Extra police sent to Hamburg as G20 protest violence escalates
Demonstrators set fire to cars and throw rocks at shop windows in Altona district as world leaders meet in nearby Messehalle
Overnight clashes between anti-capitalist protesters and police continued into the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg as dozens of cars were set aflame and shop windows smashed around the city while world leaders met at the Messehalle conference centre.
Masked protesters in black clothes used flares to set fire to at least 20 cars and pelted rocks at the windows of banks and smaller shops as they made their way through the Altona district and along the Elbchaussee road along the river at about 7.30 am on Friday morning.
Police forces around Germany dispatched reinforcements to help 15,000 police already deployed to the northern port city for the summit as violence escalated.
On Friday morning, many shops and cafes in the area, including a local Ikea, boarded up their windows in anticipation of further rioting.
Other protest groups marched peacefully through Hamburg’s harbour area and historic centre, blocking access routes for delegates and envoys travelling in and out of the conference centre where leaders including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel gathered on Friday morning.
Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, was reportedly stopped from attending an event in the G20’s supporting programme by the protests. “Police has not given us security clearance to leave the guest house,” Trump’s spokesperson told German press agency dpa.
A planned visit for leaders’ partners to a climate research centre was scrapped and replaced with a presentation by climate scientists at a luxury Hamburg hotel.
Hamburg police spokesperson Sven Jahn said that a group of around 60 masked protesters attacked three police vehicles with molotov cocktails, and that a flare fired at a police helicopter only narrowly missed its target.
Authorities claimed 160 police officers had been injured. At least 15 people were arrested and dozens more held for questioning. Organisers of Thursday evening’s “Welcome to Hell” march said three protesters had been seriously injured and one person remained in a critical condition, while several others had sustained lighter injuries during the skirmishes.
Andreas Beuth, a lawyer who had co-organised the march at a riverside plaza used for Hamburg’s weekly fish market, accused police of knowingly risked an escalation of the volatile situation in the city with heavy-handed tactics.
Contrary to police claims, Beuth said protesters had complied with orders to remove their masks when hundreds of officers used water cannon and teargas to disperse the crowds. “The escalation was clearly started by the police,” said Beuth at a press conference inside the stadium of local football club FC St Pauli on Friday morning.
A number of journalists working for leftwing German newspapers reported on Friday that their press accreditation had been withdrawn from them without an explanation.