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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

2,000 police reinforcements arrive in Hamburg to secure G20 summit as violent protests continue

It came as the numbers of injured officers and arrested demonstrators rose above 200 in each case. Figures were not available for how many protesters and other civilians had been hurt

German riot police officers stand next to protesters during demonstrations against the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 8, 2017. Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters
German riot police officers stand next to protesters during demonstrations against the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 8, 2017. Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters

HAMBURG // Two-thousand police reinforcements from several areas of Germany have arrived in Hamburg to join the operation to secure the G20 summit, as the numbers of injured officers and arrested demonstrators rose above 200 in each case.

Figures were not available for how many demonstrators and other civilians had been hurt after a second night of violent protests on Friday.

Timo Zill, a spokesman for Hamburg police who was himself attacked as trouble erupted in the city on Thursday, told German newspaper Bild the force had “never experienced this level of hate and violence”.

Tens of thousands of anti-capitalist protesters were expected to intensify their demonstrations on Saturday, the second and final day of the summit, which brings together heads of government from 19 developed and developing countries and the European Union. Anti-G20 groups said as many as 100,000 demonstrators would converge on the city but police said this figure would likely prove exaggerated.

Police reinforcements — which started arriving in Hamburg on Friday — brought the number of officers securing the summit close to 21,000, police told The National. One officer said this figure was considered sufficient to cope with the protests.

US president Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who met for the first time on Friday’s opening day of the conference and talked for more than two hours in what the Russians called a ”constructive” atmosphere, are a particular focus of the protesters’ opposition.

Both presidents have had direct or indirect experience of the disturbances. Security guards at Mr Putin’s hotel were attacked on Friday and the protesters’ attempts to block routes to the summit venue, the Hamburg Messe (Exhibition) and Congress Centre, forced his entourage to take a circuitous route.

Meanwhile on Friday, security concerns prevented Mr Trump’s wife, Melania, from leaving the residence where the couple have been accommodated by Hamburg city authorities to join other spouses on a programme of visits.

She did, however, accompany her husband to a concert at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, on the Grasbrook peninsula of the river Elbe river on Friday night, despite concerted attempts by mobs of protesters to storm the building. A heavy police presence kept the demonstrators back and officers arrested a group of Greenpeace activists who tried to reach the theatre in boats.

During Saturday’s summit meetings, Mr Trump referred to the ”interruptions” of the previous day.

New casualty figures show at least 213 police officers have been injured since the first violent protests broke out on Thursday. There are no reports of life-threatening injuries. Mr Zill’s own brush with danger ended with him fleeing attackers in an ambulance.

The number of arrests has also risen sharply to just over 200, though this includes suspects detained as long ago as June 22, according to the German news agency DPA.

More than 70 arrests were made as rioting, looting and arson continued overnight after a day of clashes on Friday. Police used armoured vehicles to demolish barricades in the Schanzenviertel district of Hamburg.

Dozens of police cars and other vehicles have been set on fire since the first outbreaks of trouble during Thusday’s so-called ”Welcome to Hell” march and rally. Police, meanwhile, have used water cannon, pepper spray and baton charges against protesters. Officers say these measures were used in response to protester violence, but demonstrators blame the violence on aggressive tactics adopted by police.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, a native of Hamburg, has said she has a “great understanding” of peaceful protest while warning that the violence seen in the city this week endangers life.

Despite some criticism of her insistence on Hamburg as the location for the summit, and not some more isolated location, she was given a standing ovation by delegates and other invited guests at Friday’s concert.

On Saturday, Mr Trump — with whom Mrs Merkel has clashed over immigration, trade and climate change — praised the ”amazing” way she had chaired the event.

“Your leadership is incredible and absolutely inspiring,” he told her during a televised forum.