Compared to other G20 summits in the past the protests in Hamburg, Germany seem quite violent to me. There were similar occassions of violent protests, such as at the 27th G8 (2001) at Genua, at the 33rd G8 (2007) at Heiligendamm, Germany and at the 4th G20 (2010) in Toronto. But they are years apart, so protests of this extend are not a standard occasion.

I understand (as is stated here) that most of the protests concern global warming and capitalism. However, there are ominous statements from protesters like this one:

We are living in a democracy and the red zone is not a democracy. I'm sure we can't stop all these leaders from meeting but if we can stop them from getting their food or catering shortly we've achieved something.

Now that protests are as natural to such events as the diplomacy done there is quite clear.

But the violence (there are reports of Molotow cocktails, tear gas and so on) strikes me as uncommonly high given the circumstance that firstly, the summit takes place in Germany and secondly that this single (annual) meeting most probably will not change the course of the world forever.

My insights are mere, could therefore someone elaborate on the reasons that spark those rowdy protests?

(I feel like the answer to this question does not apply to Hamburg in particular, for example the quoted statement above was given by German student without obvious immigration background.)

I am asking primarily about actions of protesters.

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    Your question seems to rely on assumptions. Is this summit really more violent than past ones? It doesn't seem more violent than eg G8 in 2007 to me. And were there actually molotow cocktails and tear gas (not from the police, I assume), or just uncorroborated reports? You might also want to make it clearer that you are not talking about the violent police actions, but the violent (re)actions from protesters. But either way, your question seems rather broad and opinion-based to me.
    – tim
    Jul 7, 2017 at 8:15
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    @tim as to the rest, I tried to adapt my question in respect to your hints.
    – pat3d3r
    Jul 7, 2017 at 8:59
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    The bigger the meeting, the bigger the protests; and remember that Europe is relatively small and it is easy to bring in people/protester at hours notice.
    – Max
    Jul 7, 2017 at 11:07
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    Hamburg has a quite radical left-wing scene. They also have violent demonstrations every May, 1st ("Tag der Arbeit", literally "Labour Day"). There were twelve-thousand demonstrants, but only one thousand violent offenders who deliberately derailed the demo. Those left-wing "protesters" are <insert your favorite expletive here> and do not accurately reflect the views and actions of the other demonstrants.
    – Polygnome
    Jul 7, 2017 at 11:22
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    @pat3d3r Most summits especially in well known protest cities in Hamburg against widely disliked world leaders tend to attract violent protest. I can't answer a question such as why was this comparatively more violent since that is purely subjective. If your question was why were they violent? That may be more answerable Jul 7, 2017 at 12:44

2 Answers 2


The location of this year's summit played a huge part in the ability to stage protests. The summit is held in the centre of the populous city of Hamburg, so protests are easier to be carried out, as compared to past G20 summits. One such example would be China, which gave residents a week-long holiday and encouraged them to leave the city during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, which "guarantee(d) a trouble-free summit".

News articles from Reuters and NPR have suggested that Merkel had hoped to show the world that protests tolerated in a healthy democracy.

Since then, G20 summits have been largely peaceful. This may be because some locations -- such as Brisbane, Australia -- have been a long way to travel, or because protesters have been kept far from the summit venue amid tight security. Last year, China ramped up security for the summit in Hangzhou and reportedly gave residents a week's vacation.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/07/europe/g20-hamburg-protests/index.html

The protesters are mainly anti-capitalists and organised mainly by an organised group called "Welcome to Hell". They hope to disrupt and cause inconvenience to those involved in the summit.

Christian, one of the protest organizers who also declined to give his surname, said the "point is to disturb the G20," adding: "It's not right that a few countries get to decide what happens to the rest of the world at this summit."

Sunday's demonstration was organized by a group called "Protest Wave G20". Other demonstrations this week are called "Welcome to Hell" and "G20 Not Welcome".

There are many small groups protesters that advocates from many different platforms, ranging from fighting climate change to addressing worldwide economic disparities.

As the leaders began holding informal meetings, thousands of protesters from around Europe, who say the G20 has failed to solve many of the issues threatening world peace, poured into Hamburg to join the main demonstration.

The city also has a radical left-wing scene who organise protests occasionally.

Many streets in and around the city center — which is famous for its extreme left-wing scene — were blocked to ordinary traffic, though nearby public transport stations were open, albeit with increased security patrols.

And the protestors are also said to be associated with the black bloc which had protested in many parts of the world and recently participated in the May Day protests in Berlin. May Day protests had occasionally turned violent in Germany.

  • @Pamda May day isn't celebrated much in Germany. What is celebrated is the "Tag der Arbeit", often with lots of alcohol and beer. Most people will not even be aware that there is an ancient northern holiday on the same day.
    – Polygnome
    Jul 7, 2017 at 15:50
  • Bonus Question: Why were so many protest signs in English? Jul 10, 2017 at 14:11
  • They also apparently travelled across Europe to burn German cars. I guess (ironically) China doesn't give visas to the extreme European left wingers (to burn Chinese cars). Sep 21, 2022 at 4:37

Well, a healthy democracy has protesters. There's more to democracy than placing a tick everytime the election circle comes round again. Perhaps its disruptive to the G20 and the delegates but sometimes you have to win yourself an audience.

After all, these policies are impacting these people and they are making there feelings known. And the violence I often hear about is violence to property not person.

After all, if I was told to eat a trickle, which is what "trickle-down economics" amounted to, then I could get very angry, especially of I had a family to feed and shelter. It's the contemporary analogue to Marie Antoinette, hearing her people had no bread, she said, "let them eat cake". It brought down French Royalty, the Aristocracy and ushered the period of revolutionary change in Europe.

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