Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Night of the Burning Cars

The above photo was not taken during the G-20 Summit in Hamburg but in a Paris suburb on the evening of July 14, that the Americans wrongly call Bastille Day. In fact, Abfackeln (flaring off) of cars is a French speciality long practiced during hot summer nights. Let us say, there is nothing, good or bad, that Germans do not import as being en vogue either from the States or from France.

Indeed, many a journal wrote about the G-20 Summit and those Chaostage (days of chaos) in Hamburg that most of the radical black-hooded rioters came from other European countries like Denmark, Italy, Spain, and France. This is one of the many statements Red Baron read that is an den Haaren herbeigezogen (far-fetched) and fake news.

The Black Block (©dpa)
What follows will not be a full description of the terror that ruled in small parts of the Hanseatic city and that was documented in many films and mobile phone videos distributed around the world by the press and social networks.

Here is one irking observation: "Innocent" bystanders running around with their smartphones trying to catch the most spectacular scenes were often caught between the battle lines and later complained that they had been hurt by water cannons (police), stones (rioters), and tear gas (both sides). There is a German proverb: Wer sich in Gefahr begibt, kommt darin um or less dramatic in English and with better reference to the Molotov cocktails thrown: If you play with fire, you must expect to get your fingers burned.

Here are more observations. There is no better country for peaceful demonstrations than Germany. When you announce your demonstration to the local authorities they will do everything so that your march will become a success. They will even deploy policemen along the authorized route to protect the participants. There are only a few rules demonstrators must observe, the most important being the Vermummungsverbot (a ban on face coverings). So the March of Science Red Baron participated in recently turned out to be a successful demonstration.

There is even a regular march in Freiburg every Monday evening protesting against Hartz-4, a nearly forgotten piece of legislation tightening the entitlement to unemployment benefits. This is why the other Monday I observed four people with a worn-out banner marching from Bertoldsbrunnen to Rathausplatz with one policeman walking along protecting the protesters against possible right-wing provocations. The friendly demonstrators stopped in front of the town hall, discussed with passers-by, and I bought them a beer.

Coming back to the Hamburg events. Protests against the G-20 Summit were multilayered against turbo capitalism, globalization, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, climate change, arms exports in general and into crisis or war regions.

The situation escalated when the protesters of the so-called Black Block, young people clad in black and some of them hooded, perceived the double row of riot police accompanying their demonstration as a provocation. Nerves were on edge. Soon the militants were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, while the police used water cannons and tear gas.

Germans are well organized. In case of injuries a Riot Medic will help (©Der Spiegel).
A peaceful demonstration by a green block came to an abrupt halt at a line of policemen. At that moment the demonstrators must have realized that the impact of political protests remains small when the rules in capitalistic democracies are observed. So they attacked. Afterwards the girl with the head bandage told the reporter: We tried to break through the Polizeikette. I was in the second row. Crazy.

(©Der Spiegel)
I don't know what got into another girl climbing a water cannon. Policemen told her to descend warning that she would fall off if the vehicle accelerated. When she did not follow their advice the police used tear gas to force her down into "safety".

(©Der Spiegel)
Rioters, a demonstration is not a game of cat-and-mouse! The police has the governmental monopoly of enforcing law and order protecting the physical integrity and the property of the citizens.

The days of chaos left Hamburg with injured demonstrators and policemen, broken windows, looted supermarkets, and burning cars. Too bad, too sad.

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