HAMBURG – Violent protests continue in Germany’s second-largest city, Hamburg, which is hosting G20 summit on Friday and Saturday.
Authorities are preparing for the arrival of an unprecedented lineup of controversial world leaders including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as thousands of international protesters ranging from anti-capitalist activists to middle-class families keen to voice dissent.
The prime ministers and presidents have yet to arrive, but protests have already turned to violence.
A blaze broke out at a Porsche Center in Eidelstedt, Hamburg early Thursday morning, in a suspected G20-related arson attack.
Ten cars were completely destroyed, while others were damaged by the fire, as well as the foam used to extinguish the flames, NDR reports. Porsche estimated the damage cost more than €1 million ($1.3 million).
Police said they are concerned the incident could have been incendiary arson and are looking into whether the fire was related to the G20 summit.
On Thursday night a huge demonstration is planned. As many as 100,000 protesters are expected in Hamburg during the meeting of 20 nations on Friday and Saturday, Handelsblatt reports.
About 20,000 officers are on duty over the course of G20. They say up to 8,000 extremists, armed with home-made weapons, are targeting the city.
Earlier this week, police used hi-tech water cannons to disperse demonstrators and there have been scuffles as officers tried to clear small tented camps set up by protestors. Five people were injured and five arrests made, said police, who have warned that protesters could be hoarding weapons at secret locations.
“Some of these militants will be very aggressive,” said Ralf Martin Meyer, the chief of Hamburg police. “In the last few days we’ve seized improvised weapons like slingshots, ball bearings and fire extinguishers filled with flammable liquid which were intended for use against police officers.
The police operation has divided opinion in Germany. Too many officers, too heavy handed, say those worried that the decision to seal off part of the city centre and keep protesters out is an infringement of Germans’ right to peaceful protest.