Welcome to Hell: G20 Hamburg

by cominsitu

G20 live coverage

Announcing Continuous Live Coverage of the G20 in Hamburg – crimethinc

Welcome to Hell!

Today—July 6, the first day of an international mobilization against the 2017 G20 summit in Germany—we’re be posting continuous live updates, providing firsthand reports and analysis of the events in Hamburg. Tune in right here for continuous updates running late into the night and resuming on Friday if all goes well. We welcome field reports, footage, and updates. Send them to us at G20@crimethinc.com—we’ll sift through them, fact-check them, and blast them out into the world.

The Police Lost Tonight in Hamburg

Summing up the First Day of Resistance to the G20

A video overview of the days events.

While the city of Hamburg is slowly quieting down, there are still many streets on which demonstrators continue to keep the police at bay, pelting them with projectiles and building barricades. It is fair to say that the police will be busy all night. As we’re wrapping up our live coverage of the first day of actions against the G20 in Hamburg, it’s safe to say that the police lost tonight.

The residents of Hamburg woke up this morning to the news that a large number of Porsches had been burned in the outskirts last night, giving an indication of the ungovernable energy with which Hamburg would resist this intrusion.

Several expensive cars burned this morning, likely in protest against the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Despite the police controlling busses and trains full of activists at the border, they simply could not stop the crowds that gathered in the city center for the Welcome to Hell demonstration. The crowds they had to fear were not a few radical activists listed in the files of the secret police, but the population of Hamburg itself, which came together in opposition to the militarized policing that the G20 forced on the city.

The German police had brought together approximately 20,000 officers, including troops from other EU countries, with the intention of utterly quashing resistance. They brutally raided the camp that activists set up to accommodate protesters, then attacked people who gathered to enjoy themselves in the streets on July 4 and 5. They did everything they could to spread fear, in hopes of intimidating people out of showing up to the demonstrations to express their feelings about capitalism and the state.

It didn’t work. The Welcome to Hell demonstration attracted multigenerational crowds prepared to participate in blocs, black and otherwise. Thousands of people came together with joy, courage, and determination. In response, the police attacked a permitted demonstration without any justification—creating panic, severely injuring many people, and making more than 50 arrests in the first wave of repressive violence.

Yet this only served to foment more outrage against the authorities, which spread all around the city in the form of burning cars, barricades, and multiple simultaneous clashes and demonstrations of thousands. The strategy of terrorizing and kettling people with tremendous numbers of officers using brand-new militarized police equipment and brutal force simply failed. There were too many people on the streets and the police lost control. They report that 76 officers were injuredin Hamburg tonight.

There was a lot at stake today. The German state and the world leaders wanted to show that they are in control, that their reign is popular—or, failing that, that they can successfully dominate the population. They wanted the world to see that they can freely harass, intimidate, and oppress people without consequences. They wanted to flaunt their power by bringing the G20 to a center of resistance. Instead, they demonstrated their weakness.

Tonight, with the help of courageous people from around the world, Hamburg stood up and said Enough. We are humbled and inspired. We will continue tomorrow.

Hamburg Won’t Give up

Fighting for Police Free Zones

Holstenstrasse remains an 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 meantime, 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 Max-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!

Hamburg Pushes the Police Back

After forcing water cannons off Holstenstrasse, people are chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Straight from the Streets of Hamburg

Welcome to Hell Playlist

As night descends on the city of Hamburg, the smell of teargas is in the air and the people are getting ready to party. Last night, over 20,000 people gathered on the streets to rave against the G20. Despite the fact that every 12th German cop is running around tonight, people here are running faster. The sound of music is blasting in the streets of this rebellious German city and in the hearts of those who walk them, overpowering the beat of heavy boots and the sirens of police occupation.

Occasions like this demand a proper soundtrack. Here are our picks for tonight. After all, it ain’t our revolution if we can’t dance to it.

Test Their Logik – Crash the Meeting. Self explanatory.

Deichkind – Remmidemmi. In case you have extra furniture lying around and want to invite neighbors to a house party.

Irie Révoltés – Jetzt ist Schluss // Ruhe vor dem Sturm. As their meeting comes to an end, our party is getting started.

Welcome to Hell – Hamburg 2017. Police might have confiscated that St. Pauli water cannon, but they haven’t confiscate people’s courage.

Decentralized Actions all around the City

Multiple Demonstrations and Clashes

Cops feared Welcome to Hell and created a whole new circle of hell.

In typical Hamburg fashion, riots have erupted all over the city. On Pferdemarkt, where police used water cannons and tear gas two nights ago, protestors set up barricades, but police have managed to temporarily clear the streets. On 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.

Here is a video account from the Reeperbahn.

The G20 Summit and the Question of Violence

How the Authorities Delegitimize Popular Resistance

Whenever clashes take place like the ones unfolding during the G20 summit in Hamburg, people who are accustomed to accepting state violence as a routine fact of life express dismay at seeing people defend themselves. That’s right—police armed with lethal weapons exert systematic brute force against unarmed civilians and the civilians are blamed for trying to stop them. What’s going on here?

The discourse of violence is not neutral. The state and the corporate media put tremendous effort into controlling how violence is defined in the collective imagination. In their discourse, shooting rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and tear gas canisters at unarmed civilians is not violence, but throwing tear gas canisters back to lines of police equipped with gas masks is. Looking at this example, we can see that what is really at issue is not the use of coercive force. Rather, the term “violence” is used to describe anyone who challenges the monopoly on coercive force that representatives of the state usually enjoy.

When those who hold power describe people as violent, the goal is almost always to legitimize the use of violent force against them. We can clearly see this in the press campaigns that police have carried out in advance of the G20, making an effort to define certain protesters in advance as the “violent” ones. Whoever accuses others of being violent is likely about to inflict violence upon them.

Police preparing for “violent” protesters at the G20. Who are the violent ones?

When politicians and activists pressure us to promise that we will not be “violent,” they are threatening to take away the legitimacy that can discourage the state from carrying out violence against us. In this regard, “nonviolent” NGOs and “peace” activists are complicit in the violence that the state is able to inflict on those who it delegitimizes as violent protesters.

If we always allow those in positions of authority to define what is and is not acceptable behavior, we will never be able to protest in a way that can exert any leverage on them or, consequently, on the attention of the general public. Rather than accepting the discourse and asking whether a certain kind of behavior is violent, we should ask a different question: how does it distribute power? What kind of power relations does it create? What power relations does it interrupt? Not just anarchists but all lovers of freedom, regardless of political affiliation, should understand that this is the more important question.

This is why practically everyone acknowledges that it is acceptable to intervene with coercive force to save the lives of people threatened by a sniper like Anders Breivik: it is not a question of what is legal or illegal, or whether or not to be violent, but of how to protect the freedom and well-being of those who will otherwise be killed. As increasing state repression, economic chaos, and catastrophic climate change threaten the freedom and well-being of more and more people, we can understand those deemed “violent” by the defenders of the G20 to be intervening in hopes of protecting all of us from a greater threat.

Here is an array of resources explaining why we believe people have the right to stand up for themselves, even in ways that the state delegitimizes as violent. Some of the texts also explore why some demonstrators choose to engage in targeted property destruction as a means of exerting pressure on those who hold power.

Eyewitness Account and Video from the Hamburg G20 Riots

From the Welcome to Hell march to the Spontaneous Clashes throughout Hamburg

Eyewitness account of Hamburg G20 Riot
Hamburg police attack Welcome to Hell demo, part I
Hamburg police attack Welcome to Hell demo, part II

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 eventually managed to regroup and continue forward on the original route, with a 1000-person black bloc slowly pushing the police back before them.

It is an exciting day in Hamburg.

Demonstration 2.0

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.


The Black Bloc is Pushing Forward

Police Fail to Stop the Demonstration

Following the attack on the demonstration at Hafenstrasse, the black bloc has regrouped and is pushing back the cops, who are calling backup for water cannons and once again attempting to disperse the crowd. The demonstration of several thousand people is now attempting to continue along the original march route. There is a spontaneous demonstration at Nobistor against police violence of about 1500 people. Smaller clashes are taking place all around the city, while several cars are burning in the St. Pauli district. Reports are coming in about severely injured demonstrators.

The Demonstration Has Been Dispersed

Clashes Continue between Small Groups and Police

When the police attacked the Welcome to Hell demonstration with batons, water cannons, and brutal force, they spread panic among many participants. Now they are attacking people on smaller streets, including the Fischmarkt, where the demo started. Meanwhile, a new demonstration has formed on the Reeperbahn with a new sound system. People refuse to give up the streets of Hamburg.

Police Have Attacked the Demonstration

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.

Police Escalate Before the Demo

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.

When Cat’s away, Mice Will Play

Taking Advantage of Police Paranoia in Hamburg

Police still refuse to let demonstration of more than 12,000 people pass, blocking it from both sides with four water cannons and enormous amount of riot cops. At its head is a huge black bloc. People are loud: this is our city!

Germany has deployed over 20,000 police officers from all over the country (and other EU states) to the city of Hamburg. This city with a long history of militant protest and a massive autonomous and anarchist scene has been chosen to serve as a testing ground for new forms of urban warfare. Germany declared a state of emergency against its own population, nervously anticipating a conflict of apocalyptic scale—the kind of conflict that would justify the further strengthening of police state, including stricter anti-terrorist laws and further repression of free communication and autonomous spaces as potential centers of subversive activity.

Walking around Hamburg over the past few days, the only nervous element in the city is the occupying police force. Despite the police deploying every twelfth officer in the country to Hamburg, brutally suppressing campers who sought to sleep in parks, using water cannons to attack people partying on the corner in their neighborhood, and assaulting dancers in Wednesday night’s street party, the residents of Hamburg refuse to give up the streets of their city.

As a consequence of their fear, the police have flooded the media with scaremongering reports about how the autonomous scene from other cities and countries is mobilizing around the G20 summit, in hopes of spreading fear about international militants. They have publicized dubious stories about homemade weapons found in cities around Hamburg and explained that they will be forced to respond with violence when 8000 violent protesters supposedly attack them tonight.

When we hear police projecting violence on protesters ahead of a demonstration, we can be sure that this means that the police are planning to be violent. Their advance coverage is aimed at creating a situation in which people will believe them to be justified in attacking crowds with brutal force, both in the demonstration and throughout the city, where the only possible response of the locals will be self-defense.

However, the police have not anticipated that with nearly 8% of German’s officers concentrated in Hamburg, other cities are lacking their most highly trained personnel. That opens up opportunities for people in those cities to express solidarity with their comrades on the streets of Hamburg and also to advance their local struggles.

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.

The Only Good Bloc is the Black Bloc

The Welcome to Hell Demonstration Is about to Start

Black bloc police anticipated.

As the start of the Welcome to Hell demonstration nears, the atmosphere in St. Pauli Fischmarkt is festive with more than 7000 people of all generations dancing and singing together. Before the crowd can move, a huge number of riot police move into their path to stop them.

In the meantime, antifa arrived to Hamburg shores in style.

No G20, No Borders

Police are preventing people from entering Germany

More police, more ACAB party mood.

Despite the long corridors of police in full riot gear surrounding St. Pauli Fischmarkt, with water cannons and what looks like every police car in Germany, people are in a festive mood. The presence of eight percent of the whole German police force doesn’t seem to frighten the several thousand people, including children, who are gathering to start the colorful “Welcome to Hell” demonstration that will make its way around the district around 7pm.

Meanwhile, police are continuously trying to prevent international protesters from entering Germany. Despite the European Union’s policy of Schengen borders (that is, there are no border between EU countries if you have the privilege of Western passport), militarized borders have been established all around Germany.

In Bavaria, police are openly carrying machine guns while checking the passports of passengers arriving from Austria. Last night in Switzerland, police detained a train of about 160 protesters in Basel for several hours. They were finally let through late in the night. A bus from Netherlands was also detained at the border. Police took the passports and offered no information to the passengers for over two hours. Just now, they prohibited the entire bus from traveling onwards. Buses heading to Hamburg from Berlin were stopped on the highway and people’s bags were searched. The police are also checking and collecting information from people traveling inside Hamburg on public transport.

Despite this level of police harassment, they don’t seem to be really stopping anyone from coming out to express a proper welcome to the G20 leaders.

What’s up with the Smiley Face Graffiti in Hamburg?

The Story of Oz

Oz Mural

Maybe during this week’s coverage of resistance to the G20 summit in Hamburg, you’ve caught sight of some strange graffiti in the background of the protests and clashes. Whether you’re a visitor to Hamburg or simply someone who spends a lot of time scrutinizing photographs of public order situations in the city, no one can help noticing the cheerful smiley faces spray-painted on practically every vertical surface. These are the work of Oz, Hamburg’s most tireless graffiti artist.

Oz moved to Hamburg in 1992 and began spraying smiley faces on its grey walls as a way of combatting the lifelessness of the city. He didn’t come out of the graffiti scene, but was driven by his own idiosyncratic motives, ultimately coming to understand himself as “a fighter against the norms of German cleanliness.”

According to the Hamburg police, by 2002, Oz had decorated the city of Hamburg with well over 120,000 smiley faces and other tags. Although he spent nearly a decade in prison altogether as a consequence of pursuing his life’s mission, he must have succeeded in doubling that number by the end of his career.

On September 25. 2014, at 64 years of age, Oz was killed by a train while spray painting. The police found a fresh graffito by the tracks alongside a spray can and a backpack. Afterwards, other graffiti artists made murals in his memory all over Hamburg. You can see a selection of them here.

Our efforts to resist the G20 are just the latest in a long line of individual and collective struggles against the greyness of this world.

In the background of this photograph from the riots of December 21, 2013, we can make out Oz’s signature and classic smiley face.

From G8 to G20: A Legacy of Resistance

Resources on Previous Mobilizations against the G8 and G20


The G20 summit in Hamburg is only the most recent in a long line of global summits that anarchists have organized against, perhaps most famously including the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Here is a selection of our coverage of previous mobilizations:

1999 G8 in Birmingham, England

June 18, 1999: The Carnival against Capital

2003 G8 in Évian, France

Let Me Light My Cigarette on Your Burning Blockade: An Eyewitness Account of the Anti-G8 Demonstrations and Anarchy in the Alps

2005 G8 in Scotland, UK

Taking on the G8 in Scotland, July 2005: A Retrospective

2007 G8 in Heiligendamm, Germany

Can’t Stop the Chaos: Autonomous Resistance to the 2007 G8 in Germany

2009 G20 in Pittsburgh, USA

Breaking News from the Pittsburgh G20 Protests

Pittsburgh G20 Mobilization: Preliminary Assessment

2010 G20 in Toronto, Canada

Shut Doors = Broken Windows

Toronto G20: Eyewitness Report

Welcome to Hell

Anticapitalists Strike Back

Thousands of people gathering in St. Pauli Fischmarkt. Welcome to Hell begins!

Just now, in the centre of the St. Pauli district, traditional stronghold of autonomous resistance, thousands of people are gathering in Fischmarkt park for the anticapitalist demonstration “Welcome to Hell”. To warm people up, there is a group of people from all around the world speaking about their local struggles and why opposing the G20 meeting in Hamburg matters. Later on, various musicians will take over the stage.

At around 6.30 the demonstration will move on with loudspeakers and trucks, trying to make its way through the streets of St. Pauli. There will be several blocs in the demonstration, black and otherwise. “We want the demo to be a militant joint prelude to the days of resistance,” said the call for action.

Despite the fact that the route was approved by the city officials, most doubt that the police will allow it to move so close to the building, in which the G20 meeting is taking place. Hence, it is likely that if the demonstration is broken, plan B, reclaiming St. Pauli district will take place.

There are teams of action medics and legal observers all over the city, along with special safe spaces to rest.

Why Is the G20 Taking Place in Hamburg, Anyway?

A City’s Radical History vs. Mega-Events as a Means of Repression

Clashes in Hamburg December 2013

The G20 summit in Hamburg is provocation on the part of the authorities. Placing their disruptive and widely loathed summit in the epicenter of one of Germany’s most radical cities can only be understood as a deliberate attempt to foment conflict and hasten the gentrification of an area that has caused them problems for a long time. It should not be surprising if Hamburg responds with anger. The G20 summit has brought tens of thousands of police and bureaucrats to the city to interfere with the day-to-day lives of those who live there, shutting off whole neighborhoods and precipitating confrontations. If the people of Hamburg and their allies from around the world do not resist the G20, it would embolden the G20 governments to continue using it as a weapon against rebellious places and populations.

Hamburg has a long legacy as a hotbed of radical politics and social movements: first as a center of the German labor movement and later as a site of fierce countercultural activity. In the 1980s, a series of battles took place between the police and supporters of squats along the riverfront Hafenstrasse. Although thousands of police were brought to bear against the squatters, the government was ultimately defeated and the autonomous housing complexes persist to this day. These were some of the clashes in which black bloc tactics first gained notoriety.

Documentary on squatting struggles on the Hafenstrasse in Hamburg.

Over the past few years, Hamburg has been targeted to host three different mega-events: the 23rd Ministerial of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the 2024 Olympics, and the 2017 G20. As we have thoroughly documented in our coverage of Brazilian social movements, mega-events offer the state an opportunity to militarize the police, destroy unruly neighborhoods, and expand the infrastructure of state control and repression.

The OSCE serves as a sort of think tank via which European governments coordinate security measures, implement austerity policies, and otherwise intervene in the lives of ordinary people. The role of the Olympics in disrupting cities is widely recognized, as is that of the G20.

An anti-Olympics mural in Hamburg.

In 2015, after a protracted social struggle, Hamburg was forced to turn down its bid for the Olympics. Shortly before the OSCE ministerial in December 2016, demonstrators blocked the entrance of the venue for the OSCE and G20 summits with burning tires and smashed out the glass façade to emphasize their opposition to the bureaucrats’ plans for Hamburg and the world. Raucous street protests coincided with the ministerial. Now tens of thousands of people are coming together to resist the G20 summit in a full week of joyous and confrontational action.

The more that the authorities have to pay for their attempts to encroach on our freedoms, the more freedom we will retain. Resistance is possible: it is the wellspring of life itself.

Clashes in Hamburg, December 2013.

Further Reading

Fighting in Brazil 2013-2015: Including an overview of how mega-events are used to expand the infrastructure of state repression

A History of Squatting Struggles along the Hafenstrasse

Attack against the “Messe Hamburg,” venue for the OSCE and G20 summits

Why Do We Oppose the G20? What Do We Want Instead?

Not just New Policies, but Entirely New Relations

1000 Forms demonstration July 5 Hamburg

Some organizations are protesting at the G20 summit in Hamburg to express opposition to specific G20 policies: the ongoing colonial exploitation of Africa, government pandering to profiteering financial institutions, rampant environmental destruction hastening climate change. As anarchists, we are concerned about all of these problems, but we believe it is naïve to expect that the class of people that is chiefly responsible for them in the first place will fix them for us. Even if the G20 politicians could fix all these issues by fiat and carrying signs could compel them to do so, it would just reinforce the logic of the protection racket in which they inflict crises on us, then hold us hostage and extort us in return for solving them.

It is a distraction to focus only on the bad politics of specific G20 rulers like Donald Trump, egregious as they are. For anyone who truly believes in freedom and equality, the problem is the structure itself, not which people occupy it.

Graffiti in Hamburg.

Any system that empowers bureaucrats and heads of state to decide the fate of billions is fundamentally exclusive and coercive. We oppose the G20 summits because we believe that only horizontal grassroots initiatives can solve the problems facing humanity. Financial crisis, climate chaos, ethnic violence, and state repression are the inevitable consequences of markets and governments that concentrate power in the hands of the most ruthless few. When everyone is forced to compete for resources and power rather than being free to develop ways of life based on self-determination, voluntary association, and peaceful coexistence, no one wins, not even the 20 most powerful people on earth.

This is why anarchists take a position against the G20 governments themselves, rather than this or that policy. The free meals, housing, medical treatment, and street parties organized by participants in the resistance to the G20 offer a glimpse of a world in which all the necessities of life are shared—and are sweeter for being so. Likewise, our resistance to the summit is a model for the kind of organizing it will take to throw off the yoke of state repression and open up spaces of freedom in which we can solve our problems together.

Taking action against the G20 and against globalized capitalism secures a space for inclusive grassroots initiatives in the popular imagination as the alternative to world domination by a financial and political elite. If we fail to establish ourselves in the popular imagination, fascists and other nationalists will seize the opportunity to present themselves as opponents of the status quo, accruing support from rebels who have not yet developed an analysis of the institutions of power. We are already seeing a political polarization as people give up on traditional party politics. If we do not offer an alternative that breaks with the state and capitalism, we cede the field to racists and other partisans of state violence.

In place of the hierarchical power of the G20 leaders and their lackeys, we are creating worldwide horizontal networks based on autonomy, solidarity, and mutual aid. We hope to use these to defend ourselves against all would-be rulers as we work to create the foundations for another way of living. Fighting against the G20 and the police who are attempting to impose their summit on Hamburg is just one small part of a much larger project that includes the creation of common resources for the benefit of all. We are here as part of a joyous exploration of what it means to be human outside the imperatives of cutthroat capitalism.

Fireworks over the police line during the clashes of July 4 in Hamburg.

The Clashes of July 4

The first urban clashes ahead of the G20 summit broke out in downtown Hamburg on Tuesday, July 4. Organizers had attempted to establish a campsite for out-of-town demonstrators in Enterwerder Park, but despite receiving permission from the highest court in the land, police blocked access to the park, then carried out a brutal raid, with the police president declaring “On the streets of Hamburg, we are the sole authority.” In response, demonstrators fanned out into Hamburg, occupying several more parks and other venues. After police raided one of these additional camps, a spontaneous march took the streets, ultimately precipitating confrontations between large crowds that blocked some of Hamburg’s main thoroughfares while armored water cannons and troops of riot police attacked them.

Walking through downtown Hamburg as the clashes died down, one could see “NO G20” graffiti everywhere. Stores that one would otherwise not suspect of anti-capitalist sentiments prominently displayed signs proclaiming “NO G20: Spare Our Shop!” In one small park in the midst of a gentrifying bar district, demonstrators gathered around a fire in the middle of the city, surrounded by tents and banners expressing opposition to the G20 and to capitalism in general. Despite the riot vans parked by the dozen at every intersection, despite the companies of riot police marching huffily back and forth, no amount of coercive violence could legitimize the G20 or the kind of policing required to force capitalism on an increasingly restless population. Something has to give.

Graffiti in Berlin, April 2017.

G20 Live Updates

From the Streets of Hamburg

Welcome to our continuous coverage of the mobilization against the 2017 G20 summit in Germany! We’re updating nonstop throughout Thursday evening and Friday, providing firsthand reports and analysis of the resistance in Hamburg. Please send us field reports, photos, and footage at G20@crimethinc.com.