‘Welcome to Hell’: Police flood Hamburg as city prepares for massive anti-G20 protests
Police expect an outbreak of violence as dozens of rallies, including one named “Welcome to Hell,” have been announced in Hamburg ahead of the G20 summit there. Left-wing radicals are vowing to “protest in all kinds of ways.”
About 30 demonstrations are expected to be held in Hamburg over the course of the summit week from July 1-9, according to German media. The organizers expect a peak of over 100,000 protesters, while police say that at least 8,000 of the demonstrators will be anarchists and various left-wing radicals, whose major goal is to disrupt the G20 meeting.
More than 20,000 police officers from across Germany have been deployed to the city along with 28 helicopters, 185 police dogs, 40 water cannons and as many as 3,000 police vehicles to provide security for the summit, the German Muenchener Merkur daily reports.
One of the biggest police concerns is a rally, which will be held on July 6 under the slogan “Welcome to Hell,” and is organized by several left-wing radical groups. Some 5,000 protesters are expected to take part in the rally, which is likely to end up in clashes between the demonstrators and police, Merkur claims.
"It's a combative message... but it's also meant to symbolize that G20 policies worldwide are responsible for hellish conditions like hunger, war and the climate disaster," Andreas Blechschmidt, one of the organizers of the “Welcome to Hell” rally, told AFP.
He also said that the activists would try to block access to the summit venue and “reserve for themselves the option of militant resistance” against police officers.
Another protest group, the “Alliance Action Block G20,” announced that it would try to block the ways leading to the summit venue, Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly reports. “We will blockade the roads, along which the [G20 leaders’] convoys will drive,” said the group’s spokesman, Nico Berg, adding that the protesters would also attempt to break through the cordons surrounding the “special zone” in Hamburg city center on the first day of the summit.
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“Massive civil disobedience is not a riot,” Berg added, as he justified the planned action.
Police also anticipate that a rally held under the slogan “Enter G20 – sink capitalism,” which is scheduled to be held on July 7 and could be attended by some 2,000 people, could slide into violence as its organizers have links to some radical groups.
The second day of the summit, July 8, could potentially witness a 30,000-strong demonstration organized by Germany’s Die Linke (Left) Party, in which, however, some leftist radicals could also take part, Merkur reports.
The protesters also vowed to stage sit-down demonstrations and even set up camps across the city. So far, the German authorities have allowed the establishment of only one such camp, which is expected to be located outside of the “special zone.”
Fences, steel barriers, detention facility
A special detention facility with space for 400 people has been set up to hold potentially violent protesters, AFP reported.
"It will be the biggest operation in the history of Hamburg's police," Timo Zell, the Hamburg police spokesman, told AFP.
About 7.8 kilometers of fences and steel barriers would be erected across the city as its center would be turned into a 38-square-kilometer special zone, where all protests would be banned, the German media report.
"Quite honestly, it is hard to know what will happen in Hamburg," a senior German security official told Reuters, adding that “the biggest concern is security.”
"If we have another Genoa, it will be a failure," the official added, referring to the 2001 G8 summit in the Italian port city, during which one person was shot dead and hundreds were injured.
In the meantime, Hamburg residents are already fleeing the city to escape from traffic chaos, ID checks and possible street violence, while shop owners are boarding up the windows of their facilities, AFP reports.
Hamburg has long been a center of left-wing dissent and now the protesters are also preparing to “defend their democratic right to assemble” by all means, AFP reports. The activists already expressed their discontent with police turning the city into a “fortress,” as well as imposing a ban on all demonstrations within the city center on the days of the summit, which is scheduled to take place on July 7-8.
Given how police are “trying to put pressure on the organizations mobilizing against the G20, you can expect them to be violent,” Georg Ismael, a member of the leftist group ArbeiterInnenMacht, told AFP, referring to the tightened security in Hamburg.
Additional protests could be triggered by the presence of US President Donald Trump and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 meeting, according to the German Federal Criminal Police report seen by Germany’s Focus magazine.
The police are particularly worried about potential clashes between Kurds, including the supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) outlawed by the Turkish government, and Turkish nationalists supporting Erdogan.
Earlier, the German Foreign Ministry barred the Turkish security officials who were involved in an outbreak of violence during protests near the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC, from attending G20 to “prevent the recurrence” of similar incidents in Hamburg.
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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also advised Erdogan not to hold public events during his trip to the G20 summit. He called any public appearances made by Erdogan outside the G20 summit “inappropriate,” due to the hardening tensions between the two NATO member states.
The minister also admitted that Germany would not “have the police forces available to ensure security, given the G20.”
At the same time, the German government defended people’s right to protest in an apparent attempt to show that tolerance of public dissent is part of democracy.
"We are a country where people have a right to demonstrate," said the German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert. "Every citizen has a right to protest. And that counts for the G20 too," he added, as cited by Reuters.