartments will also give access to a rebuilt footbridge destroyed during World War II. One protester explained, “When you pass along this wall you actually feel what this division meant. People from East Berlin were not able to see the (river) Spree anymore.”

An estimated 136 people died trying to scale the wall which “divided communist-run East Berlin from West Berlin.” The recently restored memorial, is considered one of Berlin’s most popular tourists attractions as it stands as a symbol of the end of Europe’s Cold War divisions and the reunification of Berlin. Months after the wall was torn down in 1989, the remaining section was covered with 106 paintings by artists from around the world and became an open-air gallery.

(Photo credit: GuardianAssociated Press, Irish Examiner)