Police raids inspire left-wing protests

By Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent

BERLIN -- German police raids of the far left seem to have backfired and strengthened the anti-globalization movement, less than a month before Berlin hosts the G8 summit.

Some 880 police and 20 attorneys of Germany's Federal Prosecution Office last week raided roughly 40 properties in six German states for the most comprehensive raid against the far left in recent years.

Police searched left-wing strongholds in Hamburg and Berlin -- cities with a long-established left scene -- in connection with investigations of two terrorist groups that allegedly want to disturb or even prevent the June 6-8 G8 summit.

Among the raided properties were offices, cultural centers, bookstores and even a left-wing merchandising shop. If Berlin wanted to intimidate the far left, it seems to have failed; in the wake of the raids, several far-left groups have received more support than before the security move.

Thousands of people have since marched in protest against the raids to protest what they saw as an attempt to criminalize otherwise legitimate anti-globalization groups. Berlin managed to victimize the far left after it surfaced that none of the 21 arrested was being held more than one day; it also searched the properties of several senior citizens, sparking protests from the left-wing opposition, who called the raids "out of scale."

The left has since said the move will increase the number of protesters and thus further threaten security.

"One of the consequences of the police operations was to mobilize people," Peter Wahl of the anti-globalization group Attac told Germany's ZDF television. "We have received a lot of e-mails from people saying 'at first I did not want to go to Rostock ... but now I am ready.'"

Berlin says it is ready, too.

Up to 100,000 people are expected to flock to the summit venue in Heiligendamm and to nearby Rostock to protest the negative effects of globalization.

The German government has introduced several measures besides the raids to guarantee security: It has installed a $20 million fence around the Heiligendamm Baltic Sea resort to keep protestors out, and the same is to be done at the country's exterior borders: Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives said Germany would reintroduce border security checks to stop potentially violent protesters from entering the country.

Normally, under the Schengen agreement, travelers entering Germany from a Schengen member country do not have to present their passports, but the checks can be reintroduced in light of an elevated security threat.

The minister has also threatened to have supporters of violent demonstrations arrested for up to two weeks during the summit if there is reason to believe that they are planning to commit a crime.

"Regional police authorities are considering taking recourse to so-called preventative detention," he told Germany's top-selling newspaper Bild.

The government had threatened to use the law against hooligans during the FIFA Soccer World Cup in Germany last summer.

Schaeuble warned that just because Germany was not subject to terrorist attacks during major events such as last year's World Cup, that "doesn't mean we will be spared this time."

Hans-Christian Stroebele, a senior Green party lawmaker, harshly condemned the minister's comments.

"What the interior minister currently does is the opposite of de-escalation," he told German news channel n-tv. "He is fueling the conflict, and I can only urgently call on him not to release new threats with each day."

The growing unease has also resonated with police officials, who are worried that the country's force will be overstretched during the summit.

Authorities are planning to deploy more than 17,000 police in Heiligendamm and the nearby city of Rostock, where most of the protest events and mass demonstrations will be staged.

Because of recent staff cuts, the G8 assignment will overstretch the police, which has to guarantee security for the rest of the country as well, Konrad Freiberg, the head of the police union GdP, told Sunday's Bild newspaper.

"The G8 summit is the biggest police assignment of all time," he said. "More than 100 activities and events will be staged parallel to the summit."

As for the rest of the country, "Criminals don't go on a G8 break," he said.

Besides the fear of far-left violence, Berlin shouldn't underestimate the high threat of an Islamist terror attack, Freiberg said, citing the example of the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, during which the London subway bombings were executed.

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