The city of Hamburg is known for its deep-rooted leftist culture that is most noticeable when you wander into the districts of Altona and Eimsbüttel: more specifically St Pauli and Sternschanze.
It is permeated through the support and atmosphere surrounding the Bundesliga 2 team St Pauli (that has to be seen to be believed), relentless graffiti, street art and stickers on every building, the squatted buildings in defiance of gentrification, the city’s liberal stance to prostitution, and the residents’ rather aggressive and assertive means of having their voices heard and participating in the political process.
On multiple occasions have the police of Hamburg had difficulty in maintaining their control over the residents’ dissent. One the most recent examples being the demonstrations over the winter of 2013 into 2014. An estimated 7000 demonstrators regularly clashed with police, over issues such as the eviction of refugees living in Hamburg, and the eviction of squatters that occupy the Rote Flora; a building that has been squatted and transformed into a community centre since 1989 when plans were made to turn the building into a musical theatre.
Similar uprisings occur annually on the 1st of May, so as Angela Merkel awaits to be the chair of the G20 meeting on the 7th and 8th of July in the city of Hamburg, the 1st of May casually strolled around; the occasion known worldwide as Labour Day or International Worker’s Day.
The city was incredibly quiet in the morning. A walk through the city centre showed a ghost town, although a stroll around St Pauli saw some people drinking following their celebrations of Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis Night – The Night of Witches) the night before, a lot of homeless people, mattresses laid out on the street and people sleeping rough.
The festivities began around 4 o’clock. A van parked in the middle of the crossroads between Feldstrasse and Glacischaussee blared music as the protesters convened and the police surrounded them leaving only a single exit – the way which the gathering came.
The music stopped, the van drove away, and the people dispersed. The planned demonstration, which was promoted by its posters being plastered all over Hamburg began as described: outside the Sternschanze S-bahn station. A vehicle began its slow descent on towards this location from the Reeperbahn, as two DJs spun some techno on the back. A crowd of around 300 people followed.
At an estimated 6pm, the similar vehicle ceased with the techno at the Sternschanze, as a group of anarcho-communists took over. The vehicle started blasting music again, trap tunes, German hip-hop, and people began to gather in their thousands. Socialists holding red flags, communists with the added hammer and sickle iconography, anarchists, anti-fascists gradually joined the congregation in full black-bloc.
Flares were lit, the atmosphere and tension grew. As the music stopped several members of an anarcho-communist group spoke into the microphone, opining on the upcoming G20 meeting, Germany as being the belly of the beast within the European Union, and the general dire state of contemporary capitalism.
The organisers of the protest listed their website on their main ensign. The site contains many of the concerns that unite not all only of the groups noted above, but will hit the nerve of every day people: the expansion of weaponry, divide-and-rule tactics between arbitrary lines of class and origin, declining living standards, decreasing wages, and soaring rents. Protesters made it clear that their foremost motive was to dismantle the sources of this exploitation: Capitalism and Imperialism.
Because the protest was on the 1st of May, this gave the protest more significance. Although, we can expect to see an increase in these types of ongoings in Hamburg as the G20 meeting nears closer. These groups have vowed to continue to apply pressure on those attending the summit; those, who the website describes as “plunging the world into wars, polluting the environment and creating daily misery”.
This type of demonstration was replicated in many other countries throughout the world. Those who were not marching through their common ground with G20 Entern, were united and participating through their solidarity with working people, everywhere.