A sticker for the G20 Protest in Hamburg says Überall Polizei, nirgendwo Gerechtigkeit – ‘Police everywhere, Justice nowhere’.
And so it turned out. Angela Merkel, welcoming the G20 ‘strongmen’ to Hamburg – Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the fifteen others, – decided to show that western democracies are just as capable of the violent repression of protest that they denounce when it happens in Moscow, Hong Kong or Istanbul.
The scale of the ‘security operation’, with thousands of paramilitary police backed up with helicopters, drones, water cannon and the suspension of civil rights to protest is without precedence in modern Europe.
20,000 police have been deployed from across Germany to guard the summit but also to inflict a crushing defeat on the mass opposition that has assembled in the city.
On the eve of the summit, around 10,000 demonstrators gathered in the Fischmarkt in Hamburg’s harbour district. Though the anticapitalist demonstration was labeled ‘Welcome to Hell’ anyone watching Der Spiegel’s live feed could witness a peaceful and cheerful crowd assembling. On the other hand they could also see huge numbers of sinister paramilitary police and dozens of armoured police carriers and water cannon assembling on the fringes of the demonstration.
A large ‘black bloc’ of anarchists and autonomists was present, but despite the air of menace provided by the riot police, the crowds remained good humoured on a warm, sunny evening – certainly a far cry from the press frenzy about “10,000 anarchist rioters from across Europe”.
Shortly after the demonstration moved off, the police blocked the road and launched a brutal assault across the length of the demonstration. Water cannon and tear gas broke up the contingents as police laid about with batons and pepper spray until the demonstration was completely broken up.
Some protesters regrouped to hold another demonstration further from the scene of the clashes whilst German media reported further skirmishes in Hamburg’s St Pauli and Altona districts in which some cars were set on fire and barricades thrown up in the streets.
Although the police accused the anarchists of provocations, the reality was a planned and unprovoked police riot against a peaceful demonstration, with the aim of justifying the state’s totalitarian attack on civil rights during the summit.
The ‘Welcome to Hell’ march was only one of several events aimed at protesting the G20 summit, with blockades planned for Friday and the main march on Saturday likely to involve more than 100,000 people. The police assault on the Thursday marchers, is both a warning and an indication of what they have planned for the weekend.
The police had already prepared the way for this repression for months in advance, backed by a hysterical press campaign. Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer said they were expecting “not just sit-in protests but massive assaults”. Police spokesperson Timo Zill effectively declared protestors outside the protection of the constitution when he stated: “Militant protestors who exercise violence are not protected by Article 8” which guarantees the freedom of assembly, and then went on to define ‘violence’ as any demonstrators who “disguise themselves”, i.e. the black bloc.
While the blame for yesterday’s violence lies with the police who orchestrated it, it’s clear that the black bloc tactic itself provides the police with a pretext for attacking demonstrations, without providing any tangible advantage in return. Organising in a way deliberately calculated to result in demonstration of the repressive character of the capitalist state does not generate mass opposition, it simply makes a fetish of ultimately futile confrontations between a tiny vanguard and the police. Against the state’s attempts to ban demonstrations and arm the police force that exercises its monopoly on violence we have to counterpose mass political and economic action by the labour movement, including organised self-defence, to defend the right protest and render police violence ineffective and counterproductive.
The Internationalist Bloc, in which Red Flag participates alongside our European sister groups, Palestine and international solidarity campaigns and other socialist organisations, has condemned the police attack:
“Today, the German state has demonstrated what it sees as zero tolerance under de Maizière [German Minister of the Interior] – zero democracy for all those who fight against capitalism and war.”
We urge all socialists to join us in condemning this violent assault on democratic rights. Labour’s leaders should condemn the German government and urge it to allow protests to go ahead and release those arrested without charge. They should also also expose and denounce the plotting of the dictators and the democratic hypocrites like Merkel, Macron and May, who make up the G20.
Despite the violent welcome, some 120,000 people from across Germany and Europe are due to arrive in Hamburg by the weekend to protest against the real criminals, the G20 leaders whose governments have laid waste to entire countries, and whose victims number in the millions.
With international tensions reaching fever pitch in the wake of Donald Trump’s assertion that western civilisation is under attack, it is vital that people ring the alarm bells on the streets and in the squares. The protests in Hamburg should be a rallying call to the internationalist left to start preparing the labour movement in every country to oppose the growing threats of war, the refugee crisis and environmental collapse.
Socialists in the European labour movements should urgently take steps to organise an international assembly to develop links of solidarity between workers of European countries and neighbouring states, with the aim of organising coodinated action against militarism and the growing menace of racism and nationalism.
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