Policemen and water canons block the road to the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, 7 July 2017. Boris Roessler/Press Association. All rights reserved. Hamburg was a brave choice. Recent G20 summits have been hosted on
remote islands or in castles deep in the countryside, out of the way of
activists and media.
Hamburg is a well-connected city with a rich history of protest. Other cities that hosted G20
and G8 summits saw huge protests and state repression and violence. Genoa in
2001, Seattle in 2008, London in 2009 or Toronto in 2010 were the scenes of
widespread arrests and injuries. A protestor died in Genoa. Policing
methods introduced in London were later found to be unlawful. The mass
arrests of demonstrators, bystanders and journalists in Toronto were strongly
criticised by human rights organisations.
The majority of the tens of
thousands of people who headed to Hamburg wanted
to demand international solidarity and to condemn wars and border-walls. They
had a sobering stay.
Many had no experience of earlier
protests against the G20 and the G8. Even before the riots that followed the Welcome
to Hell demonstration, civil liberties and constitutional rights were stripped
away. Faced with a police strategy of intimidation and harassment, people found
themselves in a city under siege:
All in all, human rights defenders were alarmed.
journalists and lawyers, as well as activists themselves were targeted. Authorities
worked to control the narrative, using the escalating violence as an excuse to
put the city under siege.
Activists were lucky to find
themselves in a city with a long and proud tradition of solidarity. The people
of Hamburg opened their doors, homes, gardens and churches when protestors
looked for a place to sleep, shower or get medical treatment. But demonstrators
cannot always be so fortunate as to count on such a home advantage.
Democratic space is
shrinking almost everywhere. Civil society organisations are sounding the
alarm. A wider
pattern of repression is happening around the globe. More and more cities
and countries see strategic campaigns to criminalize protests – including
severe costs for individuals who dissent (jobs lost, arrests, emotional and
physical intimidation) – curbs on freedom of speech, freedom of the press under
pressure, as are the rights to peaceful assembly and
Hamburg was not an isolated
case, but rather a litmus test for our fundamental freedoms. For those outside
of Hamburg this should serve as a sobering warning that democracy is under threat
from all sides.
For comprehensive sources and references see the original account on TNI.