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G20 in Hamburg

This week, the G20 leaders will meet in Hamburg, 1500 metres from where I live.  Day by day more places get fenced in, more police is present and more helicopters circle the area. Time for a closer look at the upcoming event.

G20 das möchten wir nicht

G20 – “we don’t want that!” Statement at Markstraße, adjacent to the convention centre

I will cover the following:

  • What is the G20?
  • G20 – Hamburg before the summit
  • The cost of G20 in Hamburg
  • Drinking against Trump
  • G20: King Salman and the camels
  • G20 – police presence
  • G20 protest camp Entenwerder
  • G20 – protest wave
  • G20 – welcome to hell
  • Suit down for G20!

What is the G20?

The group of twenty or G20 was founded 1999. The 20 members (19 countries and the European Union) account for around 85 percent of the GWP and two thirds of the world’s population. Initially G20 aimed to be a forum for the finance ministers and central bank governors of the member states to discuss financial and economic issues. Today it is an event where the countries’ leaders get together as well.

G20 Polizei Messe hoch

Police awaiting G20 at the convention centre in Hamburg

G20 – Hamburg before the summit

I’m writing this four days before the city will be in state of exception mode. The past week you could watch the daily progress of an area being secured by the police to slowly become a fortress within the city. G20 is taking place at the Hamburg convention centre which is located very central, adjacent to alternative neighborhoods such as Karoviertel, Schanze and St. Pauli.

Barbed wire to shield the train tracks (the Deutsche Bahn has already been targeted a couple of days ago which resulted in major delays), hundreds of crew cars from several police units in Germany, statement banners on housewalls – there’s no doubt something big is about to happen.

G20 barbed wire

G20 – barbed wire and fences for protection

The cost of G20 in Hamburg

There are no official numbers but it is estimated that the minimum cost of hosting the G20 in Hamburg will be 130 million Euro, more likely everything will add up to 400 million Euro.

G20 Mannschaftswagen

G20 – crew cars

21,000 police staff are securing the city before, while and after the event as it is certain that there will be violent protests. Hosting such an event in a city like Hamburg with 1,7 million inhabitants comes at a high price, especially when you consider that with leaders such as Trump and Erdogan it is very unlikely that the politicians will make much progress on matters such as climate change or other matters that would justify high expenses.

G20 – Drinking against Trump

Make Mexico great again! Drinks are best when shared with friends so why not drink to show the solidarity the lunatic leading the U.S. is missing. In St. Pauli in Hamburg people started drinking Soli-Mexikaner. The Mexikaner (Mexican) is a shot that was invented in a bar in St. Pauli. It’s a spicy, tomato based schnapps and for some months now, several bars have followed and are selling solidarity Mexicans. The proceeds are used for protesting the G20 summit in Hamburg. I am not against the G20 summit but cheers to this idea!

G20 Shut down

Shut down G20

G20: King Salman and the camels

So, the King of Saudi Arabia wins the price for the weirdest visitor of G20 even if the Saudis have now announced their king won’t participate in the summit. Until today Hamburg prepared for the diva wishes of his majesty by rearranging parts of the famous hotel ‘Die vier Jahreszeiten’ but having a ballroom to himself has probably not been enough glamour for his highness. He planned to bring his own throne, a golden gangway to disembark the place and camels. For the milk of course. Because a good latte is a latte with camel milk. We all know that. I’m actually sad he won’t come, he’s taking the fun out of G20.

G20 berittene Polizei

G20 – Reiterstaffel

G20 – police presence

They are everywhere. When I leave my house to run my errands I usually head towards the Schanze (that’s how we call our hood, the Schanzenviertel). If I take the car and go grocery shopping after work, I end up at the Rindermarkthalle and drive past the convention centre. These days the whole area is blue and white, the colors of the police force.

G20 Polizei Fernsehturm

G20 – police securing the convention centre in Hamburg

21,000 police staff are on duty the days before, during and after the event and I’m torn between getting the creeps and feeling safe seeing so many uniforms and police cars. Let’s hope no-one gets hurt. Most of the police cars are found at the convention centre where they secure the area where the leaders will meet. An estimate of 10,000 violent protesters is expected to be in Hamburg for G20. I have to say this is really pissing me off. Free speech and the right to assembly are core values of our society, guaranteed by the constitution (in theory, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty a little later). Why some fucked-up extremists believe they are fighting for a greater good by violently trying to stop an event they cannot stop? I don’t get it. Nothing justifies violence and I already feel sorry for the police who have to put up with this shit.

G 20 – protest camp Entenwerder

Talking about police: I really understand that the police is trying to do a great job in Hamburg and not for one minute do I want to have their responsibility but there is no excuse for violating constitutional rights.

There has been so much arguing about the planned protest camp that was supposed to take place in the city’s green heart, the Stadtpark. The protest camp was forbidden and protesters and police went back and forth with arguments to make a case at the court. Long story short: the compromise was to locate the camp at Entenwerder, a place in Hamburg that most Hamburgers (yes, that’s how we call people from Hamburg) didn’t know until yesterday.

G20 kein Verständnis

G20 in Hamburg. Response to all the “Thank you for understanding.” messages No, we don’t understand.

As mentioned earlier, violent protesters are expected and many of those supposedly planned to join the camp. Therefore, forbidding the camp seemed to be the easiest way to prevent violence. Wait a minute, what? Does anyone seriously believe there won’t be violence or there will be more control if the protesters are denied sleeping in neighboring tents? I don’t think so. Have you heard of social media and it’s importance for organizing protests, people?! But more important, the denial of the camp in addition to a large security zone in which protests and assemblies will be forbidden while the G20 summit is in Hamburg, are violating constitutional rights. And no, this is not an exception we should tolerate for the sake of safety (which it won’t bring!). These rights are taken from me, too. So, because some people are violent everybody’s basic rights are taken away? I can’t even start to tell you how disturbing I think this is.

G20 viel Polizei

G20 in Hamburg – Police presence

The protest camp in Entenwerder has been set up now but yesterday the police stopped those who wanted to put up their sleeping tents as they interpreted the latest court decision their way and concluded showers, kitchens and sleeping are a no-go. Let’s see how this will work out.

The police’s interpretation was backed up by the court today.

G20 protest wave on the Alster

G20 – protest wave

These days, many people try to appease. I don’t care if I can’t assemble or protest during G20, they say. Safety is more important, they say. I beg your pardon? No! Peaceful protest in the face of an event of political importance is not negotiable. There cannot be compromise simply because some idiots are violent.

G20 Protestwelle

G20 – the rain couldn’t stop the protest wave

The G20 Protestwelle (protest wave) took place yesterday. Protests are still legal now. 10,000 to 15,000 people (depending on who you ask) joined the mostly peaceful march. One of them was my colleague and friend Marco Krebs-Morgenroth.

G20 Marco

G20: Marco at the Protestwelle march in Hamburg

He says: “This is of no use!“, is something people who would never attend a G20 protest march say. Comparing cost and benefit, these people are obviously right. Simply because me and thousands of others spend three hours in the pouring rain on the Rathausmarkt, getting soaked, Trump, Erdogan and others won’t change any of their politics. All those do-gooders in their Jack Wolfskin jackets can hold up as many rhymed slogans about climate change as they want and dance to the reggae version of ‘Ciao Bella’. They can shout “Boooh” as loud as they can when the labour union guy on stage rants about corporate tax alignment and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. No, none of this will change anything. I know that, and still, I am here on this rainy sunday. Because demonstrations are not about what we get out of them but about solidarity and taking a stance. When several thousand people assemble at my doorstep because they do care about the world, and they march for a better one, I go there and join because I care about the world. ”

G20 Demo

During the G20 summit, when the world is looking at Hamburg, there wont be peaceful protest. Because our constitutional rights have been violated. And therefore no protester can be peaceful. Or legal. This is sad. And wrong.

G20 Snowden

G20 in Hamburg – art as a form of protest. Edward Snowden

G20 – welcome to hell

The day before the summit starts, militant protesters will march through the city. Their slogan? Welcome to hell. I’m not scared easily but the thought of this march and the harm that will probably be done, sends a shiver down my spine. I’m still considering to take the day off work so I won’t be trapped in traffic.

G20 welcome to hell

G20 in Hamburg – welcome to hell

No-one really knows what to expect thursday, not even the police. They have communication teams all across the area surrounding the convention centre and I talked to some of them but other than recommending public transport (which I definitely won’t use during those days) they don’t say much more. Thinking of Genua I hope we won’t have any fatalities here in Hamburg.

Suit down for G20!

It’s not just how to get to work and back that’s concerning many Hamburgers (No, we don’t think it’s funny that you find this hilarious!) these days, it goes as far as reconsidering corporate dress codes (not that I think dress codes are of any use!).

Many Hamburg based companies have decided to give their employees a paid leave on thursday and friday. But not everyone is this lucky. Yesterday I talked to a guy who works as a recruiter. At his company it is forbidden to come to work in a suit during the G20 summit. His bosses obviously were smart enough to see that a suit is the embodiment of capitalism and makes guys who suit up an easy target for militant protesters.

G20 geschlossene Läden

Shopkeepers in Hamburg close down for G20

So, these were my thoughts on G20. Unlike others, I won’t be off work. Well, at the moment I’m off as I’m sick but I expect to be better soon. What will thursday and friday be like? Stuck in traffic? Well, if that’s the worst thing that will happen in Hamburg, I’m happy to patiently wait for the traffic to move. Stay safe, everyone!

What are your thoughts on G20? Please share them!

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