Violent protests leave Melania Trump unable to join G20 events as Hamburg police call for backup

Justin Huggler
German police remove protestors blocking a street during the G20 summit in Hamburg - REUTERS

Anti-capitalist protestors brought the city of Hamburg to a standstill on Friday as they fought running battles in the streets with police and tried to disrupt the G20 summit.

Protesters set upon police with iron bars and attacked a police helicopter with a firework which narrowly missed. They set cars alight across the city and tore down street signs to make their own barricades.

Melania Trump, the US First Lady, missed a boat trip laid on for the spouses of world leaders after the American delegation said it was unsafe for her to leave the building where she was staying.

At one point Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian prime minister, tweeted that he was under “security lockdown” with Joko Widodo, the Indonesian president.

Police guarding the hotel where Mr Turnbull and Vladimir Putin were both staying had earlier come under attack by protesters.

Police are already calling for backup as the violence rages Credit: EPA/FILIP SINGER

Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the EU representatives, were 45 minutes late to a press conference after being blocked by protesters, and Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, had to pull out of a planned meeting.

Police fought back with water cannon and pepper spray, but at times seemed overwhelmed. By mid-morning they issued an urgent call for reinforcements from across Germany, despite the fact there were already 15,000 officers on the ground.

German riot police walk next to a police vehicle during a rally outside Schlump station  Credit: EPA/ARMANDO BABANI
Protesters march as world leaders gather for the G20 summit, in pictures

More than 160 police were injured in the scuffles, as well as at least 11 protesters and one bystander, according to official figures.

Protesters began the day by staging sit-ins to block leaders from reaching the summit. There were tense scenes just outside the venue as police dragged protesters bodily out of the street. One young woman in a blue smock hung limp as police dragged her along the ground by her arms, while officers picked up two young men and threw them onto the pavement.

As soon as the road was cleared the protesters moved to the next junction, where the whole exercise was repeated.

By late afternoon police had resorted to sealing much of the city centre off. All bus services and U Bahn lines were closed down, leaving bewildered residents to face a long walk home.

Several marriages scheduled to take place in the city had to be called off after the registry office was closed for seurity reasons, while a city centre kindergarten was evacuated. Hospitals issued urgent calls for all staff to report to duty.

At times the only sound you could hear in the city was the wail of sirens as columns of police vehicles raced by.

As evening drew on, protesters moved on the harbour area where they were hoping to block the leaders from reaching a gala concert in the city’s brand new concert hall.

Several protesters managed to break through police lines in motor boats and had to be fished out of the water as they tried to swim to the concert hall.

Others managed to break through the land side and had to be forced back with water cannon. Police closed all bridges to the area but at least nine police officers collapsed with exhaustion.

Demonstrators on Friday in Hamburg Credit: STEFFI LOOS/AFP/Getty Images

Many of the estimated 12,000 protesters were peaceful. At one point police looked on while a bearded man in a pink wig and peasant skirt played the bongo drums, and women danced and laughed in the sun.

But masked protesters dressed all in black were moving through the crowd a few feet away, and a militant minority was always present.

“Violence has no place on our streets,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president said in a statement. “It has no justification and cannot be tolerated.”

Angela Merkel condemned the violence as “unacceptable”, and said the protesters had endangered people’s lives.

These were not the scenes Mrs Merkel had in mind when she chose Hamburg to host the summit. She reportedly wanted to prove a democratic society can tolerate peaceful protest.

This is not the image Mrs Merkel was hoping to show the world Credit: EPA/MASSIMO PERCOSSI 

Instead the joke doing the rounds on social media was that the Hamburg police had wanted to make Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan feel at home with their tactics.

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