It was supposed to be a peaceful and constructive political exchange between 19 Nations and the EU at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany last weekend.
Talking about common interests such as Global Warming, economic trade, and terror prevention was supposed to improve how those countries and thus the world would work together from here on out. Instead, little was achieved within those G20 talks. To be fair, not much was lost either, unless maybe the dignity of the city it was held at, Hamburg, which apparently drowned in the violence sparked by left-winged extremists, or so it seemed.
The Violence at the G20
Now that the summit is over, it seems almost comical to think that not so long ago, Hamburg’s mayor promised most of the citizens won’t even notice G20 ever happened. Everyone expected demonstrators and peaceful protests with a few extreme outburst in between at most. That was until the riots started in the streets, sparked by left-winged autonomous groups, seeking violence against capitalistic principles, destroying shop windows, setting cars on fire and clashing with police forces.
20,000 policemen were on duty during the weekend, 15,000 of which came from other districts throughout Germany, prepared to hold off the worst. And soon enough they got exactly that, when autonomous groups started their route through Hamburg, leaving destruction and fire in their wake. They visited the city of the summit with violence in mind, and they got what they paid for, clashing with a police force that was not as prepared as it should be. The police were not even present at certain stages of the destruction, leaving the violent protesters to do as they pleased before actually getting a handle on things.
Much like the violent protests in London in 2011 when a police officer killed a man, the protests observed in Hamburg are easily denounced as blind and politically motivated. What made the difference on a much greater scale though was the involvement of many more people “coming along for the violent ride” without any political motivation, making it difficult to contain.
While videos show left-winged protesters, destroying shops and their merchandise, there were just as many plundering for their own gain, hurling away as many expensive products as they could carry. If those were supposed to be anti-capitalist left-wingers, they must’ve read the guide book wrong. Those violent outbursts were not only sustained by radically left political views but the enjoyment of destruction which thankfully, unlike London, was gone as fast as it arrived but nonetheless frightening for Hamburg’s citizens to witness.
Social Media and the Hunt for “Justice”
Social Media has made it very easy for people and groups to organize and share content in a very short time frame. As photos and messages came pouring onto Facebook and Twitter, showing pictures of destruction and violence as well as updates on injuries among police forces, some people took it as their responsibility to hunt after alleged offenders, sparking an all-out manhunt for what, in several instances, turned out to be innocent individuals. It seems fake news do follow Trump wherever he goes, though he was not involved in these cases for once.
There were, and still are, pictures circling through Facebook showing a person allegedly throwing a firecracker at law enforcement officers, causing one of them to go blind as a result. That’s what it said at least. It was shared thousands of times as well as another picture of a woman, holding a stone in her hand, allegedly being a violent offender injuring police officers. In all those instances single frames, cut loose from any context, were used on social media to interpret injuries and crimes by individuals.
Those people’s faces were and are still associated with violent crimes against police officers, although both are NOT suspects and NOT charged with a crime. That effectively makes them innocent civilians being the subject of a public manhunt, which the police told people not to follow, which didn’t seem to bother anyone. The magic snowball of tweets and retweets even made its way into newspapers, fueling what was nothing, to begin with and to potentially destroy lives based on a picture that, again, did not depict a crime.
The Political Side of Things
Violence is never an answer or a way to enforce one’s opinion. It never can be, but stripped from all its brutality and taking into account that there were many peaceful protesters, raising their voices in a meaningful way, there are reasons to feel uncomfortable with the proceedings of the G20 Summit. A bunch of leaders casually enjoying some meals and cultural niceties while supposedly changing the world a bit which, spoiler alert, didn’t happen. And there is much not to like here.
As said in the beginning, they weren’t many things that improved in any way, while it didn’t get any worse either. The fact that it didn’t get worse seems to be the only positive of this Summit, as many people feared Donald Trump’s opinions and policies might inspire other nations to spontaneously opt out of the climate agreement as well. They didn’t though and what many feel is just much of the same (it is), turns out to be one of the few victories the weekend brought world politics.
The US, however, agreed to pay more aid for African countries and trade topics were discussed as well. The problem with gatherings like the G20 is that it’s not a meeting of nations with the same values so much as it is one of shared interests, which makes finding common ground much more challenging. The G20 will surely not be remembered as the most important political event this year, but rather as a violent protest in the streets as some of the world leaders enjoyed a classical concert on the river Elbe. Oh, and Trump finally shaking Putin’s hand in person.
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