An Orgy of Violence as G-8 Approaches German City Rocked by Violent Riots

At least 146 police were injured and dozens arrested in the northern German city of Rostock on Saturday afternoon during a major protest in the run-up to Wednesday's G-8 summit in the nearby resort town of Heiligendamm.


Protestors and police clashed in the northern German port city of Rostock throughout Saturday afternoon in the run-up to next week's G-8 summit. News agencies reported that 146 police were injured, 25 seriously, in the melee between anarchists and left-wing radicals and the thousands of police amassed at the scene. Police in the city reported the arrests of 49 protesters suspected of violence.

Police fired water cannons on violent activists as protestors torched cars in scenes reminiscent of the mass protests in the suburbs of Paris, France, just over a year and a half ago. By early evening, however, police reported that calm had been restored in Rostock.

Two planned marches in the city, which is located near the Baltic Sea resort Heiligendamm where the leaders of the world's seven largest economies plus Russia will meet on Wednesday, remained mostly peaceful. But a parallel event held by violence-prone activists from the Black Bloc at the city's port quickly exploded. Organizers of the event said that a police car parked in the middle of the protest area had riled fanatic protesters.

Anarchists set fire to cars and set up make-shift barricades using trash cans. In several parts of the city, full-on street battles raged between protesters and police, who were equipped with safety helmets and Billy clubs. According to media reports, protesters threw bottles, stones and Molotov cocktails at police and smashed the windows of police cars with bats in what resembled a complete orgy of violence. Officers responded by shooting water cannons and tear gas into the crowd.

Police estimate that about 2,000 anarchists descended on the city. They were greeted by 5,000 officers deployed to keep peace in Rostock.

'No Justification for Attacks on People'

Organizers of a peaceful protest in the city, which included performances by top German bands as part of a cultural program to complement the protest marches, quickly distanced themselves from the anarchists. "There is absolutely no justification for attacks against people," said Werner Rätz, an activist with Attac, one of the major mainstream groups that is critical of globalization and the G-8 summit. The riots in no way "represent our sentiments," he said.

Many of the tens of thousands who had come to Rostock for the peaceful protests fled the scene in panic. Dozens were arrested and long lines of ambulances waited to take injured protesters to nearby hospitals, most of them having suffered tear gas-related injuries.

During Saturday's protests in Germany, police repeatedly stormed deep into the demonstration area, pulling out individual protesters. At times, protestors on the outer edges of the demonstration area closed in on police officers, completely circling them.

"The anarchists attacked anything that stood in their way, big or small," a police spokesperson said. They ripped stones out of the sidewalk, they destroyed parking ticket machines. Black smoke, scenes of chaos and the sirens of emergency vehicles filled the eastern German city.

Ultimately, though, the violent clashes between anarchists and police cast a dark shadow on the larger G-8 protests, which were mostly staged without any violence or hitches. Two protest marches started through the city at noon to protest the meeting of heads of government and state.

In additional developments on Saturday, security officials in Germany stopped one train filled with protesters from Hamburg to Rostock believed to be carrying left-wing radicals and anarchists.

Saturday's violent turn caught many off guard. The earlier part of the day had been noted for the paltry turnout of protesters. Organizers of the main peaceful demonstration estimated they had a turnout of 80,000 people, but police put that figure at a much lower 25,000.

Globalization critics from all over Germany and other parts of Europe had converged on the city, some coming in specially chartered trains and buses for the protest, held under the slogan, "Another world is possible." Organizers had called together an unusually broad coalition of G-8 critical groups that included environmental, development and church groups as well as the usual roster of anti-globalization blocs, including the European organization Attac, Germany's Left Party, which includes the successor party to the East German communists, as well as representatives of the Green Party. The groups are in Rostock to campaign for governments to make global trade policies more socially just, democratic and environmentally conscious.

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