Opinion: Political Chaos Takes Over Germany

Car destroyed in first night of G20 protests // Photo By Frank Schwichtenberg

By Maxine Diehl
BU News Service

Claiming to fight against fascism, capitalism and police violence, demonstrators rallied in Hamburg, Germany before the G20 could begin on July 7.

The goal of the movement, shared under the hashtag #NoG20 , was to “disrupt or even prevent the G20 conference, prohibit the glitz and glamour and disturb the hypocritical happy pictures”.

Most locals, my family and I included, expected little action from the group and remained calm in the days leading up to the conference. However, the allegedly peaceful “Welcome to Hell” demonstrators turned to violence almost immediately the night before the summit, as can be seen in YouTube videos documenting the protest.

1,000 demonstrators had masked their faces so they could later not be identified, which is against the law in Germany and in total over 12,000 people joined to attack the police, according to German news outlet Norddeutscher Rundfunk . They were reportedly throwing glass bottles, bricks and firecrackers and injured at least 111 police officers.

During the following days, news outlets like the Hamburger Abendblatt reported that cars were set on fire and houses and stores were broken into and demolished. Demonstrators set fires on big roads and intersections. The mood inside the city drastically changed from excitement to fear. News outlets labeled the situation as “anarchy.”

The police live tweeted their attempts to take control of the numerous situations, Hamburg called for reinforcements and special units from all over the country, but riots kept forming. Schools and universities suspended classes, public transport was partially halted, stores nailed boards against the insides of their windows and doors, offices were closed and many people who could left the city for the weekend.

The city was split into deathly silence and loud chaos. Our street was one of those silent areas, no more cars stood on the street and no one dared to step outside. Claims that the G20 was a waste of our country’s money or that it supported violence seemed hypocritical at best in the face of the violence and destruction being used to demonstrated against it.

On Sunday, after all politicians had left, the city’s residents joined to clean up the torn apart city, in an attempt to show the world that Germany was united.

When I look back at the women’s marches, marches for science or for the LGBTQ+ community that the U.S. has had these past months and how peaceful those protests were, I am flabbergasted by the behavior of a nation which has openly mocked the US for its political chaos. It is terrifying to see how little it takes for a city to lose control.

The money used to protect and repair the city, could have been dedicated to supporting people who are in desperate need for help, such as those in Syria. The journalistic efforts, instead of having to be dedicated to the violent demonstrations, could have been focused on what the G20 summit was doing or failing to do in order to help the world.

Instead a privileged city like Hamburg, had to waste all this money and energy for futile violence. One can only hope that the conference was worth it.

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