Germany: Police use massive force against G8 demonstrators in RostockReply
By Stefan Steinberg
4 June 2007
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A peaceful mass demonstration of an estimated 80,000 participants
turned into a grim battle between thousands of heavily armed police
and demonstrators—including provocative members of the "black bloc"
of anarchists—on late Saturday afternoon in the northern German port
city of Rostock.
The day began peacefully with tens of thousands gathering at two
meeting points in Rostock for marches through the city and a final
rally on the city's dockside. The crowds of demonstrators—a large
percentage of whom were in their teens or twenties—came from across
Germany and many European countries to express their opposition to
the G8 summit of world leaders, which takes place this week in the
nearby holiday resort of Heiligendamm.
A broad mix of political and special interest groups sported a
variety of banners with slogans denouncing world leaders and their
policies. Cultural groups carried out colourful street performances
in which figures like US President George Bush, German Chancellor
Angela Merkel and Russian leader Vladimir Putin were caricatured with
The banners, slogans and speeches of the young participants at the
initial rallies made clear that the overwhelming majority of the
protesters expected little positive to come out of the summit. Calls
were made for the creation of a "global movement from below" to
oppose capitalism and its leaders. At around 1 p.m., the
demonstrators began their march through the city.
On the outskirts of the demonstration, it was clear that at the same
time a massive police operation was being set into motion. Most of
the city centre's streets had been closed and were available only to
continuous convoys of police vans transporting heavily garbed police
from one part of the city to the other. Large units of armed police
were also on the move by foot to occupy and reinforce strategic parts
of the city along the route of the demonstration. Police units had
been imported from as far away as the southern state of Bavaria to
assist in the police operation.
The intimidating climate created by huge numbers of police was not
merely directed at protesters. This reporter stood upon a public
bridge with 40 other journalists and photographers seeking to take
pictures of the march as it moved along its route.
Before the march arrived, a large contingent of police proceeded to
attempt to physically force all of the journalists from the bridge,
pushing and shoving the young men and women.
Only after protesting their right to press freedom and resisting the
bullying tactics of the police was the group of journalists allowed
to remain on the bridge. At the same time, a police photographer
provocatively took video pictures of all those on the bridge.
As the main march arrived at its destination nearing 4 p.m., an
announcement was made from one of the speaker vans accompanying the
demonstration that police were preparing to move in amongst marchers.
A group of youth began running away from the march to avoid a
confrontation but were then chased by police. Some masked
demonstrators then threw rocks and bottles at the police lines. The
situation escalated rapidly, with huge numbers of police
reinforcements moving in to charge at and battle with protesters.
A police helicopter, which had hovered overhead for the entire period
of the demonstration, then flew demonstrably low over the large stage
that had been set up for the final rally. Speakers from the stage
appealing for calm could hardly be heard over the noise of the
helicopter, and it was impossible to continue with the planned
programme of speakers and music. Police tactics intensified as
frustration grew and water cannon were employed to spray
demonstrators and clear the main road alongside the dock area.
As a result of the street battles, which went on into the evening, a
total of 520 demonstrators were injured with 20 severely injured. An
estimated 165 protesters were arrested, and police also claimed many
The Republican Union of Attorneys (RAV) condemned the brutal actions
of the police in Rostock, which it claimed were responsible for
escalating the fighting and subsequent injuries. The RAV listed
examples of medical aid orderlies who were physically prevented by
police from assisting injured protesters. Attorneys attending the
demonstration were prevented from giving legal assistance to
demonstrators apprehended by police, and witnesses reported how
police forced detained persons to their knees and restrained them in
such a manner as to prevent them being able to communicate with other
As was the case in the Italian city of Genoa in the anti-G8 protest
in 2002, the so-called "black bloc" of anarchists played a thoroughly
dubious role in the skirmishes and fighting in Rostock. In the course
of the investigation into the death of a demonstrator in Genoa in
2002, it was revealed that the Italian police had infiltrated its
agents into the "black bloc" and relied on such agents provocateurs
to provide the spark that enabled the police to move in with a bloody
and ruthless offensive.
It is well known that the German intelligence service has also
stepped up its infiltration of such anarchist groups in the run-up to
the G8 summit. In its edition of May 14, Der Spiegel magazine
reported that the BND had made the observation and infiltration of
anti-globalisation groups a central emphasis of its work: "All
preparatory meetings are subject to surveillance and those groups
involved infiltrated by undercover agents."
In fact, the massive police operation in Rostock is entirely in line
with the offensive against democratic rights undertaken by the German
coalition government in preparation for the summit. In the week
before the Rostock demonstration, a German court confirmed an
application by state police for a ban on all demonstrations within a
radius of 10 kilometres of the summit meeting place. This means that
a 40-square-kilometre protective zone has been established around the
12-kilometre barbed wire high-security fence protecting the G8
leaders in the luxury holiday resort of Heiligendamm.
Other unprecedented measures against press freedom in Germany include
a ban on 20 accredited journalists from attending the summit. The
journalists are alleged to have written articles critical of the
summit. In addition, those journalists who are allowed to attend have
been told that "for security reasons" they cannot walk on the
extensive grass gardens enclosing the main meeting centre and hotel.
Despite the provocative police tactics, a large team of WSWS
supporters were able to distribute thousands of copies of the World
Socialist Web Site editorial board statement: "The fight against war
and social reaction requires a socialist strategy."
This reporter spoke with a number of demonstrators:
Owen Ford is an artist from Canada who has lived and worked for the
past three years in the east German city of Dresden. I asked him why
he was attending the demonstration in Rostock. "I think it is
important to be counted," he said. "I attended the demonstrations in
Genoa and Quebec and think it is important to voice one's opposition
to developments that are taking place in capitalism as a whole. I
have noted a different social climate here in Germany as opposed to
the anti-globalisation demo in Quebec a few years ago. Here in
Germany, there is a broader awareness that the source of problems is
the capitalist system itself, and that this has to be replaced if we
want to deal with the basics."
He did not expect much to come out of the summit: "Previous summits
show that world leaders have failed abysmally. They have kept perhaps
2 percent of their promises. With regard to Africa, I read the other
day that there is a transfer of $800 billion from Africa to the
advanced industrial countries. This is after all the sanctimonious
words at various summits about combating poverty on the continent."
When asked about the US political system and the role of the
Democratic Party, Owen answered: "The American political system is
totally corrupt—the extent of the corruption is demonstrated by the
fact that someone like George Bush could get to the top and the
Democratic Party represents absolutely no alternative. With regard to
political choice in America, it's like Henry Ford said: `You can have
whichever car you want as long as it's black.'
"Here in Europe, I have noted a different form of solidarity amongst
ordinary people compared to Canada and America. I believe that it is
bound up with the elements of the social welfare state that still
exist and the traces of solidarity in former East Germany that go
back to the old system, although that was completely distorted by the
Stalinist bureaucracy. It is disturbing now to see the rise of right-
wing politicians such as Blair, Merkel and Sarkozy who are intent on
doing away with what remains of the European social state. At the
same time you can see how things are becoming tougher for immigrants
with the development of the Fortress Europe.
"I read the WSWS web site every day and rely on it for my basic
political orientation. The attention to art and culture on the web
site is very important. A progressive political alternative has to
have a progressive cultural policy. As an artist, I am aware on a
daily basis of the problems confronting genuine artists. The current
art market has been thoroughly debased by huge amounts of money."
Elke and Hasso from Baden-Württemberg attended the demonstration to
show their opposition to the politics of the leaders taking part in
the G8 summit. Elke said, "It is completely wrong that eight states
and heads of state seek to dictate their will over the rest of the
world. I think the most important questions that need to be addressed
are the problem of poverty of the third world, the dangers to the
climate and the issue of militarism. At the same time, I am convinced
nothing will happen at the summit that will bring about anything
"I am also completely opposed to the military interventions in Iraq
and Afghanistan. The German troops should be withdrawn immediately.
Their presence has nothing to do with humanitarian aid but more to do
with the German government and economy. My husband and I are members
of the Election Alternative group (WASG) in Baden-Württemberg, and we
voted for the merger to form the Left Party. But at the same time, we
are very opposed to the social cuts that have been carried out by the
Left Party in Berlin. We must ensure that just because the new party
has been formed it does not mean the controversy over these issues
will stop. It is not possible to base an alternative on the sorts of
policies being carried out in Berlin."
The Left Party-Social Democratic Party Senate in Berlin has carried
out the most savage range of welfare, job and wage cuts of any German
state administration in modern times.
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I would like them to shoot on protests with plastic bullets filled with metal inside, and see how the people would react if they really wanted to use force against them.Reply
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