The Fence Is Closed Security Tightens as G-8 Summit Approaches

With just a week left before the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm in northern Germany, authorities are ratcheting up security precautions. On Wednesday, the razor-wire fence surrounding the venue was closed. But criticism of German authorities for their draconian security measure remains intense.

The fence in Heiligendamm is officially closed.

The fence in Heiligendamm is officially closed.

Even as foreign ministers from G-8 countries are meeting in Potsdam with their counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday, security along the Baltic Sea coast continues to get tighter. At 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, police officially closed off public access to the seaside resort of Heiligendamm where the G-8 meeting of leaders from eight of the world's most economically powerful countries is to take place next week from June 6-8.

The early lockdown is part of an elaborate security strategy being pursued by the Germans to ensure that protests against the G-8 summit -- to be attended by Britain, Germany, Italy, the United States, Russia, France, Japan, and Canada -- don’t get out of hand as they have in the past. Authorities have built a 12-kilometer long, 2.5 meter tall, razor-wire fence around the resort at a cost of some €12.5 million ($17 million) and only residents and those on official business will be allowed inside starting Wednesday. Additionally, the coast in front of the resort will be patrolled by warships and all other boats are banned from the area.

German officials have been heavily criticized for their security strategy ahead of the summit meeting. Not only have demonstrations been banned near the site of the meeting, but police have been making headlines recently for a number of seemingly invasive tactics. Earlier this month it was revealed that the police were collecting odor samples from anti-globalization activists so that dogs could identify them more easily at demonstrations. Last week, it came out that investigators were opening mail addressed to anti-G-8 groups in Hamburg.

On Wednesday, the mass-circulation tabloid Bild reported that German politicians were considering confiscating the driver's licenses of protesters should they participate in violence. "I have nothing against peaceful demonstrations," conservative Christian Social Union politician Renate Blank told Bild. "But if it becomes violent, then courts have to also be able to ban people from driving."

A number of pre-G-8 protests have already descended into violence. On Monday evening in Hamburg, a 5,000-person-strong protest against the ASEM summit of Asian and European foreign ministers got out of hand as police cars were destroyed and barricades had to be erected in the streets. Earlier this month, another protest in Hamburg likewise turned ugly following police raids on the offices and apartments of violence-prone left-wing activists.

G-8 foreign ministers are meeting in the town of Potsdam near Berlin on Wednesday with the foreign ministers from Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss the escalating conflict between the two Asian neighbors. Both sides have repeatedly accused the other of being responsible for the recent Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. In addition to the crisis in Afghanistan, the foreign ministers have Iran, Kosovo, Sudan and the Middle East on their agenda. In addition, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is in Berlin for a meeting later on Wednesday of the Middle East quartet comprised of the European Union, the UN, the US and Russia.



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