Hamburg braces for violent anti-G20 protests

Rote Flora, a former theatre which has been squatted since 1989. Hamburg, 3 July. [Friedemann Vogel/EPA]

Hamburg braced for potentially violent ‘Welcome to Hell’ protests against globalisation and the rich on the eve of the G20 summit on Thursday (6 July), with riot police on high alert deployed all over the centre of Germany’s second-largest city.

As many as 100,000 protesters are expected to swoop on Hamburg for the two-day summit, which will bring together US President Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and, of course, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Leaving nothing to chance, Germany has brought in an extra 20,000 police from across the country to secure the summit venue, maintain public order and guard the streets. The police on the streets are in full riot gear, supported by helicopters and drones.

Some 30 demonstrations have been announced before and during the meeting, organised by anti-globalisation activists and environmentalists, trade unions, student and church groups.

EU leaders have vowed to work for more inclusive growth and fair trade in the G20 summit, which will take place on Friday and Saturday. European Council President Donald Tusk echoed on Thursday the “fears and anxieties of our people” toward free trade, saying they “are often justified”.

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But in the St. Pauli district, an area next to Hamburg’s sprawling harbour, nobody believes globalisation can offer the cure for its own malady. The area has become the heart of the surging anti-G20 movement in Hamburg.

Protesters were finalising “Fuck G20” banners on Thursday afternoon as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are expected to take the streets and march against the status quo.

“G20 is focusing on the distribution of geopolitical interest spheres and power claims and on the coordination of worldwide exploitation,” said the website by a radical left group, under the slogan  “Welcome to Hell”.

The group is organising a protest on Thursday afternoon in which around 8,000 radicals are expected to take to the streets.

“Welcome to Hell” organiser Andreas Blechschmidt told AFP the motto was “a combative message… but it’s also meant to symbolise that G20 policies worldwide are responsible for hellish conditions like hunger, war and the climate disaster”.

Blechschmidt explained that activists would seek to block access to the summit venue and, as usual, “reserve for themselves the option of militant resistance” against police.

On Tuesday, the police seized baseball bats, knives and incendiary devices that could be have been used in the marches. On Wednesday, a multitude took to the streets to party in the port area under the motto “I prefer the dance to the G20”.

In an effort to secure the summit venue, Hamburg has banned rallies from the city centre and along access roads to the airport, forcing marchers into harbourside areas of St Pauli and Altona, away from the G20.

But some activists have vowed to defy the ban and pledged “civil disobedience” and blockades to sabotage G20 logistics.

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