July 23, 2008 / 6:17 PM / 11 years ago

German motorist crashes gate where Obama to speak

BERLIN (Reuters) - German police detained a motorist on Wednesday who crashed through barricades set up at monument where Barack Obama will hold a speech on Thursday and dumped red paint from his speeding car.

Security men take away a protestor who managed to pass through a barrier to spread paint on the street around the "Victory Column" (Siegessaeule) in Berlin July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele

Police said the 40-year-old man was overpowered by security officials who first tried in vain to used metal rods to bring his car to a halt at the spot where the U.S. Democratic candidate for president will speak on Thursday afternoon.

The man was turned over to police and taken into custody for questioning. The car was searched for explosives. No one was injured.

“We don’t yet know what his motives were but it does not appear to have had anything to do with politics,” said Berlin police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski. “That’s all under investigation and he is still in detention being questioned.”

Photographers at the Victory Column watching the preparation work for Obama’s speech said the small dark car drove at a high speed, with squeaking tires, through low temporary barriers set up around the closed-off east side of the traffic circle.

The incident happened at 4:30 p.m. (1430) and lasted several minutes.

“He drove several laps around the closed-off area and red paint poured out of his car,” said Schodrowski, adding federal investigators were involved in the interrogation.

“He finally slowed down and stopped. He was then immediately overpowered by security guards.”

The man from the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg first evaded security guards who tried futilely to stop him by striking out at his car with long metal rods that were being used for the construction of the stage nearby.

“The man is under investigation for willful damage to property and dangerous violation of traffic laws,” Schodrowski said.

He added that the level of security, with screenings taking place far away from the traffic circle, will be far higher on Thursday. He said the security for the construction of the stage was minimal on Wednesday when the motorist crashed through.

“Everything will be secure on Thursday,” he said.

German television network RBB showed a bomb disposal expert closely examining the car before it was later towed away, with red paint still dripping out of its passenger door. It also showed the red paint splattered on the road around the traffic circle being steamcleaned away.

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