Anti-capitalist protests against G20 Summit in Hamburg town of Germany turned violent Thursday evening after clashes erupted between protesters and police officers. German riot police engaged in clashes with thousands of protesters that gathered at the venue. Police officers were seen drawing water cannons on protesters and pepper spray while the crowd continued to threw bottles and smoke bombs. According to Reuters, at least 75 police officers were injured in the protests, out of which three were admitted in hospitals for treatment.
At least 13000 protesters joined the protest march on Thursday, including around 1000 black-clad and masked anarchists, police told Reuters. The protesters, carrying “Welcome to Hell” signs, also resorted to vandalism as they damaged cars and set vehicles on fire.
Here is everything you need to know about the protests:
Who are the protesters?
“Welcome to Hell” protests were organised by Left-wing organisations in Germany. It was part of the 30 anti-G20 protests registered in Germany in last few weeks. Anti-capitalist protesters from all across Europe gathered to take part in the protests in Hamburg. Students from US, Canada, and other countries also gathered. With focus on climate change before this summit, members of several environmental organisations also participated in the protests.
What are the reasons for the protest?
G-20 summits, over the years, has seen protests with European citizens believing the international organisation has largely failed to contain and find solutions to many of the issues that threaten world peace. The protests largely circle around the concern that the topic of discussion between the nations remains largely focused on “capitalist” agendas of the nations, and does not take immediate issues of public in its purview. A student protester in Hamburg, Nicklas, 21, told CNN, “I came here because in general I’m totally against the G20 summit… It’s the root cause or reason for what’s going wrong in the world. Wars can be bad but capitalism kills.”
Julia Kulik, a researcher with the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, in an article said, “The G20 was founded to make globalization for the benefit of all” but the public no longer believes the summit is “for the people”, especially after actions such as big-bank bailouts.
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Another concern regarding the annual global summit is the overall transparency of the closed-door meetings between world leaders. Kulik says the press conferences after the summit are flooded with “political jargon”. Some believe the Summit is often held in countries with relatively lesser press freedom.
According to reports, some parts of protests on Thursday focused on environmental issues, with many expressing concerns that G20 countries are responsible for approximately 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In an article on the Guardian, Srećko Horvat, a Croatian philosopher, who came to protest against G20, wrote, “The real problem is the dogmatic slumber of the leaders of the free world, represented at this G20 summit by Merkel, May and others, which is the origin of our current dystopian nightmare (wars, terrorism, the refugee crisis and climate change). In this sense, the current G20 is not just a demonstration of disagreement on all fronts, but – after Hamburg – whether the G20 can continue to exist at all.”
How does the violent protests affect German Chancellor Angela Merkel?
Angela Merkel, who is currently campaigning to be elected as the leader for a consecutive fourth term, took a risk by deciding to hold the summit in the northern port of Hamburg. Merkel’s reason for holding the summit at relatively politically active location was to show that big protests can be tolerated in a healthy democracy. The violent clashes that erupted Thursday between protesters and riot police in Hamburg might not work in her favour.
It increases the necessity for Merkel to seek consensus among the G20 leaders as Summit host, on the divisive issues of climate policy and trade. With Trump’s stance against Paris Climate deal and his “America First” agenda, the discussions may not go down in her favour. Indonesian finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati in an interview to Reuters, said, “There is quite a delicate balance that Angela Merkel will have to navigate in a way, because it is not clear that being confrontational won’t just create even more of a credibility problem for G20 cooperation.”
What has happened before at other G-20 meetings?
While almost every G20 meeting witnesses protests, it has turned violent in few cases. In 2009, situations grew before the summit in London, after riot police charged down on a sit-down protest in city’s financial district before the summit. Around 4000 protesters had gathered at the spot. There were allegations of police brutality on protesters. Similar scenes were witnesses in Toronto in 2010 before the summit. In the largest mass arrest in the history of Canada, around 1000 protesters were arrested by the police and sent to detention centers.