With the focus on dramatic images of German riot police using tear gas and high-powered water cannons to disperse G20 protesters in Hamburg on July 6, the message from those demonstrating in the streets was clear for those willing to listen: a better world is possible.
Tens of thousands descend on Hamburg to protest the G20, an international forum for governments and central banks of 20 major economies. The protesters gathered to challenge policies put forth by Europe’s neoliberal elites and the far right.
As world leaders arrived, German officials were criticised for the intense security measures at the G20 Summit, which officially began on July 7.
Ahead of the mass demonstrations, the NoG20 International Coordination said: “The politics of neoliberalism and war is decided in the heart of our cities, closed off to citizens, protected by a militarised police force and backed up by the suspension of political rights.
“This shutting-down of democracy has one purpose only: to defend the indefensible. Our demonstrations speak for and of a different world.”
Ahead of the summit, officials established a 15-square-mile no-protest zone around the airport and convention centre, putting distance between world leaders and the thousands of people protesting the summit.
“It is very disturbing to know that some of the worst and most anti-democratic politicians will be coming to my city,” George Letts, one of many Hamburg residents who have joined protesters from around the globe, told The Guardian.
“A lot of people in the city want to show how democracy works as a sign to the Trumps, Erdogans and Putins of the world. But the hard restrictions by the local politicians and police authorities make it difficult to demonstrate.”
The BBC reported: “Clashes began when police charged a group of anti-capitalist demonstrators at the march attended by thousands carrying banners with slogans such as ‘Welcome to hell’ and ‘Smash G20’. They fired water cannon and pepper spray at masked protesters, who hurled bottles, stones and flares at police.”
“G20: Welcome to Hell” is a slogan claimed by a group of anti-globalisation activists — one of several groups that registered to demonstrate in Hamburg. The July 6 “Welcome to Hell” march was officially cancelled amid the clashes with law enforcement, but many remained in the streets. There were reports of injuries among police forces and protesters, many of whom have tried to flee demonstration areas following the violent encounters.
Peaceful protests were held in the preceding days, highlighting demonstrators’ urgent demands that G20 leaders end nationalist and neoliberal policies on war, immigration, environmental policy and a slate of other issues.
On July 5, 1000 “zombies” covered fully in grey clay, stumbling and crawling down Hamburg’s streets. These political zombies have popped up across the city in recent days, culminating in a march against “political apathy” and the “destructive impact of capitalism”.
For those who look past the violent videos flashing across televisions screens around the world, activists flooding Germany’s streets offer complex and provocative challenges to how global superpowers enact policies and press their agendas.
“For anyone with the ambition of constructing a true democratic politics beyond borders, the best ideas aren’t likely to come out of the official G20 Summit but to be found on the streets of Hamburg,” Lorenzo Marsili and Giuseppe Caccia wrote for Policy Critique.
“Today’s crisis of global governance also offers the chance to move beyond a system that never truly worked in the first place.”
Nick Dearden, of Global Justice Now, told Democracy Now! on July 6: “We’re talking about how to build an alternative world. The background noise is the noise of activism.
“And everybody here is extremely thoughtful. We’re having many debates about the kind of world that we actually want to see, as opposed to the G20 world that’s been created, and really [it is] a very vibrant mood.
“Of course people are scared. I mean, people are scared about what’s happening in the world today. The world is in chaos. And Trump is a kind of symbol of that. But at the same time, there’s more energy than I’ve seen for a very long time behind the idea that we need to build something else, something very different.”
[Abridged from Common Dreams.]