Germany: Politicians want EU-wide "extremist" database after arrests, injuries, protests and riots at "dystopian" Hamburg G20 summit

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Politicians want EU-wide "extremist" database after arrests, injuries, protests and riots at "dystopian" Hamburg G20 summit
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The G20 summit in Hamburg, which was accompanied by "dystopian" security measures including the deployment of Predator drones, robots in the sewers, heavily militarised police and 'no-protest zones', finished on Saturday following days of mass protests that continued over the weekend. Dozens of protesters were injured and hundreds arrested - although there are no official figures on how many exactly - while numbers offered for the number of police officers injured range from 200 to 500. The German justice minister, Heiko Maas, is now leading calls for a "Europe-wide extremist database" - which sounds similar to previous calls for EU-wide databases on "troublemakers".

Huge protests

The days leading up to the summit saw numerous protests. Several thousand people attended a rave against the G20 on Wednesday that passed without significant incident. The day before, police decided to deploy water cannons against a protest camp set up elsewhere in the city, describing it as "not a legal rally but unauthorised camping". Pepper spray and water cannon were also used elsewhere on Tuesday as protesters attempted to block streets, according to The Local (link).

Friday was marked by a demonstration with the theme "welcome to hell". Several thousand people participated although the march was blocked by police after travelling only 300 metres, according to a report in Deutsche Welle (link), because of demands from the police that protesters remove masks. Water cannon was subsequently deployed against the march.

By Saturday it is estimated that there were some 100,000 people in Hamburg to protest against the summit through marches, bicycle rides, dances, and a host of alternative discussions, talks, presentations and other events.

On Saturday:

"A day of violent clashes between police and protesters culminated on Friday evening with the bizarre spectacle of the heads of the world’s 20 leading economies listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at the top of a shiny high-rise building while police used water cannon, teargas and speed boats to keep at bay an angry crowd of thousands."

Accusations followed:

"Police and protesters accuse each other of having escalated the situation in the city, with police saying they had to use force after a hardcore bloc of activists had attacked them with bottles and sticks.

Andreas Beuth, a lawyer and protest co-organiser, accused authorities of deliberate provocation with heavy-handed tactics. “The escalation was clearly started by the police,” said Beuth at a press conference inside the stadium of local football club FC St Pauli on Friday morning.

Christoph Kleine, one of the organisers of Saturday’s G20 Not Welcome march, said police had “risked the loss of human life” by aiming water cannon at people standing on bridges and rooftops."

See:Arrests and injuries as Hamburg gripped by mass anti-G20 protests(The Guardian, link).

Violence, injuries, and wanted foreigners

A legal support team set up to support protesters has accused the police of serious violence after a number of incidents, noting that medical support groups ran out of dressings for protesters' injuries. They also note an active attempt by police to locate activists who had travelled to Hamburg from outside Germany:

"Throughout the entire city of Hamburg police were looking for international activists in hostels and at train stations. Reportedly the authorities were especially looking for Italian and French protesters while also looking for Kurdish flags. Already during the big rally about 15 Italians had been arrested, inclunding a member of the European Parliament."

See: Raids and arrests at the end of the summit and: Batons instead of kettles, water canon instead for carrying people away, pepperspray instead of process(Legal Team G20, links)

The MEP arrested was Eleonora Forenza of the GUE/NGL left group in the European Parliament, who said:

"They told us we were in a state of detention without giving us the reason. They told us only that they had news of dangerous Italians coming to Hamburg.

They seized our documents including my parliamentary ID card for hours. They searched our bags and found nothing.

The police also teased us when we asked for information and even made me go to the toilet with the door open while watched by two policemen even though I had already been searched.

They continued to keep us in detention even though I called the Italian consulate and they contacted the police explaining that we had not committed any crime and that there was a parliamentarian among us.

After I was released – because I am an MEP according to the police – I stayed at the police station in solidarity with the others who were detained. I would not leave until they released the other 14 people who were arrested with me."

See: Leftist MEPs condemn the arrest of their colleague Forenza in Hamburg(New Europe, link)

"Extremist" database: "troublemakers" rebooted?

Now, according to dpa(link), German justice minister Heiko Maas and a number of other German politicians are calling for an EU-wide database on "extremists":

"The large-scale disruption during the G20 meeting on July 7 and 8, which resulted in 411 police detentions, showed that "we do not have an adequate database in Europe in the area of extremism," Maas told mass-circulation newspaper Bild on Monday.

Many perpetrators in the riots - which were policed by some 21,000 officers, some 500 of whom were injured - were from European countries outside Germany, said Maas, a centre-left Social Democrat (SPD).

A database "would enable authorities to get a better overview and to refuse entry to people at the border," he said.

Stephan Mayer, a lawmaker for the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), said that a European extremist database would be "sensible and worthy of support."

"There is a very active left-wing extremist scene in Germany, but also in other European countries," Mayer told Rheinische Post newspaper, adding that "controls at Germany's external borders introduced as part of the G20 should continue.""

National lists of suspected extremists no doubt exist, as made clear by ongoing revelations about undercover policing in the UK, as well as report such as: Garda chiefs draw up list of hardline G8 protesters (Irish Independent), from the time of the G20 in Northern Ireland in June 2013. The issue at hand is sharing that information across the EU.

Creating an EU-wide database of "troublemakers" has long been considered by the Member States in the Council, but proposals have had little impact. Will Maas' suggestion see the issue return to the agenda?

Further reading

G20 violence in Hamburg: German leaders outraged (Deutsche Welle)

Security forces in Hamburg call in reinforcements as clashes erupt during opening of G-20 summit(The Washington Post, link)

Contempt for G20 grows after divided leaders leave vandalized Hamburg (The Globe and Mail, link)

Police gain upper hand after Hamburg's day of G20 clashes (Reuters, link)

Hamburg discharges Berlin police after drunken party(euronews, link)

Hamburg is transforming itself into an Orwellian dystopia for the G20 Summit(OpenDemocracy, link)

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