Hamburg, Dec 21, 2013–Over 8,000 protesters have clashed with riot police as they protested against the planned eviction of squatters from a popular social centre, and against the eviction of hundreds of Syrian refugees from their homes. The largely peaceful protest erupted following a baton charge, and use of teargas, and water cannons by the police. The protesters responded by building barricades, throwing stones, fireworks, and bottles. It is reported that over 500 people has been injured, and around 150 arrests made.
The Rote Flora is an old theatre building which has been used as a social centre since 1989. The sale of the building to developers has sparked widespread outrage and protest. There are also wider issues relating to an old apartment building nearby, the ‘Esso houses’ that had been the home to around 300 refugees from Syria and Egypt, until they had been evicted last week.
One of the Rote Flora squatters said that:
“There was a mood of aggression from the outset,” adding that “we came under serious attack. It has become more violent than anything we have experienced in a long time. Through the overwhelming use of batons, pepper spray and water cannon, there were numerous injuries,”
Running battles were fought throughout the night across Hamburg. Several shop fronts were smashed and many cars set on fire. The police claim that 82 officers required treatment for injuries.
A police spokesperson claims that:
“The protesters suddenly started marching, and this was not what we agreed on with them, so we had to stop the march. Then bottles, stones and fireworks were thrown at us, injuring several officers. We had no option but to deploy water cannons.”
“The situation escalated shortly after the start of the demonstration in the afternoon than in the immediate vicinity of the occupied cultural center “Rote Flora” rioters from the so-called Black Bloc attacked forces. These thereafter blocked the march and put a water cannon. Even from a bridge officers were pelted with objects, said a police spokeswoman.”
Hamburg has been the scene of other large scale disturbances in the recent past. Police clashed with marchers on May Day, earlier this year, and 700 anti-fascists fought with police and boneheads, late last year.
It is interesting how the riot cops in Germany don’t use shields and appear to be less armoured than their N. American partners in crime. This makes them more mobile but less well protected. They also seem to use little, if any, less-lethal projectiles, such as plastic baton rounds, etc.
There were a reported 4,000 police and 12 water cannons deployed for this operation. Areas of the city were declared “danger zones” where police could stop and search people, set up checkpoints, etc, a now standard practise by cops during large mobilizations (and recently in the streets of Hamburg, unrelated to any protest activities but targeting “undesirables,” the poor, brown people, etc.). This limits the ability of militants to bring flag poles, helmets and other protective gear into the zone of conflict. It is also illegal to wear a mask at a protest in Germany, which explains the hat, hoodie and (perhaps) a t-shirt sleeve over the lower face, as well as sunglasses, worn by many militants in the photos.