HAMBURG, Germany – Police were struggling to contain violent protests late Friday as thousands of far-left rioters gathered in the city of Hamburg, where Germany is hosting the Group of 20 summit.
As world leaders enjoyed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in the German port city’s newly inaugurated Elbphilharmonie concert hall, crowds of masked hooligans set fire to cars in the central Schanzenviertel district.
Police used water cannon to disperse the protesters, some of whom authorities said were brandishing steel poles and firing projectiles at officers.
Large deployments of officers were standing not far from flames reaching several feet into the air.
Police said in a statement that a warning shot was fired by an officer as he approached two men beating and kicking another man who was lying on the street.
The two attackers and the man who was being beaten both fled the scene, it said.
In nearby St Pauli, home to the city’s famous red-light district, police said around 1,000 protesters had gathered for a rally whose organizers had called on participants to “carry our rage at the system onto the street.”
The G-20 summit kicked off Friday and has been accompanied by violent protests staged by militant leftists from the offset.
Hamburg police said on its official Twitter page that 196 officers have been injured in the clashes, up from a previously reported figure of 159.
None of the officers were seriously injured.
Thousands of protesters had attempted to close in on the concert hall, where heads of state and government close a day of diplomatic appointments with a symphony performance.
However, the event went more or less as planned, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel along with other leaders and their spouses arriving without incident.
Police said that 6,000 people were part of the effort to penetrate a protest-free zone imposed by police around the Elbphilharmonie, with at least 1,000 people wearing masks to cover their faces, which is illegal during protests in Germany.
Police used water cannon in an attempt to contain the protest, while demonstrators smashed windows, set fire to cars and threw bottles, stones and other objects at officers.
Merkel condemned the violence as “unacceptable,” adding that she had “a great deal of understanding for peaceful protests, but violent protests endanger human lives.”
Earlier Friday, protests forced President Donald Trump to take a circuitous route to the summit, and his wife, Melania, couldn’t participate in the entire spouses’ program because police said it was unsafe for her to leave the house.
Additionally, police said 20 protesters attacked security guards at Hamburg’s Hotel Park Hyatt, which is hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Earlier on Friday, Hamburg police requested backup from across Germany to contain the violence. More than 850 officers were already en route to Hamburg from five of Germany’s 16 states.
As the time for the concert neared, some 15 boats belonging to Greenpeace tried to reach the concert hall from the harbor. The boats sped up to a barricade demarcating the protest-free zone around the venue before some 200 protesters jumped in the water. They were rounded up by police.
Hamburg’s public transport system was seeing large-scale disruption due to the protests, with police tweeting that members of the public should refrain from driving in the city center for the time being.
Train drivers were ordered not to stop in stations near the protest – including Landungsbruecken and St Pauli’s Reeperbahn – while police said demonstrators were throwing objects on to the tracks.
Seventy protesters have been detained by police and 15 were taken into custody as a result of violent protests that started with the so-called Welcome to Hell rally late Thursday.
Police tweeted a photo of an officer’s arm with a flesh wound, adding that several people had been injured by projectiles fired from slingshots.
They added that officers were being attacked with firebombs in the Hamburg district of Altona and that protesters had set off burning barricades in the area.
Hamburg’s fire brigade also confirmed that 11 protesters had been seriously injured while trying to flee police by climbing over a fence, which collapsed under their weight, causing them to crash to the ground.
Additionally, a police helicopter was targeted with a signal flare, but the device narrowly missed the vehicle, police said.
A dpa photographer saw between 25 and 30 burned-out cars on the Elbchausee riverside boulevard. Television footage showed other burning cars in the Blankenese district of Hamburg. Black smoke could be seen rising over the west of the city.
Some 100,000 people are expected to join the main G-20 protest taking place at Hamburg’s Deichtorplatz on Saturday.
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