German police used water cannon and pepper spray to disperse anti-capitalist protesters after clashes with police broke out in Hamburg just as world leaders – including Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – started to arrive in Germany’s second city for the G20 summit.
Police said 74 police officers were injured throughout the evening, although most of them sustained minor injuries. March organisers said several protesters were hurt, but did not say how many.
The “Welcome to Hell” march on Thursday night was due to move from Hamburg’s historic harbour area towards the venue where the G20 summit is due to be held on Friday and Saturday, but the demonstration came to halt about 300 metres into its route after police blocked the path of protesters. Violence broke out near the start of the demonstration at a riverside plaza used for Hamburg’s weekly fish market.
Marchers chanted and waved banners during a stand-off that lasted around 40 minutes. The Hafenstrasse road where the first skirmishes took place has been a focal point of Hamburg’s anarchist, leftwing and squatters’ scene since the 1980s.
Police asked a group of demonstrators to remove their masks, after which they were attacked with bottles and stones by some marchers. They then decided to separate the group by force from the rest of the approximately 12,000-strong demonstration.
Several protesters outside the “black bloc” of activists reported also being targeted with water and pepper spray. The march later continued after many of the more confrontational protesters dispersed into side streets.
Later in the evening, around 8,000 protesters regrouped on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg’s red light district, and marched in a largely peaceful fashion until shortly before midnight.
A few masked protesters at the back of the march later threw fire crackers and pulled bins and fencing on.to the street to build barricades. German media reported further skirmishes in Hamburg’s St Pauli and Altona districts. Several cars were reportedly set on fire.
The march is one of several protests registered at the summit. The gathering will provide the setting for a first meeting between Trump and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and is likely to see the host, Germany, seeking to make climate change, free trade and the management of forced mass global migration, the key themes.
More than 100,000 protesters are expected to join more protest marches on Saturday.
In the run-up to the summit Hamburg police had expressed particular concern about the march. The police chief, Ralf Martin Meyer, said that he expected “not just sit-in protests but massive assaults”, as anarchists from Scandinavia, Switzerland and Italy joined local activists in a city with a long tradition of leftwing protest and annual May Day riots.
By The Gaurdian