Peoples’ Summit against G20 in Hamburg
Weeklong protests in Hamburg took over the G20 summit and stole the show. Instead of debating questions on what was discussed, decisions were taken.
200 thousand people were moving at snail pace and chanting similar slogans on the same street the Altonian workers did a hundred years ago. Against the G20 countries and their representatives, in the heart of the trade and financial centre that is Hamburg; magnificent street demonstrations, anti-capitalist slogans, varied demands and colourful banners of the demonstrators, once they reached the Altona junction, were paying tribute to the previous generation.
Hamburg is under siege for a week. Travelling around the city has been limited while entering and exiting is done under heavy checks. Police reinforcement units at every corner of the city are intimidating and the noise of helicopters is unbearable. Internet and telephone coverage is cut off regularly. At some point, the rumour was that soldiers were coming down from their barracks. And finally, because busloads of protesters from other cities were stopped they had to walk some kilometres to enter the city.
THE STREET BULLIED THE POLICE
While speakers from across the world debated at an alternative summit during the day, developing an alternative thesis to imperialism on world issues such as arms deals, climate, democracy etc., protests continued into the late night. The fact that more police officers were injured than the protestors is a measure of the opposition to the summit. To be honest, the protestors did bully the police for days.
Another question everyone found hard to find an answer was why Hamburg was chosen for the summit; a centre of long-standing opposition, with a history of violent clashes between police and protestors. Rota Flora protest is one to remember. And not just this, the city has many ‘no-go zones’ that police are forbidden to enter.
For some, the summit is Hamburg is a complete provocation; a choice imposed by the need of the German state to try and measure its capabilities faced with developing, hardening mass protests. For others, it’s a manoeuvre by Merkel for the upcoming elections in September; as the non-stop broadcasting of the strong opposition of the protestors, on par with the police response, aims to inhibit expansion of the German left and stop ordinary workers from joining protests. It appears; by allowing such a summit to take place in the middle of Hamburg Merkel was after some political gain. She was posing with the security forces and thanked them for their services at the end. Bild newspaper published with the headline “No one is stopping the left hatred.”
PROTESTS TOOK OVER THE SUMMIT
The weeklong protests in Hamburg took over the G20 summit and stole the show. Instead of debating questions on what was discussed, decisions were taken, negotiations made, the focus on German television was rather on the clashes on the streets and therefore the summit was in the background. As always the media was the champion for equating street protest to violence for no reason. Hatred of private ownership manifested itself as burning vehicles, raided markets, smashed shop fronts and doors; this was met with tear gas from police but welcomed with the slogan of “welcome to hell” changing grey streets of Hamburg to red and black. However, the protestors were finally pushed back and under control ‘safe and sound’ and without casualties in the St Pauli area. Neither the out-of-control protests of autonomous groups nor the police response could prevent mass participation the authorised G20 protest meeting. While many residents left Hamburg for a few days, others watched the protests from their windows and balconies, sipping on a beer. Despite all these people of Hamburg, the children, the youth and the elderly did not refrain from going out.
AS LONG AS THE STREET PROTESTS CONTINUE...
But of course the summit on the streets was not just of those from Hamburg; the voices of opponents from Latin America, Asia, Middle East, USA and the rest of Europe enriched the protests.
Dilan Baran, DIDF (Democratic Workers Federation) Hamburg branch chair was metaphorically correct when saying “you are nothing, you are finished” when addressing the participants of the G20 summit. When such banners are carried, demands chanted and international solidarity is raised, for a split second it feels like exploiters and capitalists of the world are zeroed. Let them take decisions to expand the free movement of the monopolies at their summit; as long as the summit on streets continue their movements is not going to be unchallenged.
*The writer was a speaker at a meeting titled NATO and militarism in Hamburg during the summit.