“Welcome to Hell”. That’s the greeting for U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders from anti-capitalist protesters in Hamburg, who have vowed to disrupt the G20 summit in the German port city.
Among the 100,000 protesters expected in the city, some 8,000 are deemed by security forces to be ready to commit violence, posing a challenge for those tasked with securing the July 7-8 summit of leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies.
There has been no significant violence at several smaller demonstrations in the city this week, including a march on Wednesday by more than 7,000 beer-drinking mainly young revellers holding placards denouncing capitalism and G20 leaders.
But a fire overnight at a Porsche car dealer in the north of the city that damaged eight vehicles could be a foretaste of what’s to come. Police said they were investigating whether it was an arson attack.
“There is no concrete evidence to link the incident to the G20 summit,” a police spokesman told Reuters. “But we assume this is the case.”
Locals are unhappy with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to hold the summit in the centre of Germany’s second-largest city as they fear property damage by violent protesters. Their daily routines are also being disrupted by security measures.
Up to 20,000 police officers will be on duty to watch over the main demonstration, dubbed “Welcome to Hell” by the alliance of anti-capitalist groups who organised it. Protesters have said they will try to block roads in the city.
Merkel took a big gamble in deciding to host the summit, where leaders will hold talks on difficult issues from trade and climate change to African development, in the city of her birth.
Should the protests go awry, her reputation could be damaged less than three months before an election in which she is seeking a fourth term.
To air the locals’ disenchantment, Hamburg-based soft drinks maker Fritz Kola has launched a poster advertising campaign featuring a portrait of Trump snoozing. A caption reads: “Wake up, man! Fritz Kola. Lots of caffeine”.
Protesters say the G20 has failed to solve many of the issues threatening world peace, including climate change, rising inequality and violent conflicts.
Tens of thousands will gather at the fish market in the borough of St Pauli – known for its red light district – at 1400 GMT, around the same time as Air Force One is due to land in Hamburg. They will then march north to the heavily secured summit venue.
“It’s ridiculous that police say some of us are violent when starting tomorrow the leaders of the world’s largest weapon exporting and importing nations will be arriving in our city,” said Stefan Hubert, a 32-year-old graphic designer who came to the protest on Wednesday with three friends.
Holding a placard reading ‘Make love great again!’ he added: “This summit is a waste of money that could be better spent on deploying more boats to stop migrants fleeing war and hunger from drowning in the Mediterranean.”
Turkish-German protester Fatima Cicek said she and her two sisters came to the demonstration on Wednesday to make the point that the G20 is undemocratic as it is a forum where a handful of leaders make decisions that could impact the whole world.
But her main issue is with Trump.
“He is the most disruptive and egotistic leader at the summit,” the veiled 38-year-old social worker said.
There is an irony in the protesters’ dislike of Trump. The U.S. president and anti-capitalist activists have something in common: distrust of globalisation.
Yet Trump is in Hamburg to push for trade rules that benefit America, including steel makers facing tough competition from China, while the protesters are here to demand more rights for the poor regardless of where they live.
“Trump is here to promote his own interests and those of the richest people in America,” said Cicek. “We are demanding more rights for the millions of people in Africa who have no roof over their heads.”