Prelude to the G8: Tearing it up in Hamburg
by Anti-G8 Action Faction
Tuesday May 29th, 2007 10:42 AM
On their way to block the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, anti-capitalists from all over Germany and the world stop in Hamburg to confront the Asian-European Meeting (ASEM).
By the Anti-G8 Action Faction
May 28th 2007
Finally, something was happening.
We were on the move again. It's been a while and we're a bit out of shape, but it's all coming back now. After linking arms in flanks for five hours straight in a huge, permitted march, we were getting antsy. As the first major demonstration in the lead up to the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, everyone wanted to start it off right. The city of Hamburg needed to send a message to the world that they have the "violent demonstrators" under total control.
The cops must maintain discipline and it will all go smoothly. The protestors wanted to tear the city apart, to show the G8 leaders that they are not welcome here, and anyone who tries to host them will have to pay. With a thousand black clad anarchists in the front and thousands of others behind, the tension was thick. Screaming "fight the system, fight the state, fight capitalism, fight G8," the demonstrators were not willing to comprise either their vision or momentum. But who would provoke who first? Would the cops use the water canons? Would the anarchists break through the lines and go off the script?
Will the G8 2007 be the opening salvo of a new cycle of struggle against capital, perhaps the final one given the scope of the current ecological crisis? For two years the German autonomous movement in general and the Dissent Network in particular has organized across the world, from the USA to Turkey, for this coming week of action. The stakes have never been higher: until now the "War on Terror" has cast a pall over the movement, yet in Germany we anarchists and autonomists could again re-seize the stage of history by scoring a decisive victory against capital.
Move swiftly. Stop. Fight a bit. Grab something. Then Run. Turn around. Watch out for the Snatch Squad. Which ones are they? Wearing all black with red diamonds on their back. Shit, there they are. They're gonna try and grab us. Move! But who are those ones? Don't worry, it's just the green team. Green team? Yeah, green uniforms, they're like the national guard. They won't arrest you, they'll just tussle a bit. And them? Who? The darker green and dark blue. Oh them, well, they're here to stop you. Be careful.
The modern incarnation of the autonomous movement is distinctly anarchist, mostly young, and quite, quite punk. Even though the movement had been ebbing over the last few years, it appears the arrival of the G8 in Germany, combined with the police raids in early May on anti-G8 centers of activity, have united the often divided and self-critical Autonomen. To the chagrin of the police, the raids also backfired in the popular press, and now it appears that most of the media, and even much of the public, are on the side of the dissidents. Furthermore, in "Red Hamburg," the home of insurrections, pirates, and a famous anti-fascist football league, it is often hard to tell the locals from the Black Bloc while in the streets.
Shhhhhhh. What? Be quiet, they're looking for us. OK, hold it . . . hold it . . . NOW!
The police are nervous, very nervous. And rightfully so! For months, the cars of the officials have been burned, and now internationals are streaming into the well-run convergence center in Hamburg, the former theatre "Rote Flora" that has been squatted for nearly two decades. The dynamic of the police is Freudian to say the least: the police would like nothing better than to release their inner fascist and ruthlessly clear the streets of all protesters. Due to such factors as public opinion and their brutality backfiring on them in the courts, they simply cannot just beat the protesters without pretext. So, instead, the officers express their frustration with an anal-retentive attention to detail about the smallest of the rules regarding banner size, demonstrators masking-up, and so on; they often stop demonstrations for up to thirty minutes or more for the most minor of infraction of the "rules."
The bridge was a trap and everyone knew it. That's exactly where they wanted us to end up and there we were. Yeah some fireworks were shot off, rocks thrown, and a couple arrests, but come on, it was their turf. We had no chance. They've surrounded the Rote Flora. What? The convergence center, you know, that huge squat. Are they going in? Not likely, I think they'll get a beating if they try. Barricades are going up, let's get behind them. The water canons are coming out. Well, move. Down this alley way! Ok. Wait, are we all together?
This leads almost any march or demonstration to be an exercise in frustration, a chess game where both sides try to bend, but not break, the rules through a strict process of negotiation. Or at least until breaking the rules is advantageous. While marching, German anarchists more or less engage with the police in careful negotiations until the permitted demonstration gets as close to the desired location as possible (such as a financial district, a fascist demonstration, or in this case the EU-ASEM Summit meeting in the town hall), and then, all bets are off. The demonstration will then generally be aggressive towards police lines, attempting to wreck havoc by escaping off the official route as a bloc, or break into small affinity groups to build barricades and attack police cars. There is also an apparent tradition of regrouping the night of the action for even more fun in the streets.
I think I'm trapped. Don't panic. Look around. They're gonna do a mass arrest. Ok, black-clad cops over there. Try this. Nope, green cops. Damn, turn around. Fuck, the blue ones. Ok. Surrounded. Where's my group? Doesn't matter, I need to find a way out. Option 1: join the bloc and fight your way out. How many of us are there? Not enough. Option 2: act stupid and sneak by. Let's see if that works.
Police tactics in Germany seem to be a combination of psychological warfare and shows of overwhelming force, with the emphasis on "show," for they seem unable to act unless provoked and do not generally mass arrest protesters, but just surround the march on all sides to maintain "order." Police can be divided into distinct groups. First, there are the local and federal police, who wear blue and green. Within this group there are inexperienced "barrack-based" police who can be identified by an "A" on their helmets. However, the real reason to be worried is the intensive surveillance done by the police (although unlike the UK, there are few CCTVs anywhere), who send undercovers to demonstrations to identify those who have broken laws, and have uniformed cameramen directly outside to tape protestors and identify them (using rather clever techniques like identifying Black Bloc members by their shoes). There is also a special police snatch-squad unit, dressed all in black like stormtroopers, who will quickly and brutally move in and make arrests like sharks. However bad this sounds, it is important to note that the procedure German police use in crowd control is actually quite predictable, and as long as one stays in tight groups, one is unlikely to be snatched. The German police are far from invincible despite their pretensions, and a victory over them should be possible.
Close, too close. I know. We were gonna go back and get you. What? That's insane, they would've grabbed you too. Hey look, they're sending in more. Did they declare a state of emergency? I heard that too. Shit, there's waves and waves of them. Back to the Flora? No, its' not safe. Ok, then, disappear.
A massive thousand person Black Bloc at ASEM, cop cars destroyed, a skirmish in front of the convergence center - not bad for a day´s work. Now, there are many debates over what exactly to do over the next few days. The demonstrations are so decentralized and yet actively planned, that it is hard for even the German anarchists to predict where the sites of intense struggle will be: there are convergences in three cities, an anti-fascist counter-protest against a thousand fascists in the streets AND a huge rally in Rostock against the G8 on the same day, decentralized blockades of roads and airport blockades, as well as countless marches and demonstrations near Heiligdamm and in Rostock. Regardless of the particulars, the energy amongst anarchists in Europe has been built to a frenzied height, and if one thing can be assured over the next week- there will be a reckoning.
Thousands of us in the march. Hundreds rampaging in the streets. About eighty-five arrested. Not bad for a start. Nope, not bad at all.