The Welcome to Hell demonstration presented a surprisingly festive and cheerful atmosphere, with people of all ages, colors and styles of dress, and body types singing and dancing together in front of the stage or picnicking in the shade. Speakers from Mexico, Russia, the United States, and other G20 nations addressed the crowd between musical performances. The authorities had worked hard to spread fear about the “violent anarchists” coming to Hamburg, but this effort clearly failed to drive a wedge between the average residents of Hamburg and the demonstrators.
When the program concluded, several sound trucks playing a variety of revolutionary music moved through the crowd to the front of the march, followed by one affinity group after another, participants pulling on black rain jackets and gloves over their colorful summer clothing. Line after line after line formed; different groups have been signing up to form the front of this demonstration for months, to ensure that it would be well-organized.
The demonstration moved slowly down the Hafenstrasse, as supportive spectators slowly fanned out along the sides. The police had already moved a tremendous number of officers ahead, parking several water cannons and armored cars there; although they permitted the entire march route that the organizers of the demonstration had requested, they clearly had no intention whatsoever to permit the march to go forward. This continues a theme for the Hamburg police: just as they had refused to permit camping that was authorized by the highest court in the land, now they refused to allow a march that they themselves had issued the permits for.
The black bloc advanced to this wall of police and paused. The standoff continued minute after minute, the cops standing in the hot sun in their heavy uniforms, the black bloc in the shade, with lively music blaring from the sound trucks. Spectators gathered on the pedestrian bridge over the Hafenstrasse, on the terraces on either side of the street looking down on it, and on rooftops behind them. Some of them were journalists with heavy cameras; some had clearly come to participate in the day’s protests; but many were simply Hamburg locals, sympathetic to the demonstrators and curious to see what would unfold. As the minutes wore on, the crowding increased, until people were lined several lines thick along every vantage point from which to view the activity. Small groups of heavily armored riot police appeared behind them, preparing to respond as soon as clashes broke out.
Yet no matter how many groups of police deployed in the area, there were always more spectators and demonstrators behind them. Everyone had been afraid that the Welcome to Hell demonstration would be completely kettled, that the participants had no chance of getting out of the square where it was to begin. On one side was the river, on the other side, thick lines of riot police with every kind of weapon at their disposal. Indeed, the police had surrounded the march, but they themselves were now surrounded by sympathetic bystanders.
Finally, the police attacked the demonstration, shooting tear gas canisters directly into the middle of the march without provocation. People in the march responded by keeping the riot police at a distance under a hail of projectiles. Spectators began to boo and jeer at the cowardly action of the police. Huge clouds of tear gas were rising from the Hafenstrasse, causing spectators to cough and choke all along the terraces. The continuous explosion of tear gas grenades lent a grim atmosphere to the scene.
The crowds outside the main lines of police became more and more restless. Some participants in the main black bloc managed to get out of the trap and move into the side streets where the spectators had massed. People were moving more and more quickly now, affinity groups fanning out to see what routes were controlled by police. The police had bargained that they would be able to surround and control the crowd, but it was spilling out of their zone of control.
A full block away, on the Reeperbahn, the crowds were getting thicker and thicker. Suddenly, a black bloc march of hundreds appeared, which had somehow managed to retain or rescue a full-power sound system blasting techno music! The street filled with demonstrators, who set out at a swift pace moving away from the zone of police control.
Another full city block away, barricades were already burning, as additional smaller marches and affinity groups fanned out into the neighborhood, spreading chaos and freedom to the whole city. The police had lost control of Hamburg.
Meanwhile, amazingly, despite the charges of the riot police and the shower of tear gas greenades, the Welcome to Hell march managed to continue forward on the original route, with a 1000-person black bloc slowly pushing the police back before them.
Standoff between police and protesters
Police in full riot gear blocked the demonstration with water canons before it even started. They are calling for press and people to leave the space and for people to unmask. New water cannons, armored vehicles, and other police cars arriving on the scene. They are obviously escalating the situation before the demonstration even starts.
For instance, yesterday, in the city of Wuppertal, activists prevented the deportation of 38 refugees. The deportation bus was forced to leave empty after the police failed to stop a spontaneous demonstration.
As the numbers at the Welcome to Hell demonstration in downtown Hamburg rise, it is important to remember what is at stake. On one hand, it is important to come to the St. Pauli Fischmarkt and show that we are strong, refusing to give in to the police tactic of intimidation—not just for the sake of the #noG20 efforts, but above all because the whole world is watching to see how strong our response will be to the militarized policing of the world leaders. Decentralized actions will only work if the main action concentrates enough force to open space for them.
However, while people come together at the Welcome to Hell demonstration, this does indeed open space for people to take action elsewhere in Hamburg, Germany, and the world. The more unpredictable we are, the more space we operate in at once, the harder it is to control us. It is easier to contain 30,000 people at a protest that has been announced in advance than it is to keep up with demonstrations and actions spread all around the city and country.
There are several solidarity actions announced all over Germany and the world. You could go out and carry out a spontaneous solidarity action right now, connecting the global struggle against the G20 to your local context. Comrades, we are counting on you.
Hamburg continues to resist
Thousands of people are regathering (and being stopped by police) in a spontaneous demonstration in the bay of Hamburg district of St. Pauli after police used brutal force on the original demonstration. Police violence is sparking further revolt. We are looking at a long night ahead. In about 20 minutes, a solidarity demonstration against police violence in Berlin will start.
Here is a quick overview of the events so far.
Police threaten to disperse the demonstration
Following the dispersal of the demonstration at Heffenstrasse, the black bloc is pushing back the cops, who are calling backup for water cannons and threaten to disperse the crowd. The demonstration with several thousand people is now trying to continue on the original route. There is a spontaneous demonstration at Nobistor against police violence of about 1,500 people. There are smaller clashes around the city of Hamburg. Several cars are burning in St. Pauli district. Reports are coming in about severely injured demonstrators.
Police attacked the Welcome to Hell demonstration on the St. Pauli Haffenstrasse. Protesters are defending themselves by throwing pyrotechnics and projectiles at them. The police are using water cannons and tear gas, causing some members of the crowd to stampede while trapped in s narrow street. Several people are lying on the ground unconscious.
Hamburg won’t give up
Fighting for Police Free Zones
Holstenstrasse remains the epicenter of resistance. Protestors have constructed barricades up and down the street. Each time the police try to drive by, they’re greeted with a shower of glass bottles. The cops don’t dare to stop.
In the mean time, protestors clash with police in front of Rote Flora, one of the oldest autonomous spaces in Hamburg, as well as at another demonstration stopped at Maxx-Brauer-Alee.
Protestors struggle to defend police-free zones as the cops continue to attack. Massive numbers of police are in the intersection by the Rote Flora. There is a steady sound of breaking glass. The cops are at war with the whole population of Hamburg now.
After a fierce fight, cops in front of Rote Flora are being pushed into retreat.
Whose streets? Our streets!
After forcing water cannons off Holstenstrasse, people are chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Police pushed back…
In typical Hamburg fashion, riots have erupted all over the city. In Pferdemarkt, where police used water cannons and teargas two nights ago, protestors set up barricades, but police have managed to temporarily clear the streets. In Reeperbahn, a massive and spontaneous rave has been attacked by police. Several thousand people pushed through from Nobistor to Holstenstrasse and are now on Max – Brauer – Allee.