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Prelude to the G8: Tearing it up in Hamburg

Prelude to the G8: Tearing it up in Hamburg
By the Anti-G8 Action Faction

May 28th 2007

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).

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.

violence will not help us

if something was (and, more importantly, will) happen, let's hope it is not violent; the movement does not need any more violence, we do not need such pictures all over the web and newspapers worldwide, the anti-war, anti-capitalist, no-global, anarchist movements (or whatever anybody want to labels them/us) do not want to deal anyumore with such a violent episodes and people within themselves

if you think that putting cars on fire to block roads or to throw stones to policeman, and worse, is gonna be helpful to stop the war or to send bush home, or to help the anarchist, no-global you are terribly wrong

let's use our rage in more creative and propositive ways, let's not play in their own game by portraying ourselves as careless, violent, crazy people -- we can do much much better than that!

thanks, ciao