Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her decision to host the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, after violent clashes marred the gathering and dark smoke clouds rose from the Schanzenviertel. But what did the rioters want?
Scenes of chaos, looting and burning cars have played out live on television screens worldwide since Thursday, raising questions about the demands of the black-clad and masked rioters who essentially claim to have the same goals as the current German government: Open borders and unlimited migration.
Katja Kipping, co-chairwoman of the Left party, told the demonstrators on Saturday at a march that police estimated about 50 000 people for the “Solidarity Without Borders” protest, while organisers put the number at more than 75 000.
Merkel said her government would compensate businesses for property damage in the wake of looting and rioting by Antifa activists, as violent clashes left more than 200 police injured and some 260 protesters being detained. Merkel is running for re-election in September, for a fourth term.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the unchained violence and unrestrained brutality that the police faced repeatedly during the G-20,” Merkel told Bloomberg as police dogs barked in the background and helicopters buzzed overhead. “Apparently, there are people who have no interest in the issues and instead go on a rampage of blind destruction in their own neighbourhood. Tough police measures are the only response to that.”
The German police was not amused. One officer asked the chancellor point blank if she felt the summit was even worth the trouble. Germany’s anti-capitalist Left party, Turkish and Kurdish dissident groups, and labor and environmental organisations, all joined in the marches.
Police said some 500 assailants looted a supermarket. Rioters were seen breaking into shops and stealing goods. Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff, described the riots as “terror”. Altmaier tweeted on Saturday: “The left extremist terror in Hamburg was disgusting and as bad as terror by right-wing extremists and Islamists.” But there has been zero terror reported by “right-wing extremists”.
Leftists burning, looting and taking selfies
Instead German troops had been warned in an internal memo that “violent” attacks by left-wing groups were a high probability at last week’s G-20 summit.
“The greatest concern of the military is currently the use of dozens of stun drones of the demonstrators,” Der Spiegel reported. “According to internal analyzes, they could try to fly over the Elbphilharmonie [concert hall] or the meeting place with a swarm of commercial drones. Even if the drones are not armed, this would seriously interfere with the process.”
US President Donald Trump has been described by Hans-Georg Maassen, who heads the German secret service, the Verfassungsschutz, as a ushering in “right-wing extremism”. Trump had his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, while almost 20 000 police actually tried to quell… leftwing violence.
Last year Maassen told Reuters in an interview: “The right-extremist scene is networking on a European level, and in some cases, with connections in the United States.” But there was no sign of such groups present in Hamburg.
“The brutality, with the extremely violent chaos in Hamburg yesterday and the day before, is incomprehensible and outrageous,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, calling for the prosecution of those involved. “They are not protesters, they are criminals.” But the “criminals” have stated clearly that they have a political goal: Open borders and the accompanying lawlessness.
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