The G20 summit will kick off in the German city of Hamburg amid thousands of people participate in protests against the policies of world leaders.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The G20 summit that will kick off in the German city of Hamburg on Friday has been preceded by a series of protests aimed against the current policies that will be discussed by the leaders of 20 world’s largest economies at the event, which will present a challenge to the city’s authorities and security forces.
LESS THAN WARM WELCOME
Thousands of protesters have been flocking to Hamburg, the hometown of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a vibrant trade hub with a busy commercial port.
“Mainly people are not protesting against G20. The majority wants to address their responsibility for better politics in terms of global issues like climate change, social disparities, transparency or corruption. The proximity to the event boosts the critical analysis of the public especially in Germany with important issues. That generally is a good development. People are interested [in] what is happening. But they also want to see changes. In hardly any country people are trusting their decision makers,” Malte Siegert, the head for environmental policy at Hamburg office of Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) told Sputnik.
NABU non-governmental organization, one of the largest nature conservation groups in Germany, participated in the Protest Wave (Protestwelle) event held on Sunday.
According to the organization’s press release, about 18,000 gathered for a peaceful demonstration on foot and in boats in the Alster lake in the center of the city. Oxfam Deutschland puts the number at 25,000.
A city center is a somewhat unusual venue choice for a large international summit. The 2001 G20 summit in the Italian port city of Genoa is remembered mainly for protests which ended with many injuries and even fatalities. In 2016, the summit was held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, with its inhabitants encouraged to take a week-long vacation away from the city. The usually bustling city was virtually emptied.
“Any kind of center in any city is a challenge for an event like G20. China located its summit far away from any opportunity for participation or even protest of the public. Besides conflicts with some radicals it seems reasonable to have the global leaders closer to the society. Germany fortunately is a free country and there are comparatively little restrictions expressing your opinion in public. Ms Merkel was willing to take the chances probably to show that global leaders do not have to be anxious but aware of a critical mass,” Siegert commented on choice to make Hamburg the host city of the summit.
James Galbraith, Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, also told Sputnik that the venue for such international events should give people the chance to show their attitude to the course of the government.
“I do think that if these meetings are to be held at all, they should be held where ordinary citizens can register their views and express their grievances. This may be one of the few ways to impress upon the heads-of-government, who are often very isolated, the depths of popular dissatisfaction,” Galbraith, who is a member of the Advisory Panel of DiEM25 movement, said.
The movement has been actively involved in some of the protests in Hamburg. In the run-up to the summit, DiEM25 penned an open letter to the senators of Hamburg, stressing that the security measures envisioned for the summit were extreme.
More than 15,000 law enforcement officers, including policemen from other German federal states, will ensure security in Hamburg on July 7-8. The Protestwelle was only the first one in the series of the protests planned for the German port city.
Later on Thursday, “Welcome to Hell” anti-capitalist demonstration will take place.
Two-day Global Solidarity Summit, a grassroots alternative to G20, began on Wednesday. The summit’s program includes sessions on neoliberalism, environment, social inequality, demilitarization.
ACTION IN HARBOR
Friday, the first day of the summit, will also see several protest events. Shutdown-Hamburg is planning to symbolically block the city’s harbor.
“Our action in the port is part of a greater spectrum of actions against the G20 meeting. All other groups planning actions on that day are aware of our action and support it, as we also support their actions,” Timon Simons, the spokesman for Social-Strike Aktion event, told Sputnik.
Simons said the local authorities were trying to “criminalize the protest” in the harbor.
“This happened regardless to the fact that the city of Hamburg officially, after a long legal battle, declared the camp legal. Police used water cannons and teargas against the activists. We condemn this absolutely excessive amount of force against the building up of a legal camp. Unfortunately, this probably foreshadows what we are going to see in the next days,” Simons said.
On Wednesday, Hamburg authorities rejected protesters’ demand to set up 1,500 sleeping places, but allowed up to 300 sleeping tents housing no more than two-three people. The press service of Camp Altona, announcing this decision, said that it happened “after a long struggle” and added that the building of infrastructure needed for many new arrivals from across Germany and the rest of the world could now begin.
Also on Wednesday, police said they had to use water canons against protesters who were throwing bottles at them.
Simons stressed that the port event had been sanctioned by the authorities and the locations had been agreed on.
“However, especially in the light of recent events, violent actions from the police against our activists is, sadly, not unlikely,” Simons said.
According to the activist, 1,000-3,000 people were expected to participate in the symbolic strike in the harbor.
Bengt van Beuningen from the communication direction of the Port of Hamburg told Sputnik that the events in the city could influence the port, for example, traffic congestion in the city could lead to the build-up of truck traffic to and from the port.
The Port of Hamburg representative added that the port companies (of which there are more than 500) were prepared and the police were keeping them updated on traffic situation.
“The companies based in the port informed their business partners and we hope that there will be no problem in the port,” van Beuningen said.
Another event planned for Friday is “Color the Red Zone.” The organizers plan to throng the center of the city, the sites where the G20 events will be taking place. A large international demonstration is scheduled for Saturday.
What all of the protest events have in common is the rejection of the current politics in many fields and the hope for a better, fairer society.
“Our demands go further than social reforms in the existing capitalist system. We aim at a different, more egalitarian form of society. In this society, economy and production would be under democratic control by the people who produce themselves. The administration in this society would have to answer far more directly to the needs of the people than the current one does,” Simons said.
The activist said the current government was unlikely to react to the protests, so the appeal was directed at citizens rather than the states.
Naturschutzbund Deutschland representative was more optimistic about the governments’ reaction.
“I guess, they’ll hear the voices of the people demonstrating as much as you as media are broadcasting it. And I assume the global leaders know, up to a certain degree, that they will have to act earlier or later. We are at the edge of time,” Siegert said.
According to him, hardly any country could possibly benefit from global growth slump, increased pollution and social injustice.
“That is why I believe in the power discretion. But probably I should not expect too much,” Siegert concluded.
G20 summit is an annual event gathering the heads of governments and states of 20 major economies to discuss and promote financial stability around the globe, as well as some other pressing issues.
About 20,000 law enforcement officers, including policemen from other German federal states, will be on duty in Hamburg during the event scheduled for July 7-8. Mounted police units, thousands of police cars, one plane, at least 17 helicopters, 213 K-9 dogs, and possibly drones will be deployed to secure the two-day event.