Protesters seek to impede summit as G-20 gets underway in Hamburg
HAMBURG – The economic summit of the Group of 20 began Friday in this port city in northern Germany following clashes between protesters and police who could send waves during the two-day meeting.
The German security forces used water cannons and peppers to prepare an anti-capitalist march in which a group of anarchist sympathies had a significant presence.
The skirmish followed a one-hour passage next to the port of Hamburg, where protesters tried to cross a public square to the conference center, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes foreign leaders including Trump’s president .
An afternoon concert will be held at the Elbphilharmonie, a jewel in the crown of a city that is among the richest in the country and is still loaded with above-average unemployment.
Leftists who want to draw attention to climate change, labor rights and the plight of refugees – among other causes – have agreed to cut short the first day of the summit.
They planned to block three main sites in the city, through civil disobedience to thwart an attempt by the authorities to coordinate the outskirts of Hamburg connecting the most important sites for hotels and at the airport.
Issues related to security, freedom of expression and a democratic meeting – newly relevant together with a summit, while being traditionally dedicated to the economy, can also highlight different approaches to human rights and the rule of law. Merkel, who chairs the summit, said she would focus on climate change, free trade and a common obligation to help refugees.
“This week is the austerity of Merkel that goes globally through the G-20,” said Jan van Aken, a member of the German parliament representing the Die Linke Party on more left.
He criticized the German government to try to control the protests, saying its approach was autocratic and that “Erdogan, Putin and Trump would feel at home” – a reference to Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Poutine and the American leader.
“The main problem is that the top is again, after Brisbane, in a democracy,” said Wolfgang Schmidt, a Hamburg politician involved in the preparations for the summit. The summits in Turkey and China attended the 2014 meeting in Australia.
“You want to make sure that the protest of views and opinions to the contrary are heard, but also necessary to maintain security, and with 42 highly protected heads of state and ministers of finance and foreign affairs, is a challenge” .
The security challenge has focused quickly on Thursday night. When police tried to separate a group of militants from the “black bloc” of some 12,000 people who gathered to protest economic inequality and greed, authorities found a shower of stones and bottles.
As the police rushed the group, some demonstrators fled. But a phalanx of activists dressed in black clothes, hidden faces, stood up. They carried placards that condemned the state and said “Welcome to hell.”
Armored vehicles that sent powerful water discharges were rolling towards the demonstrators. Smoke bombs exploded in the crowd.
Police made some arrests, but said Thursday night that they had no final count. They said that 15 agents were injured, two of whom were hospitalized. A furniture store and a bank were damaged, police said.
The doctors could see the treatment of the injured in the event.
Marches on the streets planned for the summit – emulating forced dissidence observed at previous G20 meetings – cover a range of issues, including calls for environmental protection, denunciations of ethnic nationalism and opposition to free trade.
But the Hamburg protests have gained momentum as a stance against Trump and his populist brand of “America First”. It is estimated that 100,000 protesters expect to converge in the former trading city during the summit.