Sunday, 3 June 2007
The German authorities mounted the biggest security operation since the Second World War for the G8 at Heilingandamm near the north German town of Rostock.
They sent 16,000 riot police to the area, destroyers packed with marines up the Wranow Estuary and a fleet of fighter planes to patrol the skies.
Despite this much hyped build up, over 80,000 people travelled from Germany and around the world to join the anti-G8 demonstration last Saturday.
Demonstrators streamed from two meeting points in the suburbs to the old harbour near the city centre.
There were pensioners groups, climate change campaigners, anti-war groups and impressive trade union delegations.
Local families mingled with student groups from all over the country marching alongside mobile sound systems. There were large groups of young anarchists, many dressed in black.
But perhaps most impressive of all were the massive red contingents on both marches organised by the new left party Die Linke.
The party brings together activists who have left the SPD, Germany’s equivilant to New Labour, radical socialists and the PDS, the remnants of the East German Communist Party.
It is currently at 12 percent in the polls and played a vital role in the mobilisation for the G8, especially in the final couple of weeks.
A spokesperson for Die Linke estimated there were 6,000 people on their contingents.
As well as hyping the threat of violence, the G8 organisers had picked a remote part of Germany – its most sparsely populated region – for their meeting.
They had widely trailed plans to use the meeting to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems, especially the threat of climate change.
The huge and radical demonstration showed once again how many see through their rhetoric and oppose their real agenda.
Rostock is an old port and shipbuilding city in decline and is now an area of high unemployment.
The biggest of the two demonstrations marched through miles of monotonous housing projects and empty factories, picking up support on the way.
The atmosphere was relaxed, like a huge political festival. As our anti-war contingent reached the harbour scuffling broke out some metres ahead of us between groups of anarchists and some riot police.
Within seconds hundreds of paramilitary police in green uniforms poured into the area from three directions.
A stick, one or two stones and a flare were thrown and the police started baton charging the anarchist groups mercilessly. Other protesters were pushed over and trampled.
One man was thrown out of a wheelchair and beaten by a group of about 15 police officers. A young woman held by her mother fled past us with blood pouring across her face.
From that point on throughout the evening there were sporadic attacks by police using baton charges, water cannon and tear gas.
There were hundreds of police vans and armoured personnel carriers lining all the cities main streets. All other traffic was banned.
The police seemed to be trying to give the impression that Rostock was under military occupation.
But the protesters were defiant, 30,000 or so stayed in the harbour to hear the speeches and dance at a concert.
Others walked the streets and sat in outdoor cafes and restaurants. On Sunday morning
many of the marchers came back in to the centre of the town to join a demonstration against genetically modified foods or go to a conference on climate change.
At lunchtime there was an international anti-war assembly in one of the cities central squares addressed by anti-war German MPs among others.
The assembly agreed to launch a campaign to pull Nato troops out of Afghanistan.
The German movement has called a demonstration against the war in Afghanistan on 15 September.
After the demonstration the town of Rostock was almost completely undamaged.
We heard of three cars that had been overturned and set alight and a few wheelie bins that had been turned over.
Some of them had been lifted back up. A tiny number of protesters had allowed themselves to be provoked by the massive police presence.
But the police’s military-style manoeuvres that flashed over the world’s TV screens appeared to be just that – manoeuvres designed to intimidate.
The media coverage of the G8 protests will have to be challenged by the movement around the world.
But the biggest roars of approval in Rostock’s harbour last Saturday night were for the speaker who said, “We should accept no lectures about violence.
“We are not the ones responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq, we are not the ones threatening to bomb Iraq.
“We are marching for peace and justice, concepts the leaders of the G8 do not even understand.”
The following should be read alongside this article:
» ‘We’re not asking for help. We are telling them to get out of the way’
» Marching for migrants rights in Rostock