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EU: Summary of the monitoring of demonstrations at the G8 summit
01 July 2007
Grundrechtekomitee (Committee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy)
Between 2 and 8 June 2007, critics of the policies of the G8 states met in Rostock and around Heiligendamm. International in nature, and with particularly strong representation from youth movements, they demanded radically different, democratic, humane, environmentally friendly and sustainable politics. They protested against the policies enforced by the rich and powerful states that dominate the world today, which are ruthlessly exploiting people and the environment and are responsible for war and instability and build barriers against those who want to flee this misery. These diverse movements differ in detail, but there is great unity in their orientation towards - and struggles for - a democratic system that respects human rights.
The Committee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy provided 30 observers to monitor the protests.
We tried to be present at numerous locations, both big and small assemblies, and monitor the treatment of the protesters by the police. Unfortunately, it was not possible to be comprehensive and many reports still have to be collected. However, we are able to draw some preliminary conclusions.
From the planning of the protests the police have responded with escalation and by criminalisation. In a revealing statement they announced that demonstrations will no longer be "given a long leash". At the same time, demonstrators made clear that the right to assembly and freedom of expression had to be defended and supported. Infringements of this right are unconstitutional. They have to be understood as fundamental rights and protected as such.
- The criminalisation of protesters started early - police and authorities issued public warnings about terrorist attacks, criminal acts and violent demonstrators with media effective methods.
When questioned about the evidence for these claims, the police had to admit that they did not have any. However, this tactic provided the police room to manoeuvre. Moreover, it spread fear amongst the population of Rostock and Heiligendamm and undermined the protest. Only with much time and contact between the protesting youth and the local population, were activists able to diffuse these prejudices.
- Using this background of criminalisation, the local authority was able to pass a general decree aiming to suspend the fundamental rights of assembly and freedom of expression. Democratic rights were suspended not just within the immediate vicinity of Heiligendamm (which was fenced-off by a 12 km long razor-wire 'technical barrier') protests were banned throughout the wider area around the red zone. This ban was widely criticised, even by the established parties - from the Green Party to the Liberal Party and the Social Democrats.
- Such a broad decree (which was first overturned by the regional administrative court but then supported by the Admistrative High Court of the Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) was only granted in final instance by the Federal Constitutional Court because the demonstration of 2 June saw violent clashes between the police and - considering the size of the demonstration - a small minority of protesters, who were eager for confrontation with them. Some demonstrators threw stones and bottles from within the group of protesters and thereby threatened the safety of others - not only through their missiles that often hit other demonstrators, but also by way of the police response. The police took the conflict into the midst of the demonstration.
In particular, the "arrest and evidence-gathering teams" - and in a similar fashion the various regional state police teams - repeatedly entered the demonstration to arrest individuals or film those who threw stones. They ruthlessly beat bystanders who were in their way during these actions. When individuals are violently snatched from such a large heterogeneous protest - which was able to march peacefully and without po