This is how likely things are to get violent in Hamburg at the G20

The G20 summit of 20 leading world economies begins on Friday in Hamburg. Anti-capitalist demonstrators have already gathered in the city, and not all have peaceful intentions, police warn.

This is how likely things are to get violent in Hamburg at the G20
Police clash with protesters at the Heiligendamm G8 summit in 2007. Photo: DPA

The first warning signs that there would be trouble ahead at the G20 came on Sunday evening, when police broke up an unauthorized protest camp. In the resulting fracas, protesters threw paint balloons at officers and police responded with pepper spray. Demonstrators claim that several people were injured.

On Tuesday night, there was more trouble as police used water cannon and pepper spray to break up several demonstrations across the city.

But these disputes are likely to just be the initial skirmishes before the battle lines are fully drawn. On Thursday the potentially violent “Welcome to Hell” protest is being held. Organizers have warned that activists will seek to block access to the summit venue and, as usual, “reserve for themselves the option of militant resistance” against police.

Critics have asked why Hamburg was chosen as the venue for the summit, which along with the smaller G7 is often the focus of anti-capitalist ire.

Hamburg, like Berlin, is known for having a resilient far-left scene. The choice of location in Hamburg is also a potential spark to the dry gun powder. The G20 venue is right next to the Sternschanze district, the Hamburg neighbourhood most synonymous with the left-wing squatter movement, 

According to Hamburg police figures released in the build-up to the summit, 1,090 left-wing extremists live in Germany’s second largest city, 620 of whom are considered potentially violent.

Police are expecting up to 8,000 potentially violent extremists at the event. City authorities have said demonstrators are plotting “the biggest black bloc of all time”, referring to the anarchist-associated movement that often sparks riots at major demonstrations.

In response to the threat of violence, Hamburg has banned rallies from the inner city and along access roads to the airport, forcing marchers into harbourside areas of St Pauli and Altona, away from the G20.

A report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) released on Monday showed that the radical left scene in Germany in growing to a size never previously witnessed. The internal intelligence agency categorizes 28,500 people as being part of the radical left, an increase of seven percent in a year.

If protests do turn violent, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a left-wing demo has spiralled out of control in recent German history.

When the G8 summit was held at Heiligendamm in 2007, black bloc activists turned on police and left over 400 of them injured. A NATO summit held in Baden-Württemberg and France was also accompanied by violence in 2009, with rioters setting fire to buildings, rubbish bins and attacking private property.

In 2015, at a demonstration against the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, police were partially overwhelmed by the scale of the violence. As many as 130 officers were injured and much of the city centre was choked by smoke as rioters set light to vehicles and rubbish bins.

Islamist threat

It isn’t just the far left who are represented in large numbers in Hamburg. City police claim there are 330 far-right extremists in the city and 640 Salafists, 310 of whom are considered potentially dangerous.

The BfV say that nationwide, both of these groups have grown in size and affinity for violence over the last 12 months.

“We need to assume that more terror attacks by lone wolves or terror commandos could happen in Germany,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said on Monday.

The city says that it won't be taking any chances at the G20, with soldiers, the navy and the air force supporting the police in securing the city. Authorities say they must protect leaders, some 10,000 delegates and almost 5,000 media workers from both the threat of a terrorist attack and violent street protests.

SEE ALSO: Soldiers told to hide uniforms for fear of attack by militant G20 protesters

With AFP


Videos of police violence spark debate about German cops

Film footage showing German cops kicking and punching a suspect in Frankfurt last weekend has fuelled a debate about whether violence and racism are problems in German policing.

Videos of police violence spark debate about German cops
A protest against police violence in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

The footage filmed in Frankfurt on August 15th shows two officers punching and kicking a suspect as he lies pinned on the ground. One of the officers is eventually moved away by his commanding officer, but returns to kick the man once he has been put in a police vehicle.

One of the officers has been moved to a desk job in response to the video. Hessen’s state interior minister described the incident as “completely unacceptable.”

It follows on from footage filmed in Düsseldorf, where an officer can be seen with his knee on the head and neck of a detained 15-year-old suspect. The police officer there has been suspended pending an investigation.

Critics say the scene is reminiscent of the death of George Floyd in the US. The officer's lawyer has defended it as being in line with police training methods.

A further video from Hamburg shows a group of police officers using pepper spray to detain a 15-year-old boy. Another video which has gone viral shows a police operation at a mall in Hannover where two men are pinned to the ground and an officer pushed a woman in the face.

What all the videos have in common is that the suspects are from ethnic minorities. While details of their heritage have not been confirmed, the suspects’ appearance is Turkish or Middle Eastern.

This has fired a debate about racism in the ranks of the police force. Critics on social media claim there is systemic racism in the German police. 

A reaction that has drawn particular attention is a comedy sketch by satirist Aurel which shows police trying to decide whether a man fiddling with the lock on a bike is black before deciding to shoot him.

Aurel justified the provocative video by saying that “as long as images emerge like those in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf we need to keep hitting the police where it hurts.”

The comedian added that German states have refused to open investigations into racial profiling despite complaints from minority groups that his takes place.

A hysterical debate’

Police unions have called on the public not to put the whole police force under general suspicion.

They point to incidents that immediately preceded the video footage that they say puts them into a different context.

The Düsseldorf footage was preceded by the suspect attacking officers who were involved in an operation that had nothing to do with him, the German Police Union (GdP) says.

The full video of the Hamburg incident meanwhile, which was shortened before being put on social media, shows the large-framed teenager throwing himself aggressively at police officers who try vainly to subdue him.

One of the suspects in Hanover was being sought after spitting in the face of a 62-year-old man who asked him to put a face mask on.

Those who support the police argue that it is too simplistic to accuse them of racism. Aggressive attitudes towards officers have risen in recent years.

During an outburst of violence in Opernplatz in Frankfurt in July young men attacked officers with bottles and other heavy objects. This followed riots in Stuttgart in June.

Rainer Wendt, head of the police union, has said that the rise in violence towards police by young immigrant men has been fuelled by the racism debate.

“As long as some politicians continue to  accuse our police of racism it is going to give these criminals an excuse to use violence against us,” he said.

The GdP complains that “one-sided and hysterical debates” about police violence are endangering their officers.

“Since the start of this debate hardly a day goes by when our officers are not confronted with resistance and insults from those who think they know better,” the GdP says.