HAMBURG: Germany’s G20 summit host city Hamburg braced for a potentially violent “Welcome to Hell” protest Thursday by anti-capitalist militants as tensions rise in the lead-up to the power meet.
Riot police used water cannon and pepper spray to clear an unauthorized protest camp in ugly scenes Tuesday night, leaving five people injured and driving fears of more trouble ahead in the northern port city of Hamburg.
Up to 100,000 demonstrators are expected during the two-day Group of 20 meeting that starts Friday and will bring US President Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and other leaders to the city.
Germany’s second city, hosting its largest ever international meeting, has deployed some 20,000 police around the event sites, equipped with riot gear, armored vehicles, helicopters and surveillance drones.
A holding center for detainees has been set up with space for 400 people and detention judges on hand.
Some 30 demonstrations have been announced before and during the meeting, organized by anti-globalization activists and environmentalists, trade unions, student and church groups.
Most are expected to be peaceful but several will be spearheaded by radical left-wing and anarchist militants known as “black bloc” activists who have often clashed with police, hurling rocks, bottles or fireworks.
“Welcome to Hell” organizer Andreas Blechschmidt said the motto is “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”.
Blechschmidt told Agence France-Presse that activists during the G20 would seek to blockade access to the summit venue and, as usual, “reserve for themselves the option of militant resistance” against police.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while peaceful demonstrations must be respected, “those who use violence mock democracy.”
The city state of Hamburg has banned rallies from the inner city and along access roads to the airport, forcing marchers into harborside areas of St. Pauli and Altona, away from the G20.
Some activists have vowed to defy the ban and pledged “civil disobedience” and blockades to sabotage G20 logistics.
Protesters have charged authorities are turning Germany’s second city into a “fortress” and denying them the constitutional right to assemble and demonstrate.
The city says that it won’t be taking any chances as it must protect leaders, some 10,000 delegates and almost 5,000 media workers from both the threat of terrorist attack and the street protests.
Disputes fought out in courts in recent weeks over protest camps escalated when police on Sunday and again Tuesday night cleared away small tent cities in public parks and squares.
A theatre, churches and private residents have since offered to host some of the demonstrators from elsewhere in Germany and Europe.