An anti-G20 rally in Hamburg has erupted into a violent confrontation between police and protesters. Officers were attacked by rioters and responded with pepper spray and water cannons. Sporadic clashes on the streets of the German city continued into the night.
“There have been offenses committed by smaller groups [but] we now have the situation under control… I was there myself, I’ve seen nothing like that before,” Hamburg police spokesman Timo Zill told German broadcaster ZDF.
The march started off relatively peacefully as activists marched through the streets, chanting slogans and holding banners. It’s not clear who or what exactly triggered the fighting, but several loud bangs were heard, followed by bottles being thrown in the direction of riot police which had assembled nearby.
Police used pepper-spray on rioting protesters.
Water cannons were deployed by authorities and several people appear to be injured as a number of people have been seen on the ground or with bloody faces being led away by police.
At the start of the skirmish organizers appealed for calm, as a voice over the loudspeaker asked protesters to refrain from throwing bottles.
Footage from the scene at some point showed columns of green and orange smoke rising above the crowds.
According to RT’s correspondent on the scene, Peter Oliver, one of the protesters grievances was that they received no clear directives from the police as to where they were allowed to march and so found themselves kettled by officers in riot gear once they took a few steps.
“They are macing everyone,” one witness at the scene told RT. “As far as I could tell, they were attacking the demonstration with no reason.”
“I’m from Hamburg, [and] I’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve had fights about squatted houses and all that, [but] I’ve never seen anything like that. The aggression, as far as I could tell, the purposelessness… my face hurts, I’ve got mace and everything, this is unbelievable.”
The Welcome to Hell march is taking place one day before the G20 summit kicks off in Hamburg.
Police have estimated around 12,000 people attended the march. Earlier, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said there was a hard-core of 8,000 leftist militants who were ready to use violence.
According to an official police statement, the trouble began when officers tried to separate aggressive black-bloc militants from peaceful protesters at the St. Pauli Fish Market but were met with bottles, poles and iron bars, prompting them to use justifiable force.
As a result of the violence organizers have declared the protest over, but it appears as though thousands of activists and protesters remain on the streets, facing down police armed with batons, water cannons and pepper spray, and fighting is continuing.
This is not the first violent incident to have erupted in the run-up to the G20 summit. Police also responded to a Tuesday protest which turned violent and on Wednesday night, a Porsche dealership was targeted in an arson attack which resulted in eight luxury cars being destroyed.
Over 15,000 more officers deployed to Hamburg from across the country to deal with any unrest, as well as specialist vehicles such as armoured cars, water cannons and helicopters.
Protests have been banned from Hamburg’s inner city and on roads leading to the airport. Activists have accused Hamburg authorities of suppressing their right to legitimate protest, but the city says it can take no chances with the safety of the thousands of foreign delegates who will attend the G20, including world leaders such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Justin Trudeau.
Fearful of rioting, local people are avoiding the city center. Businesses have boarded up their windows and some have stuck anti-G20 posters to their doors, to avoid being the target of anti-capitalist rioters.