G20 in Hamburg
One week ago the G20 Summit took place in Hamburg. This was quite a coincidence for me, as it happened to overlap with my visit, which means that I was now present for two G20 conferences, as the same conference took place in Pittsburgh back in 2009. However, both the reactions to and the direct impact on my own life differed between the two summits.
First, some facts about the 2009 Summit in Pittsburgh. There were about 4,000 police in the area, and according to police accounts, about 4,500 people participated in protests, with 190 people being arrested. There was about $50,000 worth of damage to local businesses. (The Wikipedia article explains the conference in more detail than I will go into here, but there were a handful of protests from various groups throughout the city)
Personally, the conference in Pittsburgh didn't affect me at all. The only thing I remember about it was my dad saying we needed to leave a few minutes earlier for school in case there was more traffic due to the conference. As a point of reference, I live about a 35 minute drive outside of the city center in Pittsburgh, and a 20 minute drive outside of the city center in Hamburg.
Now, some facts about the 2017 Summit. There were more than 15,000 police deployed in Hamburg from across the entire country, with 45 water cannons available. The estimated amount of protestors was 100,000 people from all over the world, with 186 arrested, and an additional 225 more taken into temporary custody. One peaceful protest even included an estimated 76,000 people! Even if some of these estimates are drastically off the mark, the difference in scale between the protests in Hamburg and in Pittsburgh remains significant.
Hopefully with this comparison, you have a basic understanding of the relative scales of impact of these two summits. One thing that I would like to point out, and that I think holds true for both conferences is that a majority of the violent protestors did not come from Hamburg or Pittsburgh. $15,000 of the $50,000 in damage in Pittsburgh was caused by a man from California. In Hamburg, the extreme events such as burning cars were also mostly caused by people from other parts of the world, who travelled to Hamburg in order to act in such a way.
One of my good friends lives on one of the streets where quite a number of cars were lit on fire. From my apartment, I couldn't see any of the chaos, except the seemingly often parade of police cars or ambulances that would speed by, or the helicopters I could see in the distance from my terrace. However, the same street where many cars were burned is only a five minute walk away.
I think the most unique or different aspect that is important to note about the Hamburg conference is, that Hamburg, and I believe most cities in Europe, are places in which people live, and are not just designed for business and commerce. In the US, I think it is easy to forget this, because the majority of people, that work in Pittsburgh for example, live in the suburbs outside of the city. That means that for us US Americans, the conference just means two days of inconvenience increased traffic on the way to work, or having to take a personal day and carrying on with every day life.
Yet in Hamburg, the conference halls are right in the middle of a developing area called the Schanze. People live there and due to the conference something as basic as going to the store to buy a loaf of bread now becomes a huge production. My favorite photo from the days of the summit is of a guy holding a sign saying ''I'm a local resident and am just going to the store real quick. Thanks''. The issue that most of the local people I know in Hamburg had with the conference was the intrusion on daily life in such a densely populated area. Furthermore, Hamburg is relatively left politically on average, something that also probably did not help the feelings toward the summit.
This G20 conference specifically was objectionable to many people in Hamburg and other ares of Europe due to some of the political leaders in attendance. Trump, Putin, and Erdogan all in one place to discuss the political and economic future of the world is a statement that very easily creates an image of dark board rooms with evil plans for the future. Of course there were also many respectable politicians there as well, but this Summit certainly served as a reminder of the tedious political state of a few of the world's most powerful nations.
All in all, I was happy to hear that no one I know was harmed during the conference, and despite quite a few of my friends suffering multiple hour delays in getting home on the days of the conference, and a couple even having to walk home multiple miles at two in the morning, everyone made it through the two days. My favorite memory from the time is of a free concert given by the band, Swiss & die Andern, which contains two of the instructors from my German school's band. The concert took place near Millerntor Stadion, home of the St. Pauli Football Club. Other than two security guards by the entrance, there were no police inside, and no violence either. Just punk music, a few soccer balls to kick around, and steaming bowls of vegan goulash for 2.5€. There was even free tap water, which is not typical in Europe, something that I often miss from the US while traveling abroad. Although the days of the Summit were crazier than I expected, it was certainly interesting to live here in Hamburg and watch everything with my own eyes rather than through the television.
Interestingly enough, this same photo appears on the Wikipedia page for the summit. I took the photo for this post myself, and the lighting looks a bit different, but it is exactly the same car from about the same angle as on Wikipedia. Location is on Louise-Schroeder Straße, in between the intersection with Holstenstraße and where the Walter-Möller Park begins. Hope you are all having a memorable summer, sending all the best your way :)