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AS IT HAPPENED: Cars burn after police break up first major G20 protest with water cannons

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AS IT HAPPENED: Cars burn after police break up first major G20 protest with water cannons
Police confront protesters at the Welcome to Hell protest on Thursday. Photo: DPA
11:42 CEST+02:00
On the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg, protests are stepping up a gear. The "Welcome to Hell" rally kicked off on Thursday afternoon. The Local followed the events throughout the day live.

In short:

10.50 pm - Situation remains tense as march continues

We are wrapping up our live blog here. The march is continuing under a heavy police presence, but remains peaceful for the time being. Meanwhile police have reported new outbreaks of violence by "a large number of masked people" in the Schanzenviertel. The violence has been directed against cars and shops.

We will be back in the morning.

10.35 pm - Picture of the day: pizza delivery driver at work in demo

A picture is doing the rounds on Twitter which seems to show a pizza delivery driver winding his way on his moped through the crowds of protesters. The caption reads: "When all hell breaks loose in Hamburg, but you still need to do your three part-time jobs as a pizza boy."

10.24 pm - Police stop march again claiming people still masked

One of the two marches which was allowed to proceed has been blocked by police because participants were wearing masks. Police remind people on Twitter that the wearing masks at a protest contravenes German law on demonstrating.

Photo: DPA

10.07 pm - police still clashing with protesters across two districts

While the march has been allowed to go on, radical protesters have attacked police in various places in Altona and St Pauli, while also damaging private property, police report.

Masked protesters have damaged cars and building sites, while breaking in the windows of banks and the district court in Altona, police state.

9.56 pm - The demo is underway again

It seems like the march is going ahead after all as the situation on the Reeperbahn - one of St. Pauli's main streets - has calmed down. Police tweet that two marches, one on Hafenstrasse and one on the Reeperbahn, will be allowed to join up.

The left-wing newspaper Neues Deutschland also reports that the new march has started and is moving slowly forwards. Apparently that the atmosphere is good.

9.33 pm - Six officers injured as dispersed groups of protesters build barricades

The latest from the police is that six of their officers have been injured during clashes with protesters. They still have not released numbers on the amount of demonstrators injured. Hamburg's police chief says that the security situation remains unpredictable as small groups of protesters build barricades in several different parts of the city, Die Welt reports.

9.23 pm - Public broadcaster claims demonstrators didn't strike first

Several reporters from broadcaster NDR report that at first the demonstration was not violent, but that many black bloc members did refuse to take off their face masks.

There had reportedly been talks before the demo between police and organizers about how many masks would be acceptable, but no agreement was reached.

According to the NDR report, a single drunk man threw a bottle at officers, but he was quickly isolated by the rest of the demonstrators. The report claims the black bloc had agreed among themselves not to throw any objects at police and to avoid confrontation.

9.12 pm - Police report claims protesters attacked them first with sticks, iron bars and bottles 

In their first summary of the evening’s events, police say that 12,000 participants had arrived for the demo by 7pm. They say that they had to stop the march shortly after it got going because around 1,000 people were wearing masks to cover their faces.

“Masking one’s face is a crime and increases the potential for violence,” the statement reads.

At 7.16 pm, police called repeatedly for demonstrators to remove their masks, but only a few obeyed the order. Police report that there were two black bloc groups in the march.

According to police, participants were “extremely aggressive” towards them as they tried to separate the black bloc members from other participants so that the march could further proceed.

As police “intervened”, police say demonstrators attacked them with bottles, sticks, and metals rods.

Police say they were then forced to use water cannons, pepper spray and batons.

Police deny breaking up the demo as a whole, saying they intended for peaceful participants to continue their march.

Below, footage of police walking in the Reeperbahn area.

9.00 pm - Protesters regrouping and dancing towards police

Though the Welcome to Hell rally was supposed to have officially ended, the Hamburger Abendblatt reports that numerous protesters have gathered again at the Fish Market and have been dancing in front of police.

Another roughly 1,000 people have gathered in the Reeperbahn area in a rally to protest police violence.

8.53 pm - Violence spreads to Altona

Police have reported violence against police officers and private property in several spots around the Altona and St. Pauli districts of Hamburg. Also say they don't know how many people have been injured.

8.40 pm - Die LInke (the Left Party) blame police for violence

Ulla Jelpke, a leading member of Die Linke who is participating in the march as "an observer", has claimed that police are "clearly responsible" for the violence, the left-wing newspaper Neues Deutschland reports.

Jelpke told the paper that police are attacking protesters while rolling out the red carpet for violent leaders like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

8.38 pm - Many protesters 'seriously injured'

The Hamburger Abendblatt reports that the lawyer for the protest organizers says that there are "many seriously injured demonstrators" following police actions.

The newspaper further reports that people are moving towards the direction of the Reeperbahn red-light district.

8.32 pm - Video footage shows police charging protesters on harbour front

A journalist for Die Welt has published a video on social media showing police charging protesters at the Fish Market, where the march began.

8.22 pm - Demo has been cancelled: report

According to the police Twitter feed and the Hamburger Abendblatt, the demonstration organizers have cancelled the march.

There has also been the first report of arson, as police say that radical demonstrators are arming themselves with throw-able objects they are picking up along side streets. They ask people not involved in the violence to vacate the area so that they can "do their jobs more easily."

8.03 pm - Police spokesperson attacked: police

Hamburg police report that their spokesperson was attacked and had to take cover. In a statement police said that spokesman Timo Zill was giving an interview along with another officer when he was "severely attacked". The two cops fled into an ambulance, while their attackers tried to rip the door open. The vehicle was able to escape, police say.

A photograph from Spiegel meanwhile shows police water cannons being used.

8.00 pm - Police confirm use of water cannons against demo

Via Twitter police confirm that they have used water cannons due to "massive attacks with bottles and objects."

7.53 pm - Police accuse protesters of throwing bottles at them

Police have explained on Twitter why they have held up the demo. They claim that around 1,000 participants are masked and have asked all participants to show their faces. They are demanding that the black bloc be ejected from the demo and claim that organizers are cooperating.

They also report that officers have been attacked with bottles and pieces of wood. They "immediately responded to restrain this."

In the build-up to the Welcome to Hell march, Hamburg's interior minister warned that 'the biggest black bloc in history' was being planned. The black bloc are associated with the anarchist movement and have a history of rioting at anti-capitalist demonstrations.

7.37 pm - Police block the Welcome to Hell protest

After just 150 metres of its intended nine kilometre route, the Welcome to Hell protest has been blocked by police, Tagesspiegel reports.

Police have reportedly used four water cannon vehicles to stop the march progressing any further. Marchers are being told by organizers to form human chains and start a sit-in.

Police estimate the current number of protesters at 10,000.

7.25 pm - 'Radical' protest march starts peacefully

Photo: DPA

Several thousand demonstrators vowing to "Smash G20!" have started marching, with Hamburg police bracing for possible violence from a core of several hundred hard-left activists.

Police put the number of participants at some 8,000 at the beginning of the procession that was due to head towards and encircle the venue for the Group of 20 summit starting on Friday.

A banner at the head read "Smash G20!" and "Welcome to Hell", the organizers' main slogan.

The hard-left "black bloc" included several hundred people dressed in black and carrying a huge black balloon.

5.25 pm - Police map out route of Thursday evening's protest

Crowds have already started gathering for the Welcome to Hell protest in the St Pauli district. Police have tweeted a map of the direction protesters will march. The march is set to start at around 7pm.

5.10 pm - Merkel’s hubby Joachim to show first ladies a good time

While Merkel hosts the mostly male leaders of the world’s biggest economies, her normally reclusive husband Joachim Sauer has been left to entertain the wives.

Sauer is taking Melania Trump, Brigitte Macron et al. on a tour of a climate change research centre, a choice of sightseeing that has been taken as a dig at the climate change-denying Trump administration.

Merkel’s husband is a scientist by profession, so he will clearly be at home in the environs of Germany’s meteorological researchers. DPA (somewhat meanly) suggests that Mrs Trump might prefer to go shopping on her first official trip to Germany.

The group will also go on a boat trip in Hamburg harbour and then attend a concert at the newly opened Elbphilharmonie concert hall.

Also among the WAGs will be one of South African president Jacob Zuma's several wives. At Hamburg airport, there was some confusion as to which one he had brought along, but it turned out to be Tobeka Madiba-Zuma, who chose a pink dress for the occasion, DPA notes.

Sauer will have a wing man for the occasion, though. Philip May, husband to British PM Theresa May, is also in attendance.

4.40 pm - Crowds gather for Welcome to Hell protest

Hundreds of people have so far gathered at the Welcome to Hell protest's start point at the Fish Market in the St. Pauli neighbourhood of Hamburg.

The protest is set to be the largest so far, and organizers have struck an aggressive tone, warning that they will seek to block access to the summit venue and, as usual, "reserve for themselves the option of militant resistance" against police.

At the same time, demo organizer Andreas Blechschmidt has claimed that they have been the subject of a “massive campaign” of “denunciation and stigmatization” on the part of Hamburg police.

Police claim up to 8,000 violent left-wing extremists will attend the march.

4.24 pm - Political and literal storms ahead

As the world sets its sights on Hamburg in anticipation of some potentially stormy international encounters, the harbour city is also bracing for some actual bad weather, with the German Weather Service predicting thunderstorms on Friday.

Read here for the full weather report.

4.18 pm - Trump lands at Hamburg Airport

US President Donald Trump and wife Melania have touched down in Hamburg. Trump is set to meet Angela Merkel at the Hotel Atlantic on Thursday evening.

The US leader was greeted by the mayor of the northern city-state, Olaf Scholz, on arrival at Hamburg airport where Trump and the US First Lady boarded a US military helicopter for the city centre.

Trump's "America First" stance and climate scepticism have rattled Western allies who have pledged to uphold free trade principles and implement the 2015 Paris climate accord.

4.04 pm - Hamburg city centre boards up in expectation of violence

The boarded-up front of Christ jewellers in Hamburg on Thursday afternoon. Photo: DPA

DPA reports a “ghostly silence” hanging over the city centre of Hamburg, after shops and offices have boarded up windows and closed down in anticipation of violent demonstrations.

On Mönckebergstraße, a busy shopping avenue, a third of the businesses have boarded up their shop fronts.

Those who can afford it have invested in fire protective wood. Carpenters have been hastily employed to secure the shops.

“I was pretty annoyed about the summit at first, but then I start making loads of money,” Maik, a 29-year-old carpenter said.

But in the left-wing Schanzenviertel, the mood is more relaxed. Shops are generally still open - many displaying anti-G20 stickers in their windows.

Residents are also used to rioting, as the neighbourhood is the centre of annual May 1st protests in the harbour town.

“I’ve seen it all before,” a postman said while going about his daily rounds.

2.31pm - We have been massively stigmatized, demo organizer claims

Andreas Blechschmidt, the organizer of the “Welcome to Hell” protest which starts at 4pm on Thursday, has claimed that the demo has been the subject of a “massive campaign” of “denunciation and stigmatization” on the part of Hamburg police.

The police have been propagating “baseless scenarios of violence pulled out of thin air,” he said.

As proof that Hamburg judicial authorities don’t consider the demo a risk, Blechschmidt pointed out that no other protest was allowed to pass as close to the venue of the summit.

Hamburg police say that they expect 8,000 potentially violent left-wing extremists at the demo.

Blechschmidt has previously stated the protesters "reserve for themselves the option of militant resistance" against police.

Pictured below, organizers prepare for the start of the demo.

2.24pm - Shakira arrives with Coldplay's Chris Martin

The true savers of the world have arrived in Hamburg: Colombian pop star Shakira and Coldplay's Chris Martin. The singers are set to perform at the simultaneous Global Citizen Festival in the city on Thursday.

2.17pm - Police hunt extremists who had list of official license plates: report

Hamburg police are searching for two left-wing extremists who were found with a list of car licence plates with either BKA (Federal Criminal Investigators) or SEK (Special Deployment Commando) written next to them, Spiegel reports.

The two men, aged 24 and 27, come from Berlin and were taken into custody in Hamburg on June 22nd. But a court later ordered their release.

Police have confirmed to Bild that they want to keep the men in detention until July 9th, the day after the G20 summit finishes.

1.50pm - Streets between airport and city blocked off for delegates' arrival

The Hamburger Abendblatt reports that the route between the airport and the city centre is being blocked off between 10am and 6pm almost completely for cars as the delegates arrive for the G20. Police said that therefore the U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains should be used instead during this time.

Stresemannstrasse is also partially blocked off, starting at the S-Bahn station Holstenstrasse and heading into town.

"Streets are almost completely empty, many shops are closed, and there is the constant sound of helicopters in the air. Morning Hamburg," wrote one Twitter user.

12.04pm - Merkel to meet Trump in Hamburg’s Atlantic Hotel

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to meet with US President Donald Trump in the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg on Thursday evening.

Transatlantic differences on climate change, trade, defence spending and refugees hang over the meeting.

Last week Merkel met with key European leaders and vowed to make a stand for climate protection and open markets at the meeting with Trump, who has said he will take the US out of the Paris climate deal and pursue a protectionist "America First" policy.

Merkel said that "the differences are obvious and it would be dishonest to try to cover that up. That I won't do."

She also said the US exit from the 2015 Paris climate pact had made Europe "more determined than ever" to make the accord a success.

On Monday, presenting her party's election platform, she predicted "a whole series of thorny issues" at the G20.

"We know the positions of the US government and I do not expect them to disappear on a two-day trip to Hamburg," the Chancellor said.

11.24am - 10 Porsches set alight

One of the burned out Porsche in Hamburg. Photo: DPA

Ten Porsches were set on fire at a luxury car dealership in the Hamburg district of Eidelstedt on Wednesday evening, with police suspecting that anti-G20 protesters were behind the arson.

“We have to assume that there was a connection between the G20 summit and the arson, but it needs to be proved first,” said Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer.

11.21am - First big protest has potential for violence 

The "Welcome to Hell” protest is starting at 4pm in the St. Pauli district. Protest organizer Andreas Blechschmidt told AFP that activists would seek to blockade access to the summit venue and, as usual, "reserve for themselves the option of militant resistance" against police.

The demo’s website ominously states that “the final meeting will be held a stone’s throw from the summit’s location in the exhibition halls.”

Note: The live blog has been updated to correct a translation error regarding the use of U- and S-Bahn trains.

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