Merkel un­der fire over vi­o­lence at the G20


BER­LIN: Ger­mans ex­pressed anger yes­ter­day over vi­o­lence that hit a G20 world lead­ers’ sum­mit in Hamburg, rais­ing awk­ward ques­tions for Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel less than three months be­fore an elec­tion.

About 20000 po­lice strug­gled to con­tain sev­eral hun­dred anti-cap­i­tal­ist mil­i­tants who torched cars, looted shops and hurled Molo­tov cock­tails and stones dur­ing the July 7-8 sum­mit. Tens of thou­sands more peo­ple demon­strated peace­fully.

Overall, 476 of­fi­cers suf­fered in­juries rang­ing from cuts and fire­work burns to eye dam­age from laser point­ers. Po­lice said yes­ter­day they had ar­rested 186 peo­ple and took 225 into cus­tody.

Ger­man news­pa­pers de­voted far more space to pic­tures of po­lice fir­ing wa­ter can­non onto hooded an­ar­chists and other protesters than they did to Merkel’s diplo­matic bal­anc­ing act with fel­low lead­ers of ma­jor world economies.

“Em­bar­rass­ment for Germany” was Tagesspiegel’s de­scrip­tion.

“The pic­tures of help­less po­lice who could not se­cure state or­der and pro­tec­tion of prop­erty are a po­lit­i­cal catas­tro­phe,” colum­nist Gerd Nowakowski wrote in the pa­per.

Top-sell­ing Bild am Son­ntag splashed pic­tures of masked an­ar­chists and politi­cians on its front page with the head­line “Crim­i­nals and Losers”. In­side, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist de­scribed the scenes as an ‘orgy of vi­o­lence’.

In­ter­na­tional me­dia have fo­cused more on US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s first meet­ing with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Vladimir Putin at the sum­mit, as well as Trump’s di­verg­ing views on cli­mate change and trade from those of the other lead­ers. Nev­er­the­less, an Em­nid poll showed that a ma­jor­ity of Ger­mans, 59%, be­lieved the ri­ots dam­aged the im­age of their coun­try – even though vi­o­lence has af­fected a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional meet­ings around the world over the years.

Merkel was forced to de­fend her choice of Hamburg, say­ing other cities, like Lon­don, had hosted sim­i­lar meet­ings.

Hamburg, a sea­port which is Germany’s sec­ond big­gest city, has a strong rad­i­cal left­ist tra­di­tion.

Merkel had wanted to demon­strate to G20 part­ners, in­clud­ing Putin and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan, her com­mit­ment to free­dom of speech and re­jected the no­tion that some cities were out of bounds as sum­mit venues.

The strat­egy has back­fired, said some com­men­ta­tors.

“I can barely breathe with anger be­cause Chan­cel­lor Merkel and Hamburg mayor (Olaf) Scholz triv­i­alise the bru­tal ri­ots as ‘not ac­cept­able’,” wrote a com­men­ta­tor in Bild am Son­ntag.

Be­hind heavy se­cu­rity, Merkel used her ne­go­ti­at­ing skills to forge a com­pro­mise be­tween a range of views.

She per­suaded lead­ers to agree on trade, en­ergy and Africa while ac­knowl­edg­ing dif­fer­ences with the US on cli­mate change.

She can also de­flect some of the anger which was di­rected at Scholz, a So­cial Demo­crat, for un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the risks. He has been widely cas­ti­gated for ap­pear­ing com­pla­cent be­fore the sum­mit, say­ing Hamburg was used to host­ing big events and that many res­i­dents would barely no­tice the gath­er­ing.

Scholz de­fend him­self, say­ing: “We did not un­der­es­ti­mate the dan­ger. It was not a mis­take to hold the sum­mit in Hamburg.” – Reuters


Ger­man riot po­lice walk to a fallen pro­tester dur­ing the demon­stra­tion at the G20 sum­mit in Hamburg, Germany.

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