US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin shake hands dur­ing a meet­ing on the side­lines of the G20 sum­mit on Fri­day.

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Rag­ing street bat­tles that marred Ger­many’s G20 sum­mit have sparked a po­lit­i­cal fight over how Hamburg could de­scend into “mob rule” and why Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel chose a hot­bed of left­ist mil­i­tancy as the venue. Ger­many’s top-sell­ing Bild daily was with­er­ing in its con­dem­na­tion of the chaos that saw far-left and an­ar­chist rad­i­cals torch rows of cars, loot shops and hurl rocks and bot­tles from burn­ing bar­ri­cades at riot po­lice.

“One should use with cau­tion the words ‘fail­ure of the state’. Sadly, it ap­plies in Hamburg,” the news­pa­per thun­dered Satur­day, slam­ming the sum­mit as a “de­ba­cle”. “Of course the po­lice did all it could. But the street be­longed to the mob. The feel­ing of gen­eral se­cu­rity that the state must guar­an­tee has ceased to ex­ist in Hamburg over the last 48 hours.”

The harsh crit­i­cism came as 20,000 po­lice in the city where Merkel was born braced for a third day of protests against the meet­ing where she hosted US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin and other world lead­ers. Just be­hind the tightl­y­se­cured G20 sum­mit venue, charred road bar­ri­cades, trashed shops and stones, de­bris and shat­tered glass bore tes­ti­mony to an an­ar­chic night, when po­lice com­man­does with semi-au­to­matic weapons de­tained mil­i­tants who hurled rocks from rooftops. “The ter­ri­ble mes­sage of Hamburg is: When the mob wants to rule, it will,” said Bild.

‘De­struc­tion across city’

One po­lice union blamed Merkel and Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz for al­low­ing the chaos, which left over 200 po­lice and as yet un­known num­bers of protesters in­jured, and for choos­ing the city in the first place. “The politi­cians carry the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for the many in­jured po­lice of­fi­cers and the de­struc­tion across the city,” the union’s Hamburg chair­man Jan Rei­necke told news weekly Der Spiegel.

Crit­i­cism also came from Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive camp, with Bavar­ian CSU politi­cian Hans-Peter Uhl charg­ing that “the G20 sum­mit should never have been held in a city of mil­lions like Hamburg. Se­cu­rity is way too dif­fi­cult to con­trol there.” Merkel’s gov­ern­ment had long ar­gued that it chose the north­ern port city, which dubs it­self Ger­many’s cos­mopoli­tan “Gate­way to the world”, be­cause it sym­bol­ised G20 core val­ues from open trade to an in­ter­na­tion­al­ist out­look. Rather than choose a re­mote ru­ral lo­ca­tion, as has been the norm in re­cent years, G20 lead­ers would show they are not a power elite that hides away from the peo­ple. Some also saw the G20 sum­mit, years in the plan­ning, as a dress-re­hearsal as Hamburg bid for the 2024 Olympics-an ef­fort the peo­ple of Hamburg later tor­pe­doed in a ref­er­en­dum. Fi­nally, there was the ques­tion of lo­gis­tics, of­fi­cials ex­plained: no coun­try­side re­treat, is­land or cruise ship is big enough to host a mega-event with over 10,000 del­e­gates.

‘Worst fears come true’

Signs of loom­ing trou­ble ap­peared late last year as stick­ers and posters went up on walls that vowed to “Smash G20” and promised a “Wel­come to Hell”-the ti­tle of the first protest last Thurs­day that quickly de­te­ri­o­rated into street clashes. They point to Hamburg’s dual iden­tity, both a wealthy and leafy port city and a decades-old hot­bed of left­ist ac­tivists home to fa­mous for­mer squats like the Hafen­strasse and Rote Flora. Some 30 sep­a­rate anti-G20 ral­lies have ranged from peace­ful marches and street par­ties with thump­ing techno beats to non­vi­o­lent road block­ades and boat protests-to the ugli­est vi­o­lence that flared af­ter night­fall. The protest coali­tion BlockG20, which holds G20 lead­ers re­spon­si­ble for ills from war and poverty to climate change, hailed it all “a vic­tory”, hav­ing de­layed del­e­ga­tions and trapped US First Lady Me­la­nia Trump in a lake­side res­i­dence for hours. They also ac­cused po­lice of ex­ces­sive vi­o­lence, with spokesman Chris­tian Blank say­ing “po­lice beat us, at­tacked us with pep­per spray and wa­ter can­non, but de­spite the vi­o­lence of state power, we did not give up”.

“The streets be­long to the protesters, not the sum­mit,” de­clared the coali­tion’s Jana Sch­nei­der. Spiegel On­line judged that Merkel, who faces elec­tions on Septem­ber 24, “must re­al­ize that it is mostly pic­tures of burn­ing cars and black-clad rad­i­cals that will be re­mem­bered from the G20 sum­mit”. “Many had warned against host­ing such a huge event in a ma­jor city with a left-wing rad­i­cal scene. Now the worst fears have come true-and a dark shadow has been cast over the sum­mit shortly be­fore the na­tional election.”



HAMBURG: Protesters hold a ban­ner read­ing “cap­i­tal­ism can­not be healed by peo­ple but bat­tled” dur­ing the “sol­i­dar­ity with­out bor­ders in­stead of G20” demon­stra­tion yes­ter­day in Hamburg, north­ern Ger­many as world lead­ers meet dur­ing the G20 sum­mit.

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