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G20 protests: Thousands take to the streets driven by anger at climate change, inequality and Trump

More than a hundred people have been injured thus far

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Saturday 08 July 2017 01:49 BST
G20 protest: 76 police officers injured in violent demonstration

Fires burned across downtown Hamburg at the end of a second day of protests where thousands took to the streets to demonstrate against the G20 summit.

There were clashes between the protesters, many venting their anger at politics and economic inequality, and some of the 20,000 police summoned from around Germany and deployed across the city – with police chief Ralf Martin Meyer having warned that officials were expecting “not just sit-in protests but massive assaults”.

Around 30 demonstrations gathered across Hamburg throughout the day, and by evening, some protesters torched cars, while others blasted music or set off firecrackers with the intention of disrupting a concert for G20 leaders at the Elbphilharmonie hall.

In the tourist area of Pferdemarkt, activists faced off against police in riot gear who were unable to put out fires, with billowing thick smoke dramatically reducing visibility.

In the nearby Schanzenviertel, looters plundered a supermarket. Nearby, a cash machine was burnt out. Several police helicopters patrolled overhead. Around midnight local time heavily armed police commandos moved into the district after activists had spent much of the day attempting to wrest control of the streets

The radical Black Bloc movement, which wants to overthrow capitalism, earlier had some success in disrupting the leaders’ discussions despite the ring of security around them.

These activists, donning black hoods and masks, set dozens of cars ablaze and tried to block leaders’ delegations from entering the grounds of the G20 summit, according to police.

Officers separated these anti-capitalist protestors from the rest of the relatively peaceful demonstrators in an effort to contain the damage.

Police said at least 196 officers were injured in the clashes across the city, with 83 protesters temporarily detained and 19 taken into custody.

The protests marred a summit that German authorities had hoped would showcase the country’s commitment to free speech and assembly. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the protests “unacceptable” with the police unable to prevent thousands of protesters fanning out across the city after finding security around the conference area tight.

Ms Merkel said: “I have every understanding for peaceful demonstrations, but violent demonstrations endanger human lives, they endanger people themselves, they put police officers and security forces in danger, put residents in danger, and so that is unacceptable.”

Not all the demonstrators are there to cause violence, however. Several people are there to for a peaceful demonstration regarding Mr Trump’s views on climate change and his withdrawal of the US – one of the world’s biggest polluters – from the Paris Agreement.

The accord was signed by nearly 200 countries in December 2015 in an effort to combat global warming and help poorer countries to adapt to an already-changed planet.

Greenpeace reported that some of the peaceful protesters were caught up in the violence as well.

German police use water cannons on G20 protest

Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, cancelled an appearance in downtown Hamburg on Friday morning due to security concerns. Police also declined to clear US first lady Melania Trump’s motorcade to leave her hotel for a tour of the city’s harbour, her spokeswoman said.

“Thinking of those hurt in #Hamburg protests. Hope everyone stay safe!” Ms Trump tweeted afterwards.

German justice minister Heiko Maas told the Bild newspaper that the violent protests were a disservice to the big crowd of overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrators.

Mr Maas characterised the violent protesters as “extremist criminals”, adding that “whoever torches cars and injures police officers does not deserve any kind of tolerance”.

As the summit was under way, Ms Merkel’s husband Joachim Sauer was set to host Ms Trump for a tour of the German Climate Computing Centre.

The facility, currently housed within the secure G20 venue, uses supercomputers to map climate change’s effects on regions across the world.

It may have been a bid by the chemistry professor to gain some influence over Mr Trump, however the event for all of the G20 leaders’ spouses was eventually cancelled .

Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo were also placed on “security lockdown” for some time due to the violence.

The difficulties outside venues were echoed by difficulties inside, with leaders set to meet again on Saturday to forge a consensus on trade and climate change that eluded them on the first day of their summit.

Negotiators “still have a great deal of work ahead of them” to formulate a passage on trade in the summit’s closing communique, Ms Merkel said after the first day of meetings.

She added that most participants called for “free but also fair trade” and underlined the significance of the World Trade Organisation, though she didn’t specify which ones did not support the trade language.

“The discussions are very difficult, I don’t want to talk around that,” Ms Merkel said.

The German leader said most summit participants backed the Paris climate accord, but there were obvious differences with the US.

“It will be very interesting to see how we formulate the communique tomorrow and make clear that, of course, there are different opinions in this area because the United States of America regrettably ... wants to withdraw from the Paris accord,” Ms Merkel said.

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