Let’s say the most important thing first: Hamburg was not only under a state of emergency enforced by the police for one week, which should be a warning for us. No, it was as important that tens of thousands defied it. Tens of thousands were not scared or took to the streets despite their fear. Every demonstration, every “cornering” and every tent that was put up was under the permanent and omnipresent threat of police force. Nobody was safe from it. That is the frame in which every single action and each number of participants have to be seen. This courage and this disobedience – from young to old, from peaceful to militant, from political to cultural – remains. This sign will also be understood by our friends in Brazil, Greece or South Africa. No matter what the press says, no matter what the polls say. The political calculation, to isolate the left through repression and defamation, has proven a devastating failure on the streets and has been turned on its head. Maybe Olaf Scholz and his units would have been able to deal with a few leftists – but they were not able to manage that great parts of the population showed their solidarity. Through their own bodies. On the streets. In masses and disobediently, in every form and color.
Summit of 20, Summit of Many
Let’s shortly talk about their summit: Angela Merkel has thoroughly failed her G20-show. Concrete results of this summit, that cost at least 400 million and for which a week-long state of emergency had been declared in a city with over a million inhabitants? None! The promise of a “festival of democracy” or of a summit without almost any impairment? Broken! The attempt to keep the protests far away and small with a huge police invasion and a rigorous policy of prohibition? Failed. Disaster has been a term often used by the bourgeois press. Olaf Scholz and his interior senator have made complete fools of themselves. Summit meetings of this scale in a big city in Western Europe? Unthinkable for years. All the lack of perspective and the sadness of global capitalism that doesn’t promise any future got tangible in their hollow summit theater. It is therefore not only the riot of Friday night that lets politicians and the media cry out, but also their defeat on the streets. They cannot permit that this defeat appears as our victory.
Now about our summit: We didn’t only want to disturb the spectacle of power, we wanted more. We wanted a rebellion of hope, to disrupt the denial of alternatives and demonstrate that resistance and fundamental opposition are coming from the left. That the real conflict about and in Hamburg would actually take place as a resistance against the state of emergency, as a conflict about democracy, as a fight about the right to the city – that was of course not planned, but it corresponded to the matter itself. The old motto of the globalization movement “Think global, act local” has taken on an interesting and new meaning in Hamburg.
A week of disobedience
The week of rebellion started with an intimidation and a threat: We should be nowhere. Sleep nowhere, eat nowhere and not be political subjects within 38 square km. Our places to sleep and to assemble were brutally harassed and removed. The police revolted against the judiciary. Their occupying army militarized the city. But in the end the many where everywhere and they had lost their fear.
That was in no small part due to the overwhelming solidarity in Hamburg. People shared their living spaces. Tents were put up in backyards. Several churches in St. Pauli and Altona opened their doors and camps formed around them. The Schauspielhaus let people in to sleep and eat, just like the FC St. Pauli. They wanted to drive us apart, to separate and divide us, but the opposite happened: The bond of friendship and solidarity between very different people and spectra grew stronger and stronger – and it will outlast the days of protest and resistance.
3 Days Awake
The change from intimidation and powerlessness started with the “mass-cornering” on Tuesday and the water cannon-attacks of the police at Arrivati parc. People retreated briefly, but they wouldn’t let disperse themselves anymore. The fear slowly gave way to defiance and self-confidence. The police wanted to occupy the city and its public places. The strong response was the demo-rave by AllesAllen, more than 20 000 came together and danced against G20. Thereby the dam of powerlessness was broken.
Then on Thursday there was the police assault on “Welcome to Hell” that was excessively brutal and enforced without any provocation. It was obvious to all that the senate and the police had already decided beforehand to not let the approved demonstration run. But despite the beating, despite the massive deployment of pepper spray, despite a police brutality that could have ended deadly at this point: The demonstration gathered again, new people joined, showed solidarity and finally they walked. “This is our city” was a slogan that from then on was hurled against the police over and over again.
The rebellion of hope took place, a solidarity and courageous revolt of the many. The G20 summit could not take place without us making a noticeable and perceptible difference. The “blue zone” existed only in the heads of the summit strategists, practically it had no meaning on Friday, on the day of the blockades.
The actions of BlockG20 started with the collective refusal to accept the zone in which demonstrations were prohibited. From all sides, we advanced to the protocol routes. We were attacked, stopped and beaten. But we stood up, gathered again and kept on. And indeed, we managed to disturb the schedule of the summit. Donald Trump was late, Melania Trump could not leave the guest house of the senate, several delegations had to turn around due to blockades, a meeting with the minister of finance Schäuble was cancelled and the concert in the Elbphilharmonie could only begin after a considerable delay.
Crucial for this success was the good planning and preparation through action trainings as well as the disobedient and brave spontaneity of the many. The colors of the fingers filled the streets, they flowed, flooded and congested. And they took on a life of their own when during the day they developed from an organized blockade of the protocol routes to a spontaneous occupation of the city by the crowd. We rediscovered to be amazed, amazed about how irresistible and unstoppable the spirit of rebellion flowed through the city. People of Hamburg, activist travelers, newly politicized and above all the youth stood up to the arrogance of power. Now more than ever.
Solidarity without borders
In the end 76.000 people joined against a world of fear. They followed the common call for the demonstration. The government demonstration of the Social Democratic and the Green Party that took place at the same time was only an embarrassing side note. All those protestors came although they should have been rendered scared, although they had been told by the media and the Federal Intelligence Service how many dangerous left-wing extremists would be part of the demonstration. They came nevertheless and they came for this very reason. Together we spoke up for a solidarity without borders, against the world of the G20 and their capitalism, for a better life.
Among the pictures of resistance are also those where people had enough, where they fought back – and where this fightback turned into actions which were not directed against the summit or the state power, but also against local residents and shops. Those were not our actions. The Interventionist Left stands for the global solidarity summit, for BlockG20 and for the great demonstration. There we said what we would do – and did, what we said.
But we cannot and do not want to detach the fires of that Friday night from the state of emergency within they took place. If the police throughout days harasses, beats and injures people, acts like an occupation army that seems to never have heard of de-escalation, then a spontaneous response at some point is inevitable. We have already said in advance that we would not distance ourselves and that we would not forget on which side we stand. We do not add our voice to that of those people who now talk about “criminals” and who put the melange of organized militants and enraged youngsters in vicinity to neo-Nazis. The disruption and rejection of the existing system, that underlay these actions, even if we frequently consider them wrong in their forms and aims, is appreciated by us.
As far as these actions were conducted by organized groups, we find it problematic that they don’t assume responsibility but instead leave it to other political spectra to talk with, for and about them. We will talk critically about the political concept of insurrectionalism which indeed stills the hunger for rebellion but from which does not arise hope and solidarity.
Schanze & Co.
On our side are also many residents of St. Pauli, of the Schanze district and of Altona. Not a few of us live there themselves. Without them, without their practical solidarity, these days of protest against the summit would not have been possible. When they are attacked and threatened, when actions are suddenly not directed against the summit anymore but also against our friends in the district, we stand on their side.
We continue to be an Interventionist Left that lives in the city district. We are part of this city and of these districts, part of the right-to-the-city-movement. We will engage in a dialogue with all those who are on our side. With those who endorsed it and those who cannot see any political act in it. We want to listen and to learn because as left radicals we cannot simply talk away the social realities but have to move within them.
The days after
One last clear word concerning solidarity: Against all attacks by the media and all threats of eviction we stand firmly alongside the Rote Flora that from its point of view has said everything that was necessary about the riots on Friday night. We are just as solidary with the G20-Entern-groups and all the others that are now in the focus of state repression. And we will support all those who are still in prison or are hit by repression. You are not alone!
At the same time, we detest the hypocritical double standards of parts of the bourgeois and political class. They need the images of burning cars and smashed windows to get the images of those drowning in the Mediterranean, of the victims of their wars or the homeless that sleep under the display windows of their favorite shops out of their head. We are shocked: So thin is the civilizing varnish, under which are hidden supposedly liberal people’s hatred against every questioning of the existing order and their police-state punishment fantasy. Instead it must be talked about the excessive police brutality during these days, about the legitimization of this state of emergency and about how to organize broad and solidary resistance against all this.
We cannot understand how in a country, where ten years could pass until a murdering right-wing terror network was even discovered and where refugees are attacked daily, only one day has to go by until so many people speak of leftist “terror”.
We’ll meet again…
For the future, we will thoroughly analyze which forms of action and which political strategies are appropriate under the conditions of a policy civil war training in an urban area. We will comment on this and on the other principal questions raised in due time and after in-depth discussion.
What remains is the look back on an encouraging summit week with a wide variety of actions and forms of resistance that have mobilized and given strength to tens of thousands, from the autonomous political scene to unions that agreed on the rejection of the G20, the summit meeting and its effects in Hamburg. Hamburg was the rebellious city that has enlivened this protest. We took courage and confidence, in ourselves and our allies that stood with us. These days of Hamburg went deeper than opinion polls and medial moods. They will still be alive when nobody knows who Olaf Scholz was anymore. They carry us to the fights that are still ahead of us until everything will be finally completely different.