May 26, 2007

Germany's Tough Security Effort

Source: Stratfor

May 25, 2007 18 15 GMT

German authorities are sending police reinforcements to Hamburg in anticipation of protests planned for the May 28 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of foreign ministers. That event, however, will be a dry run for security forces ahead of much larger protests planned by anarchists and activists at the G-8 summit set for June 6-8 in eastern Germany's Baltic coast resort of Heiligendamm. With tensions already high and violent outbreaks occurring in several German cities, authorities are hoping to keep a lid on protests in Hamburg so as to avoid a spillover of violence in Heiligendamm.

In the months leading up to the G-8 summit, anarchists and anti-globalization activists have staged protests in several cities, including Berlin, Karlsruhe and Hamburg. Although most have been peaceful, some scuffles have broken out and arrests made. One demonstration in Hamburg turned violent May 9, forcing police to used water cannons to disperse a crowd of about 2,000 protesters, some of whom were throwing bottles and stones at officers. Four people were injured and eight arrested. Additionally, cars belonging to conservative politicians, officials and journalists have been firebombed in Hamburg and other cities in recent months.

The latest firebombing occurred May 22 when the Mercedes of Kai Diekmann, editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Bild, was torched in front of his home in Hamburg. A note from "Militante Kampagne kampft fur Sie" ("a militant campaign that fights for you") was sent to Deutsche Presse-Agentur claiming responsibility for the attack, citing Bild's support of German police raids on suspected activist offices in the city. No arrests have been made in connection with the attack.

Nine similar attacks occurred in Germany in 2006, but the frequency of such attacks has increased significantly with the approach of the G-8 summit; one source reported that 18 cars have been torched in Berlin alone during May.

Amid these increasing tensions, Hamburg police are bracing for protests at the ASEM gathering, which will be attended by more than 40 foreign ministers from EU and Asian countries. Hamburg officials expect about 5,000 protesters to enter Hamburg prior to the G-8 summit, many arriving in time to demonstrate against the ASEM and to stay on for protests during the G-8 summit. Adding to the Hamburg police's concerns is a soccer match scheduled for the evening of May 25 between Hamburg's St. Pauli team, which is supported by generally left-leaning fans, and eastern Germany's Dynamo Dresden, whose fan base comes from the country's far right.

The combination of so many anarchists, leftists, anti-globalization activists and neo-Nazis in town at the same time makes for a potentially volatile situation in Hamburg, and German officials are bringing in extra police from four states as backup. By doing so, however, officials could be creating further tensions, as a larger police presence could actually incite the protesters.

German security preparations for both events -- including a series of raids on suspected activist offices across the country and the cataloging of suspected activists leaders by smell (perhaps to be used by dogs trained to sniff out troublemakers if necessary) -- has caused leftist groups to make the usual comparisons with Nazi Germany and the notorious East German Stasi secret police. Although such comparisons have been a sensitive issue in postwar Germany, the police are forging ahead with their proactive security measures. Indeed, similar measures were successful in minimizing disruptions during the World Cup matches held in Germany during summer 2006.

German authorities are determined not to let Hamburg erupt in violence, as it could only antagonize and encourage the protesters to cause more trouble at the big G-8 meeting in Heiligendamm.

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