Riots test protester and police strategy
5 June 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - Riots in the German city of Rostock have sorely tested the strategy of both police and protesters for this week's G8 summit in Germany. While German politicians said that a soft policing approach known as "de-escalation" must be kept in place, police unions called for a switch to "zero tolerance" when people in crowds break the law. Organizers of Saturday's demonstration, which police said comprised 30,000 people, have denounced the behaviour of about 2,000 radicals in the crow
5 June 2007
Hamburg (dpa) - Riots in the German city of Rostock have sorely tested the strategy of both police and protesters for this week's G8 summit in Germany.
While German politicians said that a soft policing approach known as "de-escalation" must be kept in place, police unions called for a switch to "zero tolerance" when people in crowds break the law.
Organizers of Saturday's demonstration, which police said comprised 30,000 people, have denounced the behaviour of about 2,000 radicals in the crowd who set fire to cars, threw cobblestones and brawled with police in Rostock.
"This type of person is not welcome," said Peter Wahl, a protest organizer with Attac, a European protest group which regards globalization as dangerous.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was swift to praise the peaceful wing of the protest movement: "It was important that the organizers of the main demonstration completely dissociated themselves from the violence."
Before Saturday, the protest movement had emphasized its unity, with church, trade union and pacifist groups anxious to avoid criticizing tough leftist allies who show up for rallies wearing masks and black clothing.
Police said these "Black Block" militants included reinforcements from other parts of Europe when the mayhem broke out Saturday in Rostock, a port 25 kilometres northeast of the G8 summit site at Heiligendamm.
The block has its roots in "autonomous" communities in Hamburg, Berlin and the Danish capital Copenhagen. On websites, they denounce the European political system as "totalitarian and capitalist."
Riot police face a battle whenever they try to enter "autonomous" city compounds.
Pacifists, whose militancy stops at blocking roads with mass sit-ins, now admit they have only limited influence on their more radical, stone-throwing brethren.
Werner Raetz of Attac told the newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt: "We have to keep them committed to mutual action. Otherwise we'll be excluding them, and then they will do whatever they please."
The next key test this week is likely to be on Wednesday, when demonstrators hope to gather at Rostock Airport to shout disapproval when jets bring delegations from the eight nations attending the G8 summit.
On Thursday, protesters had hoped to converge on a steel gate, two kilometres from the summit hotel, but they have been ordered to stay on a main highway which comes no closer than six kilometres to the beachside resort.
In an indication that mainstream groups are now warier of providing cover for the militants, protesters were Monday seeking court permission for just 600 representative demonstrators to walk to the gate.
Wolfgang Wieland, a politician with the Greens party, which sent its youth section to the Rostock protest, said the violence made it less likely any close-up protests would be allowed.
"But I still think it is feasible for us to demonstrate within sight and hearing of the summit leaders," he said.
Police unions, meanwhile, voiced impatience at the de-escalation strategy, which they blamed for the casualty toll of 433 injured police and 520 injured demonstrators on Saturday.
Wolfgang Speck of the German Police Union said robust policing was needed.
Konrad Freiberg of the GDP union said protesters should be searched before joining the demonstration: "If they have stones, knives and clubs, they belong under arrest."
But German interior officials said they would stick to de-escalation, which includes close consultation with protest leaders and keeping riot police out of sight in side streets until they are urgently needed.
Reinhard Hoeing, a police spokesman, said the policy would stay, though police would act "resolutely" against "violence-prone" protesters. He stressed police were also tasked with "protecting the peaceful demonstrators."
Harald Ringstorff, premier of Mecklenburg West Pomerania state where Rostock is located, suggested Monday one solution might be to put known violent protesters in preventive detention till after the summit.
Subject: German news