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Thousands Protest G-20 In Hamburg


As leaders of the world's 20 wealthiest countries meet under tight security in Hamburg, the city is recovering from last night, a night of violent clashes between protesters and police.



KELLY: German officials say more than 100 police and protesters were injured and that some storefronts were damaged, cars lit on fire. We go to Hamburg now, to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who is there following the protests. Hello, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Good morning. Tell me where exactly you are in Hamburg, and what's the scene like now?

NELSON: Well, I'm not far from the central train station. And this is a place that's quite tense this morning. It's about a 10-minute drive from where the main clash took place last night. And periodically - you're going to hear this while we're talking - there are still police helicopters circling overhead, a lot of police officers in riot gear and heavily armed who look quite stern. And there's a smattering of protesters. They're not doing much other than walking around. And then you have the poor, like, few number of tourists who I guess didn't realize the G-20 was going on today (laughter).

KELLY: (Laughter) Oh, dear.

NELSON: They look pretty bewildered.

KELLY: So I mean, it does sound like a tense scene still. Are authorities there saying it's under control at this point?

NELSON: Certainly they do feel it's under control at the moment. And they're taking extra steps to make sure that that security stays tight, that no other problems happen. During the daytime, they probably won't anyway. At the moment, you have the police saying the protesters started this with - by throwing bottles and rocks at them last night. And then they responded with water cannons and pepper sprays. But the protesters say it was the police that started it. And the mayor is denying that there's any overreaction on the part of police. And you have to remember there are 20,000 of them on the streets at the moment. But...

KELLY: Twenty-thousand police? Wow, OK.

NELSON: Yes, exactly. From all over Germany, they're here. And many residents have left though, the city, because they just don't feel it safe. One woman I spoke to told me that it was just too threatening for her, the atmosphere.

KELLY: You said they're from all over Germany. Who are these protesters?

NELSON: Well, actually, most the ones who have been on the street here are from Hamburg. They're from so-called antifa or anti-fascist factions along with other activist groups. But then some of the ones like the ones you heard earlier arrived from Switzerland on a charter train. And these are among the hardcore protesters that police suspect were involved in last night's attacks.

KELLY: And what is it exactly about this G-20 meeting that they are angry about?

NELSON: Well, it's a variety of things. They're united in their opposition to the G-20 but not necessarily to the specific issues. Some want the G-20 dissolved because they feel that they don't represent any of the countries whose fates are being decided at the summit - for example, ones on the African continent. Others want focus to be on climate change. Then you have others looking for rights for specific groups - be they women, refugees or oppressed minorities.

I spoke to 33-year-old Matthias Mueller, who helped organize one of the protests this week.

MATTHIAS MUELLER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: He calls it impudent that the German government would bring the G-20 to Hamburg and even more so, the fact that they're doing this in his part of town, which is, you know, leftist and activist. And he called the massive police presence a provocation.

KELLY: OK, that's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson monitoring the protests. And it sounds like we're expecting more as this G-20 meeting continues. Soraya, thank you.

NELSON: You're welcome, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.