German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the violence during the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg as police broke up a rally of several thousand demonstrators with water cannon near the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, where leaders are attending a concert Friday evening.
The demonstration at the Landungsbruecken metro stop in Germany’s second-largest city was halted after black-clad protesters began throwing rocks at armored police. Groups including Block G-20 say they aim to blockade the Elbphilharmonie ahead of the performance, much as they staged roadblocks earlier in the day before G-20 leaders met.
The area around the concert house has become the latest flash point in a day of clashes, with police reporting ransacked storefronts, burning cars and Molotov cocktails being thrown at officers as Merkel welcomed leaders including President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin at a heavily-secured downtown convention center.
Hamburg police protecting the G-20 called for reinforcements to keep demonstrators at bay, as protesters delayed some of the leaders’ arrivals on Friday morning and prevented U.S. First Lady Melania Trump from leaving her residence. Window of the French delegation’s hotel were smashed.
“Violent demonstrations put lives at risk, they put the people’s own lives at risk, they endanger police officers and residents, so that is not acceptable.” Merkel said during a statement to update reporters on the progress of the Hamburg talks, thanking authorities for their “hard work” securing the event.
Hamburg Police President Ralf Martin Meyer, who requested an additional 900-1,000 cops to support the 17,000 already on the ground, characterized a radical group from the thousands of protesters as having a “blind lust for destruction.”
Earlier on Friday a large group of so-called Black Bloc protesters gathered in the St. Pauli district, where they also clashed with police. Groups of the anarchists split off and rampaged around the district’s main avenue, the red-light area known as the Reeperbahn. They used large stones to smash windows at a hotel housing the French delegation.
Trump was among the leaders whose arrival at the venue was delayed by blockades put up by demonstrators in the northern port city. Melania Trump, who was scheduled to attend a tour for leaders’ spouses, was held back as police refused to give her clearance to leave her accommodation, according to Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman. A plan for leaders’ spouses to visit a climate research center was canceled and instead turned into a lecture at a more secure location.
“The high level of criminal energy and the potential for violence that we saw this morning in Altona is shocking to everybody,” Hamburg’s state interior minister, Andy Grote, told reporters, referring to a neighborhood that was a protest flashpoint.
After police dispersed road blockades with water cannon earlier Friday near the summit venue in the Hamburg Messe congress center, Grote cited “massive attacks” by activists on police. Some 160 police have been injured, a few of them seriously, and around 60 people have been arrested, authorities said.
The mayhem added to tension on the first day of the gathering, where Trump held his first meeting with Putin. With helicopters buzzing overhead and the streets full of armored cars and police, traffic in the city of 1.7 million ground to a halt.
“The most important thing is that a lot of people came together with the same interests,” said Georg Kuemmel, a 54-year-old building administrator from Cologne and organizer for the Socialist Alternative, a left-wing platform for Germany’s anti-capitalist Left party. “We won’t be able to stop the summit. There’s an army of 20,000 police. We can’t do it. But I would say it’s been a success.”
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Patrick Donahue