Suppressing democracy: German police exercise


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

World Socialist Web Site

WSWS : News & Analysis : Europe : Germany
Asia-Europe summit in Hamburg
Germany: Huge police deployment in run-up to G8 summit
By our reporter
31 May 2007

German politicians and security forces used the Asia-Europe summit (ASEM) held 
in the northern German city of Hamburg last weekend for a massive police 
mobilisation against demonstrators. The summit, which brought together 27 
European and 16 Asian foreign ministers for discussion over environmental 
policies, was deliberately used by the German authorities as a ³dress rehearsal²
for the G8 summit due to take place next week at the Baltic Sea resort of 

The provocative action of the Hamburg police led to indignant reactions by both 
globalisation protesters and sections of the Hamburg population. The massive 
police deployment made a mockery of the democratic right to assembly. Following 
a series of nationwide raids by police on March 9, it was clear that this latest
heavy-handed police action was aimed exclusively at intimidating and 
criminalising critics and opponents of the G8 summit. Central Hamburg had been 
the scene of a large-scale police raid on March 9.

The press at the weekend sought to spread panic with reports of between 1,000 
and 2,000 ³violent rioters² poised to commit violent acts. Prior to the action, 
Hamburg Interior Senator Udo Nagel (independent) had warned the authorities 
would adopt a ³zero tolerance² approach to what was in fact a quite legal 

On Sunday and Monday, large parts of the city centre were hermetically sealed 
off and made inaccessible to tourists and shoppers. Squads of heavily armed 
police with water cannon and armoured cars supervised the barriers at the town 
hall square and other central places. Bus and metro traffic was rerouted or 
blocked off. Buses were not allowed to stop at city centre stops, and passengers
were not allowed to exit there.

For a period of three days, columns of police cars flashing blue lights and 
sounding their sirens raced through the city. The demonstration‹held under the 
slogan ³Gate to global resistance‹against the G-8 and European Union summit²‹was
only permitted to assemble at a great distance from the summit itself, and 
protesters were only allowed to march along completely empty streets. The 
estimated 6,000 peaceful demonstrators were escorted and virtually encircled by 
several thousand heavily armed police marching in rows alongside the protesters.

The organisers eventually dissolved the demonstration prematurely at a spot that
was closest to the summit meeting place, as the protesters were not prepared to 
march through a completely empty city centre while surrounded by police. The 
organisers had already been forbidden from holding a rally in front of the city 
hall by a high court decree. The Hamburg chief of police had justified this 
restriction of the right to assembly and free speech with the argument that any 
rally in front of the city hall endangered the summit.

After the dissolution of the demonstration, participants sought to disperse but,
according to organisers, were then restrained by the Hamburg police who formed a
chain encircling the protesters. Coming after previous police provocations and 
intimidation in the city, tempers rose amongst some young demonstrators.

Confrontations took place between police and protesters in which bottles and 
bags of paint were tossed. Some demonstrators then set up barricades in front of
the old theatre building Rota Flora, which had been raided by police on March 9.
Violent scuffles took place resulting in injuries to a number of protesters. 
Several hundred anarchists then used tables and benches to set up barricades, 
which they set on fire.

The police then advanced on the protesters with water cannon and batons. 
According to police reports, 120 demonstrators were arrested and 179 police 
officials were injured. No figures were released on the number of injured 
demonstrators. A total of 150 policemen were alleged to have suffered eye 
irritation following the supposed use of tear gas by protesters. One policeman 
drew his pistol, but explained he was merely acting in ³self-defence.²

In fact, it is a wonder that there were not more casualties, bearing in mind the
overheated atmosphere following the police provocation. Following the 
well-publicised brutality by Italian security forces at the G-8 protest held in 
Geneva in June 2001, one demonstrator‹Carlo Guiliani‹died at the hands of the 

The speaker for the Hamburg police spoke of an extremely successful deployment, 
and the city¹s mayor, Ole von Beust, also praised the police. Interior Senator 
Nagel declared: ³The tactics of the police were correct. It was possible to 
successfully protect the ASEM guests and citizens of Hamburg against acts of 

The police trade union (Union of Police) also expressed its satisfaction with 
the brutal police operation. ³With very many police, and an extensive 
deployment, we were able to ensure security‹at least with regard to the taking 
place of the demonstration,² was the comment by Police Union Chief Konrad 
Freiburg. ³One can say that the police deployment was successful,² he said.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, who hosted the ASEM conference,
also expressed his agreement with the suppression of the democratic right to 
free speech, while at the same time playing down the imperialist nature of the 
EU-Asia conference and the upcoming G8 summit. ³Why should one demonstrate 
against a conference at which Europeans and Asians attempt to draw attention to 
different centres of conflict in the world?² he asked.

Steinmeier added that it was ³an obligation in a situation where there are so 
many conflicts in the world to seek out partners for a solution to such 
conflicts.² It was a ³great success² that so many had sat down together in 
Hamburg and exchanged their opinions on ³centres of conflict,² such as the wars 
in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said. ³That has its own value, and we should defend 
it also against those who criticise, even though they may not be fully aware of 
what we are doing here,² Steinmeier explained.

Predictably, Steinmeier made absolutely no mention of the economic policies and 
aggressive military policies of the leading G8 countries, which are instrumental
in bringing about such ³centres of conflict.²

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