“Years of looking the other way and a mistaken liberality towards criminality [from the far left], has come back to strike us in Hamburg,” said Thomas Strobl (CDU), interior minister in Baden-Württemberg.
Almost 500 police officers were injured in rioting that started on Thursday evening after police halted an anti-capitalism demonstration near Hamburg harbour.
Over the course of three days, black bloc groups – left-wing radicals associated with anarchism – set fire to cars, smashed in shop windows, looted businesses and fought pitched battles with police in several Hamburg neighbourhoods.
Hamburg has a large left-wing scene, with police claiming that there are over 1,000 left-wing extremists residing in the city, over half of whom are prepared to use violence.
Strobl said that Hamburg needs to impose the authority of the state in its left-wing districts, after ignoring the problem for too long.
Günter Krings (CDU), permanent secretary in the Federal Interior Ministry, said that the port city urgently needed to lay out plans for “how it will dry out the swamps in parts of its inner city where lawlessness and contempt for the state prevail.”
Ansgar Heveling, chairman of the interior affairs committee in the Bundestag (German parliament), also joined the chorus of condemnation.
He said that Hamburg and Berlin need to take stronger action against occupied houses in left-wing neighbourhoods, which are used as hideouts by radicals.
The Rote Flora cultural centre, an occupied building in Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel neighbourhood, has come in for criticism for organizing the Welcome to Hell demonstration at which the violence started. The cultural centre is accused of having invited violent left-wing radicals from around Europe to take part in the demo.
In Berlin, meanwhile, city police have for years fought violent street battles against occupants of Rigaer Strasse 94, a housing project connected to the far-left scene.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) were equally hard in their condemnation of the riots.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas called for a societal rejection of the extreme left, appealing to the public to organize concerts and rallies against the far left, as happens habitually against right-wing extremism.
In conversation with Bild, Maas also said that European countries need to cooperate on a database of extremists.
“We don’t have sufficient continent-wide data on extremists. The G20 in Hamburg made that clear,” said Maas, adding that many of the rioters travelled to the summit from other European countries.