Thousands of Protesters Prepare to Jeer Trump, Putin, and Erdogan at G-20 Summit
German chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly chose Hamburg to show how protests are tolerated in democracies.
Get ready to see a stable of life-sized political leader bobble heads in the next few days: Thousands will take to the streets of Hamburg, Germany this Friday and Saturday to protest the G-20 summit and some of its main actors — Presidents Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
All three leaders are leery of big public protests. Putin faced plenty in Moscow before the latest presidential election — and still blames them on the United States. Erdogan’s security guards beat up protesters the last time he was in Washington; and Trump administration officials fawned over the lack of protests on his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia. (Concerns about protests in the U.K. were reportedly one reason that his visit to the country never occurred.)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel chose her hometown of Hamburg for the summit, a city built on trade but which is also home to anti-establishment left-wing activists and has a history of counter cultural movements. Reuters reported that she chose the location to show that protests are tolerated in a democracy.
And there promises to be plenty. The 2017 G-20 summit has attracted around 170 organizations and at least 77 international NGO’s, think tanks, trade unions, and left-wing political parties, including the socialist Left party and the Green party, trade unions Verdi and IG Metall, the German Communist Party (DKP) and International Socialist Organization (ISO) as well as the Autonomous Revolutionary Nordic Alliance (ARNA), the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU), the German branch of the Oxfam, Greenpeace, and the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Citizen’s Action (Attac).
The protesters don’t have anything close to a monolithic agenda. Some demonstrations are against closing Europe’s borders to refugees and “racism and open hatred.” Others will rail against climate change, especially after Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord. Others are going to take aim, as at previous summits, at capitalism and unfair world trade. Others will just pound sand against the entire international cabal that the G-20 summit embodies.
The raucous demonstrations at these kinds of summits have become somewhat of a tradition. The London G-20 summit in April 2009 attracted at least 4,000 demonstrators and led to the death of Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor. A few months later the Philadelphia summit attracted several thousand peaceful protesters following violent demonstrations that led to 66 arrests. In 2010 in Toronto, a peaceful protest turned violent after police reportedly intimidated protesters by boxing them into small areas and one faction of protesters ran through the streets lighting cars on fire and looting stores. This led to the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.
These events have caused some cities to take preemptive action. In 2015, Brisbane avoided 120,000 protesters by enacting “draconian protest laws,” while China declared a week-long holiday and encouraged citizens to leave the city during the week of the 2016 Hangzhou summit.
But this week in Hamburg, Trump, Putin, and Erdogan will have no such luck.
Photo credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
Jesse Chase-Lubitz is a freelance journalist and was a 2019-2020 Henry Luce Foundation Scholar at the Japan Times. Twitter: @jesschaselubitz