Protests continue in Hamburg as G20 leaders dine in style

2017-07-08 06:55

Hamburg - Fires burned across downtown Hamburg for the second day of clashes between anti-capitalist protesters and police while leaders of the world's 20 most powerful countries listened to Beethoven's 9th Symphony and dined in style.

Police said at least 196 officers were injured in the clashes, with 83 protesters temporarily detained at the scene and 19 taken into custody.

On Friday, the day the G20 Summit kicked off in the German city, protesters torched cars and lorries, looted retail stores, lit off firecrackers and blasted music from Jimi Hendrix in a vain bid to drown out the classical music playing at the Elbphilarmonie concert hall across the Elbe River. 

Reinforcements poured in from across the country, but police were unable to prevent thousands of protesters from fanning out across the northern port city.

    Heavily armed special police forces arrive to quell riots in Hamburg. (Bodo Marks, dpa via AP)

The protests marred a gathering that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had hoped would demonstrate her country's unshakeable commitment to freedom of speech and assembly.

"I have every understanding for peaceful demonstrations but violent demonstrations put human lives in danger," she said.

Participants in the G20 meeting praised the work of police in keeping the event safe, but said they had never seen protesters closer to such a summit than in Hamburg.

In the touristy Pferdemarkt area, activists faced off against police in riot gear who were unable to put out fires, with billowing thick smoke dramatically reducing visibility. 

In the nearby Schanzenviertel, looters plundered a supermarket. Nearby, a cash machine was burned out. Several police helicopters patrolled overhead.

Security concerns

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble cancelled an appearance in downtown Hamburg on Friday morning due to security concerns. Police also declined to clear US First Lady Melania Trump's motorcade to leave her hotel for a tour of the city's historic harbour, her spokesperson said.

Marine police units intercepted 22 divers from the environmental pressure group Greenpeace who had also been trying to reach the concert hall, police said.

Police said they used water cannons to disperse protesters who broke into a riverside metro station that had earlier been sealed off. Nearby, two lorries were set ablaze.

Three officers required treatment in hospital, police said, noting that protesters had used slingshots as well as thrown bottles and stones.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin engaged in a "very robust exchange" over claims Moscow meddled in America's elections during their first face-to-face talks on Friday.

Over the course of two hours and 15 minutes of talks that covered not only the damaging claims but also a slew of global crises including the Syrian war, the two leaders clearly engaged, said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Ceasefire deal

US and Russia also agreed on a ceasefire deal covering south-western Syria during the talks.

"Let me characterise: the meeting was very constructive, the two leaders I would say, connected very quickly," said Tillerson, adding "there was a very clear positive chemistry between the two".

Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane, reporting from Hamburg, said the duration of the discussion indicated there was a lot of things Trump and Putin had to talk about.

"Discussions ranged from Ukraine, the fight against terrorism and the involvement, if any, of Russia in the US presidential elections," he said.

"It is clear that lots of issues were discussed and the standout element was the ceasefire deal in southwest Syria." 

Climate change

Meanwhile, talks on global trade at the 20 summit proved very difficult and differences on climate change also were clear, Merkel said.

She told leaders of the G20 economic powers that they must be prepared to make compromises as she worked toward a summit outcome that everyone present could accept. 

Read more on:    g20 summit  |  angela merkel  |  donald trump  |  vladimir putin  |  germany  |  g20

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