“We’re rallying here just a few miles from where the corporate robber barons have settled down to divide up the planet; that group of bankers, financiers and political leaders who have wreaked havoc upon our world, so we must fight for a new one, where people come before profits.”
– Pittsburgh G20 protestor
July marked the 12th consecutive G20 conference; an annual gathering of governments and central banking officials from twenty major international economies. The coalition seeks to provide solutions to problems that might “go beyond a single government”. Having so many elite economies in accordance, the G20 believes it can sustain and promote unrivaled financial stability. The responsibility required for such an undertaking is also unparalleled, which prompts valid criticisms from citizens all over the world. This year’s summit was hosted in Hamburg, where thousands of protesters came together to demonstrate against the global cabinet.
The G20 maintained its themes in regard to economic encouragement and international trade, but also scheduled discussions pertaining to terrorism, migration, development aid, and the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as their disagreements with global steel production. The people of Germany also maintained the traditions of the G20 summit; the protesters first displayed a banner that read “Welcome to Hell” to all of the arriving bankers and politicians, and then proceeded to upend the city for the next three days.
The friction started Thursday night, as Black Bloc youngsters threw bottles at police officers, using the various alleyways to evade them. Others dragged benches and bins into the streets as makeshift barricades to block evening traffic.
Friday morning brought real aggression, as the G20 members gathered for the first day of their meetings in the heart of Hamburg. Protesters assembled in the intersections as to block traffic in every direction. Police officials encouraged a sit-in demonstration along one major road to disperse, but were forced to use a water cannon to clear the street. The water cannon was redeployed more than twenty times, activists reported. Despite the heavy equipment and organization of the authorities, the radical anti-capitalist agitators proved to be overwhelming.
Over 1,000 blacked out militants took the streets seemingly at will Friday afternoon. Cooperation between leftist philosophies allowed the protesters to form their own anti-police lines. While these lines distracted the riot teams and kept them contained, the rest of the mob took to torching luxury vehicles and smashing corporate property to splinters. Banks were violated, as were police vehicles; nearly 200 officers were injured during Friday’s fray.
Saturday started more peacefully, as more than 50,000 protesters flooded the streets in opposition of the summit. They marched with simple signs, hoping to diffuse the tension built up from two nights of violent confrontation between Black Bloc and the police. Small cells of militants used cinder blocks and lengths of fence to block off streets, while others looted the devastation from the night before. The roadblocks forced the police to reroute their patrols, which led to a standoff between the agitators and a riot unit; the anarchists threw rocks and bottles until they were scattered by a water cannon.
For forty eight hours, Hamburg was a war zone. The market squares were devastated, from coffee shops to Apples stores. A grocery store was set ablaze after being turned inside out by protesters. By the end of the weekend, the havoc of the leftist onslaught racked up a total ~12£ in damages. The torched frames of sports cars lined the streets, and the sidewalks were merely rivers of shattered glass. Much of the violence employed was aimless, perhaps even misguided, as shops that displayed “NO G20” signs were still destroyed during the demonstrations.
Chancellor Merkel has an upcoming election, and hoped to make a display of Germany’s stable democracy. The G20 conferences have a history of dissent and protest, so Merkel chose to allow the demonstrations instead of squash them to maintain some kind of image to both her fellow politicians and the voters beneath her. The riots caused far more destruction than the city expected, prompting Merkel to condemn the protesters, although she’s yet to express any regret in her choice of city, which is known as a leftist hotbed.
“I have full understanding for peaceful protest, but violent demonstrations are a threat to human life. It is not acceptable.”
What chancellor Merkel fails to understand is that the very institution that employs her is a threat to human life. There has never been a greater threat to human life than the assembly of violent, corrupt governments under the guise of national security and economic bridging. If even one of these corporate puppets had any kind of interest in making a lasting change, they would make an effort to meet more than once or twice a year. The attempts that governments make at ‘change’ are farces, and they make dramas of those farces (annual international conferences, like it’s the Olympics or something) to make them more distracting. The G20 wants to line its collective pocket, nothing more. They want to make decisions that will benefit their economic foundations and not the planet or the people. Merkel is a fool to label radical activists a threat to human life when her organization is much higher up the ladder in comparison. Any politician who dismisses their critics in such a vague, intellectually dishonest way is a sophist, nothing more; especially when they practice the conduct that they’re criticizing.
In 2009, a G20 gathering hosted in Pittsburgh was met with more peaceful protests. Prior to the summit, the event was officially classified as National Special Security; thousands of activists were expected to assemble in opposition of the meeting.
The Secret Service coordinated the security for the summit, amassing thousands of police officers from departments as far away as Chicago and New York City. Pennsylvania State Police provided 1,000 officers to match Pittsburgh’s cop count.
Some specially trained units had been embedded in the city for months before the summit. Even the Army and Coast Guard made their equipment available in the event of a massive riot situation; armored Humvees, Chinooks and Black Hawks, as well as 25-foot boats complete with mounted M240 machine guns.
Despite the extensive preparations, the city never voluntarily approved a single protest permit. Peaceful groups were denied repeatedly until the ACLU of Pennsylvania sued the city and forced it to give the protesters the green light to assemble against the G20 summit. The Secret Service recruited quite literally an army of police officers and SWAT teams without ever having the intention of allowing the citizens to demonstrate.
Combat choppers, armored trucks, bullets, and teargas – all acquired in the event of a “violent protest”, when in reality, that was the only avenue they offered. The tactics used in Pittsburgh could be very telling of American policy:
“If you keep them silent, they’ll resort to violence – and that’s how we criminalized change.”
The turnout in Pittsburgh was amateur hour compared to the destruction in Hamburg. The protests started with a Peoples’ Summit, which was a series of speakers lashing out against the G20’s global policies and encroaching claws of capitalism.
These open forum assemblies were some of the more common forms of activism found in Pittsburgh. Some riots broke out, but the overwhelming amount of police maintained control. Pittsburgh was a more peaceful demonstration by anti-capitalists; it’s unclear if this was the only plan, or if the amount of firepower displayed deterred the militants. Many of the protesters found their way into the confrontations seemingly at random. The demonstrations near college facilities naturally attracted students who were previously uninvolved; dozens of these students went on to file complaints against the city and various police departments, citing mistreatment and abuse. Despite the peaceful conduct, the security detail inside Pittsburgh was more than prepared to violently administer authority.
The protesters in Hamburg were of a totally different caliber. Merkel refrained from declaring any kind of National Security State, or utilizing anything more than special riot squads as well as water cannons. German authorities discovered caches of Molotov cocktails on various rooftops throughout the city – anarchists and other radicals were said to be using incendiary devices, as well as lengths of steel and iron as cudgels. Some protesters are seen literally smashing concrete walkways with hammers and throwing the fragments at police lines. Whereas the American activists were nearly forced to assemble illegally and “aggressively”, those creating Hell in Hamburg didn’t plan on demonstrating in any other manner.
Anyone calling themself an anarchist, communist, leftist, can look at Hamburg as a legitimate victory. It isn’t enough to properly disrupt the system, but it’s another crack in the mask of globalist efforts and capitalism. Radicals effectively seized Hamburg for almost three days, enabled only through organization and sheer turnout; the number of protesters willing to directly engage authorities was unprecedented. While the G20 bickered over bills, German militants brought Hamburg to its knees.
The contrast between the riots in Pittsburgh and the riots in Hamburg illuminate the drastic differences between American and European policy regarding protests. Whereas the authorities in Pittsburgh were prepared for any kind of violent outbreak, the anarchists were the ones preparing for war in Hamburg. Until protesters show the same devotion to their mission as the authorities do, revolt in America will be locked in limbo.
The progression of resistance matches the progression of the G20’s economic agenda. As the summit count climbs and more annual conferences are scheduled across the globe, radical anti-capitalists already look forward to Argentina, who will host the G20 in 2018. South Americans planning on protesting next year would be clever to examine the evolution of tactics over the last decade, and model their own demonstrations after those that have been most effective; whatever will further the impact of the collective efforts against the global establishment.