Eyewitness Account from the Hamburg G20 Riot!
The Welcome to Hell demonstration presented a surprisingly festive and cheerful atmosphere, with people of all ages, colors and styles of dress, and body types singing and dancing together in front of the stage or picnicking in the shade. Speakers from Mexico, Russia, the United States, and other G20 nations addressed the crowd between musical performances. The authorities had worked hard to spread fear about the “violent anarchists” coming to Hamburg, but this effort clearly failed to drive a wedge between the average residents of Hamburg and the demonstrators.
When the program concluded, several sound trucks playing a variety of revolutionary music moved through the crowd to the front of the march, followed by one affinity group after another, participants pulling on black rain jackets and gloves over their colorful summer clothing. Line after line after line formed; different groups have been signing up to form the front of this demonstration for months, to ensure that it would be well-organized.
Yet no matter how many groups of police deployed in the area, there were always more spectators and demonstrators behind them. Everyone had been afraid that the Welcome to Hell demonstration would be completely kettled, that the participants had no chance of getting out of the square where it was to begin. On one side was the river, on the other side, thick lines of riot police with every kind of weapon at their disposal. Indeed, the police had surrounded the march, but they themselves were now surrounded by sympathetic bystanders.
Finally, the police attacked the demonstration, shooting tear gas canisters directly into the middle of the march without provocation. People in the march responded by keeping the riot police at a distance under a hail of projectiles. Spectators began to boo and jeer at the cowardly action of the police. Huge clouds of tear gas were rising from the Hafenstrasse, causing spectators to cough and choke all along the terraces. The continuous explosion of tear gas grenades lent a grim atmosphere to the scene.
The crowds outside the main lines of police became more and more restless. Some participants in the main black bloc managed to get out of the trap and move into the side streets where the spectators had massed. People were moving more and more quickly now, affinity groups fanning out to see what routes were controlled by police. The police had bargained that they would be able to surround and control the crowd, but it was spilling out of their zone of control.
A full block away, on the Reeperbahn, the crowds were getting thicker and thicker. Suddenly, a black bloc march of hundreds appeared, which had somehow managed to retain or rescue a full-power sound system blasting techno music! The street filled with demonstrators, who set out at a swift pace moving away from the zone of police control.
Another full city block away, barricades were already burning, as additional smaller marches and affinity groups fanned out into the neighborhood, spreading chaos and freedom to the whole city. The police had lost control of Hamburg.
Meanwhile, amazingly, despite the charges of the riot police and the shower of tear gas greenades, the Welcome to Hell march managed to continue forward on the original route, with a 1000-person black bloc slowly pushing the police back before them.
Standoff between police and protesters
Police in full riot gear blocked the demonstration with water canons before it even started. They are calling for press and people to leave the space and for people to unmask. New water cannons, armored vehicles, and other police cars arriving on the scene. They are obviously escalating the situation before the demonstration even starts.
Police still refuse to let demonstration of more than 12,000 people pass, blocking it from both sides with four water cannons and enormous amount of riot cops. At its head is a huge black bloc. People are loud: this is our city!Germany has deployed over 20,000 police officers from all over the country (and other EU states) to the city of Hamburg. This city with a long history of militant protest and a massive autonomous and anarchist scene has been chosen to serve as a testing ground for new forms of urban warfare. Germany declared a state of emergency against its own population, nervously anticipating a conflict of apocalyptic scale—the kind of conflict that would justify the further strengthening of police state, including stricter anti-terrorist laws and further repression of free communication and autonomous spaces as potential centers of subversive activity.Walking around Hamburg over the past few days, the only nervous element in the city is the occupying police force. Despite the police deploying every twelfth officer in the country to Hamburg, brutally suppressing campers who sought to sleep in parks, using water cannons to attack people partying on the corner in their neighborhood, and assaulting dancers in Wednesday night’s street party, the residents of Hamburg refuse to give up the streets of their city.As a consequence of their fear, the police have flooded the media with scaremongering reports about how the autonomous scene from other cities and countries is mobilizing around the G20 summit, in hopes of spreading fear about international militants. They have publicized dubious stories about homemade weapons found in cities around Hamburg and explained that they will be forced to respond with violence when 8000 violent protesters supposedly attack them tonight.When we hear police projecting violence on protesters ahead of a demonstration, we can be sure that this means that the police are planning to be violent. Their advance coverage is aimed at creating a situation in which people will believe them to be justified in attacking crowds with brutal force, both in the demonstration and throughout the city, where the only possible response of the locals will be self-defense.However, the police have not anticipated that with nearly 8% of German’s officers concentrated in Hamburg, other cities are lacking their most highly trained personnel. That opens up opportunities for people in those cities to express solidarity with their comrades on the streets of Hamburg and also to advance their local struggles.For instance, yesterday, in the city of Wuppertal, activists prevented the deportation of 38 refugees. The deportation bus was forced to leave empty after the police failed to stop a spontaneous demonstration.As the numbers at the Welcome to Hell demonstration in downtown Hamburg rise, it is important to remember what is at stake. On one hand, it is important to come to the St. Pauli Fischmarkt and show that we are strong, refusing to give in to the police tactic of intimidation—not just for the sake of the #noG20 efforts, but above all because the whole world is watching to see how strong our response will be to the militarized policing of the world leaders. Decentralized actions will only work if the main action concentrates enough force to open space for them.However, while people come together at the Welcome to Hell demonstration, this does indeed open space for people to take action elsewhere in Hamburg, Germany, and the world. The more unpredictable we are, the more space we operate in at once, the harder it is to control us. It is easier to contain 30,000 people at a protest that has been announced in advance than it is to keep up with demonstrations and actions spread all around the city and country.
There are several solidarity actions announced all over Germany and the world. You could go out and carry out a spontaneous solidarity action right now, connecting the global struggle against the G20 to your local context. Comrades, we are counting on you.
Police attacked the Welcome to Hell demonstration on the St. Pauli Haffenstrasse. Protesters are defending themselves by throwing pyrotechnics and projectiles at them. The police are using water cannons and tear gas, causing some members of the crowd to stampede while trapped in s narrow street. Several people are lying on the ground unconscious.
Thousands of people are regathering (and being stopped by police) in a spontaneous demonstration in the bay of Hamburg district of St. Pauli after police used brutal force on the original demonstration. Police violence is sparking further revolt. We are looking at a long night ahead. In about 20 minutes, a solidarity demonstration against police violence in Berlin will start.
Following the dispersal of the demonstration at Heffenstrasse, the black bloc is pushing back the cops, who are calling backup for water cannons and threaten to disperse the crowd. The demonstration with several thousand people is now trying to continue on the original route. There is a spontaneous demonstration at Nobistor against police violence of about 1,500 people. There are smaller clashes around the city of Hamburg. Several cars are burning in St. Pauli district. Reports are coming in about severely injured demonstrators.
Hamburg won’t give up/Fighting for Police Free Zones!
Holstenstrasse remains the epicenter of resistance. Protestors have constructed barricades up and down the street. Each time the police try to drive by, they’re greeted with a shower of glass bottles. The cops don’t dare to stop.
In the mean time, protestors clash with police in front of Rote Flora, one of the oldest autonomous spaces in Hamburg, as well as at another demonstration stopped at Maxx-Brauer-Alee.
Protestors struggle to defend police-free zones as the cops continue to attack. Massive numbers of police are in the intersection by the Rote Flora. There is a steady sound of breaking glass. The cops are at war with the whole population of Hamburg now.
Whose streets? Our streets!
After forcing water cannons off Holstenstrasse, people are chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Police pushed back…
In typical Hamburg fashion, riots have erupted all over the city. In Pferdemarkt, where police used water cannons and teargas two nights ago, protestors set up barricades, but police have managed to temporarily clear the streets. In Reeperbahn, a massive and spontaneous rave has been attacked by police. Several thousand people pushed through from Nobistor to Holstenstrasse and are now on Max – Brauer – Allee.