G20 Violence Prompts Calls For New Curbs On Anti-Capitalist Militants
Above Photo: Residents in the Schanzenviertel district of Hamburg pass by a pile of burned debris following looting and rioting by G20 protesters. Photograph: Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock
German politicians call for Europe-wide extremism database as minister says events highlight ‘leftwing scene’s readiness to use violence’
Allies of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, have called for new curbs on leftwing extremists, including a Europe-wide register, after her decision to hold the G20 world leaders’ summit in Hamburg ended in violent clashes and injuries to nearly 500 police officers.
The cost of the damage has not yet been established but is expected to run into millions of euros. Merkel, who faces a parliamentary election on 24 September, has said that Hamburg residents who suffered damage will be properly compensated.
Olaf Scholz, the mayor of Hamburg, meanwhile faced calls for his resignation over accusations he had mismanaged the summit.
Hundreds of anti-capitalist militants descended on the city torching cars, looting shops and throwing molotov cocktails. The violence dominated German media coverage of the event, which also featured the first meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
The German justice minister, Heiko Maas, of Merkel’s SPD coalition partners, said the federal government would put more money into preventing leftwing extremism as he pledged that no German city would ever have to host a world leaders’ summit again.
He told the tabloid Bild that the G20 had shown the reality of experts’ assessments that “Germany has reached a historic high point in terms of politically-motivated violence”. The fact that many of those ready to commit violence had come from abroad was an added incentive to setting up an extremism database, to which every European country should have access, he said.
Maas described the violent protesters as “antisocial hard criminals” who had “committed serious crimes in Hamburg, including attempted murder”.
The interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, claimed leftwing extremists had planned for more than a year for the G20 and “several hundred” people had been turned back after Germany tightened its border controls. “The events surrounding the G20 summit must be a turning point in our view of the leftwing scene’s readiness to use violence,” he said.
Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff, said the government would look at the possibility of closing down leftwing centres, such as the Rote Flora in Hamburg and the Rigaer Strasse commune in Berlin. “We will look closely as to which role those at Rote Flora played,” Altmaier said, adding there was evidence that “many of the crimes committed” were carried out by people linked to the centre.
Rote Flora invited demonstrators from across Europe but has distanced itself from the acts of violence.
Altmaier’s earlier appearance on a Sunday evening television show that analysed the G20 protests and sought to establish whom was to blame excited conspiracy theories after it went off air at the very moment when he was asked if Merkel accepted any responsibility. Programme-makers said a technical error had been to blame after screens remained blank for 10 minutes.
Police chiefs said 476 of the 20,000 officers at the G20 had suffered injuries including cuts and burns from fireworks and eye damage from laser pointers. Overall 186 people were arrested, and 225 taken into custody. Bild published pictures of some of the rioters on Monday asking readers who could identify them to contact police.
Patrick Paarman, a spokesman for Saxony-Anhalt’s police force, which sent hundreds of officers to the summit, said many of his officers were “astonished” by the violence.
“There were large numbers of violent people, whose main goal was to kill or injure police, or to cause maximum damage.” At least 100 of the officers involved were suffering from exhaustion, and Paarman predicted that some would need treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scholz, the Hamburg mayor, admitted that the city had been unprepared for such violence, despite having been organising the event for 18 months. He said he was in discussion with Merkel over how to deliver compensation to those who suffered personal injury or damage to their property, and he said he shared their anger.
But he said he stood by the decision to hold the summit. “It was not a mistake to hold this summit in Hamburg,” he said. “I don’t think that a brutal group of violent criminals from various countries, which is not even that big, should determine what can take place in democratic countries and in an open-minded city like Hamburg.”
Members of Merkel’s CDU meanwhile called for the temporary tightening of border controls that were put in place in the runup to the summit to remain permanently after the interior ministry said they had led to the unexpected capture of 673 criminals unconnected to the summit.