After the two latest trouble-free G20 summits in Turkey and China, Germany's Hamburg prepares to host the most important international political event of the year amid violent protests and extra security measures. The extent of Hamburg's security measures ahead of the upcoming G20 summit is of crucial importance, in the context of Hamburg's history of Leftist tendencies and strong activist presence.
Of the approximately 100,000 people expected to show up at the largest protest, the city is going to become a sort of warzone.
The slogan "G20: Welcome to Hell" is being used by anti-globalization activists who registered to hold the protests ahead of the summit. Protesters from Europe's violent left-wing scene have been tracking known activists coming in from all over Europe who are expected to participate in the demonstrations.
"We are calling on the world to make Hamburg a focal point of resistance against the former and new capitalist authorities," said protest organizers, who have ties to the Rote Flora squat, a center for radical leftists where police have clashed frequently with protesters. The site is a short walk from where the leaders will be meeting.
In the weeks leading up to the summit, attacks have already begun, with police cars being burned, train lines sabotaged and authorities in Hamburg and the nearby city of Rostock having confiscated improvised weapons like fire extinguishers filled with flammable liquid, material to build gasoline bombs, baseball bats and other items in several raids.
In a preview of things to come, police clashed Tuesday night in Hamburg with hundreds of protesters, using pepper spray and water cannons to eventually bring the crowd under control.
Several protesters had set up camps in a local park that had been approved as a point for assembly but overnight camping was disallowed, prompting police to clear out the encampments. Despite being warned by the police not to set up tents, about 600 people had set up camp in a local park that had been cleared for the assembly of protesters but not for an overnight encampment, which forced authorities to intervene, clearing out the encampment and using pepper spray.
German security officials are preparing for the worst, drawing upon decades of experience dealing with violent May Day demonstrations and other protests at major events, including the G7 in 2015 and G8 in 2007. In addition to the no-protest zone, tightly secured transit corridors are set up to ensure that convoys will be able to keep moving lest they become a target for violent demonstrators or terrorists if they are stopped.
As part of the expanded security measures, Hamburg has bolstered its police force with reinforcements from around the country and will have 20,000 officers on hand to patrol the city's streets, skies and waterways. Of those who are on-hand, Germany's counterterror GSG9 force will receive assistance from Austria's counterpart Cobra and specialists from the Netherlands and other European countries, Meyer said. They will be stationed around the city in strategic locations to help protect the summit's expected 6,500 participants from any attack.
Local residents are reportedly not very amused at the fact that the G20, which causes major disruptions to daily life, is taking place in the city and not in a remote location. With restriction of access to several areas, kilometers of barbed wire fencing and some 15,000 police officers, life in Hamburg has yet again become quite dysfunctional.