Protests in Hamburg  

Sonia Taleb writes from Germany describing the atmosphere and plans for protests in Hamburg prior to the G-20 Summitto start from today, there

Participants of the protest against G20 Summit demonstrate on an inflatable boat wearing masks with the likeness of world leaders_Axel Heimken_AP

There are two types of people in Hamburg right now.The first kind is taking days off from work or leaving Hamburg for the period of time or at least laying low.Thesecond group is preparing themselves for the planned protests events as the city braces for the G-20 summits. Among other things, the speculations about where US President Trump will be staying were also talk of the town for a short period of time when the luxurious Fairmont Hotel Four Seasons made the headlines in April by refusing Trump and his delegate’s accommodation during the summit for unknown reasons.  Now, he will be staying at the guest house of Hamburg Senate.

Group of Twenty, mostly known as G-20, is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from the major twenty economies of the world.  Founded in 1999, it aims to promote international financial stability and maintain global economic governance. One of the major criticisms of G20 is its exclusivity of the membership. Even though it includes two-third of the world population through the member states, it has been heavily criticised for underrepresenting the African continent, with only South Africa being a member. Other than France and Germany, the rest of Europe is being represented by European Union, therefore, the non-EU members like Norway and Switzerland also do not have any representation. Other criticisms include undemocratic nature of the closed door talks, signed treaties like CETA and TTIP which basically reduce the regulatory barriers in favour of big businesses, and the lack of legitimacy as G-20 is a self-appointed group without any permanent secretariat. The agendas are determined each year by the rotating chair so they can swing easily.

Naturally, when it comes to the protests surrounding G-20 summit venue, it ranges from pro-environment to human rights issues. The groups organising against G-20 are often considered as left-leaning, pro-environment and for social justice. It is no different this year, when the summit is taking place in Hamburg.

According to a Deutsche Welle report published on July 3, Hamburg is bracing itself for more than 100,000 protesters during the week. Apart from the pro-environment and pro-development protests, there will be LGBT demonstrations against Putin, protests against Human Rights violations in Kashmir and pro-Kurdistan rally. The German headquarter of the biggest pro-environment non-profit Greenpeace is in Hamburg, giving them a perfect opportunity to push the member states to take pro-environment agendas like stop global warming, plastic free oceans, end coal shipment etc.  As Trump pulled his country out the Paris Climate Agreement, Greenpeace calls the other members of G-20 to take concrete steps to make him realise that climate protection is non-negotiable. Like Greenpeace, other non-violent supporters, mostly from the well-known international NGOs and the German Trade Union Confederation are viewing the summit in Hamburg as an opportunity to press for significant political change to foster democracy, end social injustice, better protection for climate and fair global trade regime worldwide.

Thousands protest in Germany ahead of the G20 summit_John MacDougall_AFP

With G-20 summits just a few days away, protesters from all over the world have started gathering in the beautiful port city of Hamburg. The city has been busy with different mode of protests, ranging from street protests to holding alternative seminars. The protesters are often allowed to take to the streets here, and it will continue to be like so.

Most of the organisationsare considered as non-violent protesters, there is also concern about some 4,000 protesters from a few extreme left-wing organisations, who are known for use of violence. There are several left-wing quarters in the city, the one called ‘the Schanzenviertel’ is the most famous among all of them, also considered as the most politicised part of the town. It is just few metres away from the conference area, therefore, there are concerns of the quarter being a clashing spot of the police and the protesters.

To me, the place represents something else. The walls there are covered with the posters of anti G-20 events and very thoughtful graffiti. I have to be there every Friday and when I walk to the nearby subway station, I often find myself feeling the vibe of the place, the eagerness of the hopeful residents to do something in order to change the system often makes me doubtful about the main stream media’s representation of the area as a rather troubled zone.

The first violent protest took place on Sunday when the police prevented protesters from setting up camps in the city park for their accommodation, which resulted in firing tear shells, arrests and several others being injured prior to the G-20. To deal with such protesters, mobile courts and a temporary detention center with a capacity of 400 people have also been set up.15,000 police have been deployed all over the city for the summit. In addition to the areas close to the convention venue, they are also deployed at each and every subway station. The otherwise excellent public transportation system of the city has already been affected and will continue to limit its services as the summit nears specially in the city centreduring the summit. I encountered more ticket checkers in past few weeks in the buses or trains than in past few years. I have also witnessed police literally going door to door distributing leaflets and talking to the business owners about changes in public services that will take place during the summit. Most of the shops, schools and offices near the conference area will be closed.

Unlike many other residents of the city, the presence of this high number of police neither makes me uncomfortable, nor do the increasing number of demonstrations. The fact that so many demonstrations have been planned and so many people believe in their causes, seems to have had a significant impact on an apolitical person like me to join one of them, an organisation fighting for social justice. Nothing may change in the near future, but one can always hope for it.







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