President Donald Trump has arrived in Germany ahead of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Hamburg and met with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Large anti-capitalist demonstrations have already resulted in clashes with security forces.
A major “G20: Welcome to Hell” protest by upwards of 10,000 people belonging to an array of anti-capitalist and anti-globalization activists began as the port city started welcoming leaders of the Group of 20 top industrial and developing economies.
Demonstrators have promised massive protests against three of the more contentious leaders – President Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Trump faces the possibility of isolation over his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, and his “America First” policy, report DW.
Security forces clad in riot gear clashed with protesters using water cannons and pepper spray to disperse a group with anarchist sympathies that had refused to stand down.
The skirmish followed an hour-long standoff on a street that runs alongside Hamburg’s downtown harbor. Thousands of protesters were gathered, and some began lobbing glass bottles and other objects as police rushed at a group of “black bloc” activists huddled in the middle of the street. They were dressed in dark clothes with their faces concealed and carried signs condemning the state and promising, “Welcome to hell.”
The street marches and rallies planned for the summit — like at past G-20 gatherings — cover a range of issues including calls for environmental protections, denunciations of ethnic nationalism and opposition to free trade.
An estimated 100,000 protesters were expected to converge on the old merchant city during the G-20 summit, which begins Friday.
“Violent people are arming themselves with pieces of scaffolding and stones,” the police department tweeted. “We have used our water cannons again against people who are seeking clashes with forces. . . . Authorities report that they have been attacked with sticks and bottles.”
Police expressed concern that violence could escalate after nightfall. “We are skeptical as to whether this evening and tonight will remain peaceful,” Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer said on ZDF television.
As Hamburg mounted the largest police operation in the city’s history, at least 20,000 officers were being deployed at about 30 registered demonstrations. Forty-five water cannons were available to disperse crowds. Some were used Tuesday evening to clear the streets of early protesters.
Moored a short distance away was a ship with a message plastered on its flank — “Keep global trade open” — at odds with the signs carried by protesters.
The protests draw on a tradition of left-wing activism in Germany’s second-largest city and the birthplace of its chancellor, Angela Merkel. She is hosting a roster of foreign leaders including Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan — at a downtown conference center and the lofty Elbphilharmonie concert hall, a crown jewel of the city.
A few miles away is the nerve center of left-wing German radicalism, Rote Flora, a former theater where activists have squatted for nearly three decades. Its members were some of those planning the anti-capitalist protest, which they dubbed “Welcome to Hell.”
Security officials say the demonstration could draw as many as 8,000 members of the militant left, from Germany and beyond.
A no-fly zone was in place over portions of the city.
“No demonstrator can decide whether or where heads of state and government meet in Germany on the chancellor’s invitation,” said Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister.
At stake are questions about security, free expression and democratic assembly — newly relevant alongside a summit that, although traditionally devoted to economics, may also showcase different approaches to human rights and the rule of law. Merkel, who is chairing the summit, said she will highlight climate, free trade and the shared obligation to assist refugees.
Her critics say her policies are part of the problem.
“This week is about Angela Merkel’s austerity policy going global via G-20,” said Jan van Aken, a member of the German Parliament representing the far-left Die Linke party.
He criticized the German government for seeking to stamp out protest, saying its approach was autocratic and would “make Erdogan, Putin and Trump feel at home here.”
The government is sensitive to this point.
“The main issue is that the summit is again, after Brisbane, in a democracy,” said Wolfgang Schmidt, a Hamburg politician involved in summit preparations.
Summits in Turkey and China followed the 2014 meeting in Australia. “You want to make sure that protest and dissenting views are heard, but you also need to maintain security, and with 42 highly protected heads of state and finance and foreign ministers, it’s a challenge.”
Tensions simmered over the weekend and into the week as police used force to remove activists attempting to stay overnight on public land. The courts have said that camps are a protected form of political protest but that authorities may prohibit certain forms of overnight assembly.
Erdogan’s presence pits Turkish nationalists against Kurds, in a country with the largest Turkish community outside Turkey. The German government has disallowed Erdogan from addressing his supporters at the summit.
Yavuz Fersoglu, a spokesman for an umbrella organization of Kurdish groups in Germany, said Kurds are joining hands with anti-globalization groups for a major march on Saturday, which organizers say will draw about 100,000 people.
Trump is a particular flash point.
Planning for protests began before his November victory, but “it became clear after his election that the action would have to be much bigger,” said Emily Laquer, a spokeswoman for Interventionistischen Linken, a radical left-wing group in Germany and Austria.
Local businesses were preparing for an unpredictable several days, report Washington Post.