Demonstration against g8 summit ended in militancy

After the events in Rostock, the debate on forms of action has started again

At noon on Saturday, the situation was still relaxed in the city center of Rostock. All around the central station people were queuing up in front of snack bars and bakeries. Because many stores were not even open that day, the globalization critics, who had come from all over Europe, found only a few possibilities to satisfy their hunger. As is often the case with such large-scale events, the number of participants varied widely. While the police initially spoke of almost twenty thousand demonstrators, the organizers agreed on the number of eighty thousand participants. Independent observers told Telepolis that fifty thousand people were on the streets of Rostock.

Demonstration against g8 summit ended in militancy

Action under observation of the press. Picture: en.indymedia.org

The relaxed atmosphere continued into the afternoon hours. Because the police were hardly visible at first, the demonstration turned into a happening in some places. The clown army was represented as well as the superheroes, who had pointed out the precarization of living and working conditions in a funny way. But at about 3 p.m. the fun was over.

The blind rage of the stone throwers (Die Welt)

Just as the final rally was about to begin, the hum of police helicopters at Rostock harbor drowned out the speeches. This was an untrustworthy sign of a worsening of the situation. The skirmishes between police and demonstrators massively affected the final rally. Tranengas and water cannons were used. As is often the case in such escalations, demonstrators and police blamed each other afterwards. While the Rostock police department speaks of over 300 injured police officers, 30 of them seriously, the number of injured and arrested demonstrators is not yet known.

"The reason for the escalation after the end of the demonstration was, according to current knowledge, the attack of a small group of demonstrators on a police car parked at the rally site", Attac declares. "Apparently two police officers were injured. After that the situation escalated. Both sides were involved in the escalation. A calming of the situation took place in the evening after discussions between the police and the demo leadership." Attac distanced itself from the rioters: "There is no justification for these attacks", said Pedram Shahyar from the nationwide Attac coordination circle.

State of Emergency in Rostock (FAZ)

Debate has begun

The militant clashes caused different reactions among the demonstrators. One part points out that there have been clashes at several G8 summits since Seattle that far eclipsed the events in Rostock. Reminiscent of Goteborg, Genoa and Prague. Others were less sympathetic to the escalation and warned that this was playing into the hands of security politicians à la Schauble. They also feared negative consequences for the summit protests in the coming days. Only a few hours after the clashes in Rostock, a bicycle caravan on its way to a camp was attacked by police with pepper spray. It is also feared that the clashes will complicate the chances of legally overturning the ban on demonstrations around the Heiligendamm fence after all ("Black day for the right of assembly"). According to experts, the chances have not been so bad so far.

Other critics of the escalation pointed out that especially many elderly people and parents with children had left the demonstration after the start of the skirmishes. A deterrent effect could have occurred, which could have a negative impact on the movement of globalization critics. An evaluation of the events also reveals a weakness of the protest alliance. There is no consensus on the question of forms of action. This would not have been possible with such a heterogeneous network.

G-8 protest: Autonomes devastate Rostock (SPIEGEL ONLINE), then toned down to: "Riot in Rostock – 300 police injured" and supplemented by "They beat everything short and small"

Breadth instead of clarity

The breadth of the alliance was made clear in the various slogans on the banners, some of which were mutually exclusive. While many non-governmental organizations demanded that the summit politicians make greater efforts to protect the environment and provide aid to Africa, others denied the G8 any legitimacy.

The differences also became clear during the closing speeches. At the beginning, a spokesman for the environmental protection organization Greenpeace demanded that the federal government take energetic steps to protect the environment. An hour later, two representatives of the Interventionist Left Network explained that the G8 was part of the problem and not the solution. Waldo Bello of the non-governmental organization Focus of the Global South also spoke out clearly against negotiations with the G8 structures. These different views have been present in the heterogeneous protest alliance from the very beginning. Only on the basis of their acceptance was the alliance capable of action at all.

No consensus on forms of action

The representatives of the Interventionist Left in the alliance emphasized again and again that it did not make sense for them to make the rejection of the G8 the crux of cooperation, because it would have meant the end of the alliance.

Such an agreement was also not possible on the question of forms of action. The common denominator of a large part of the groups in the alliance is the concentration on blockades, which the Block G8 initiative calls for. Here a form of action has been chosen that goes beyond a mere demonstration and is nevertheless supported by many people and initiatives in the federation. Militant actions, on the other hand, were not approved by many groups in the federation. Therefore, one can be curious about the reactions of the organizers to the course of the demonstration, as well as about the police handling of the summit protests in the coming days.

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