Police clashed with violent G20 protesters in Hamburg last night, using water cannon, pepper spray and batons to disperse marchers throwing bottles, stones and flares.
The skirmishes came hours before the two-day summit of the world’s top economic powers begins in Germany’s second-biggest city today.
Its host, Chancellor Angela Merkel, said she hoped the leaders would be able to find “compromises and answers” on a wide range of issues, although the prospects of finding common ground on climate change and trade were uncertain.
Last night’s protest as the G20 leaders arrived was titled “G20: Welcome to Hell” and a stand-off between hardcore anti-capitalist protesters and riot police developed before the march itself got going.
Officers said they repeatedly asked some demonstrators to remove their masks, but to no avail. They then decided to separate the group from the rest of the march, which they estimated at 12,000 people.
Black-hooded protesters attacked a police vehicle with bottles and bricks, breaking its window. Organisers quickly called an end to the march after the violence broke out, police said. Clashes continued, with officers advancing down the street with two water cannon while being pelted with bottles.
At least one person appeared to have been seriously hurt and was carried away.
A nearby building was plastered with the slogan “Borderless solidarity instead of nationalism: attack the G20”. A small group on the roof set off fireworks. Police said windows at a furniture store and a bank were damaged.
Many other groups are calling for peaceful protests and are pushing G20 leaders for action to fight climate change and address economic disparities in the world.
Some even want the dissolution of the G20 itself so the United Nations becomes the platform for such discussions.
In all, more than 100,000 protesters are expected in Hamburg for the summit, with some 8,000 violent left-wingers, according to police.
The northern port has boosted its police with reinforcements from around the country and has 20,000 officers on hand to patrol Hamburg’s streets, skies and waterways.
Ms Merkel is also hoping to keep things under control inside the city congress centre where the summit is being held. With guests including US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the search for compromises is expected to be challenging.
Ms Merkel said leaders would address regulating financial markets, fighting terrorism and pandemics and combating climate change, among other issues. She said “free, rule-based and fair trade” will be an important issue.
“You can imagine that there will be discussions that will not be easy,” she said. “Globalisation can be a win-win situation. It must not always be that there are winners and losers.”
In the wake of Mr Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris pact fighting climate change, the battle against global warming promises to feature prominently in talks at the summit.
Ms Merkel has rejected calls from some to push for a strong “G19” statement – without the US – on climate change.
That is something that Zhu Guangyao, a Chinese deputy finance minister, said last night that Beijing also did not support.
“The policies produced by the G20 should be by the consensus of all member states,” he said. “No one should be excluded.”
However, he added: “China will firmly promote its policies taking more measures against climate change.”