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On Final Day, G-20 Summit Draws Largest Turnout Of Protestors


While the G-20 leaders were working on their official agreement at the summit which was heavily guarded, demonstrators marched through the streets of Hamburg. This was the largest of three days of protests.


MARTIN: The protesters represented dozens of different political and activist groups and had little in common with each other besides wanting to grab the attention of the world's top leaders. That is according to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who was covering the protests this week. She's still in Hamburg. And she's going to tell us more now. Hi, Soraya. Thanks so much for joining us.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: You're welcome. Very happy to be here.

MARTIN: So what were the issues that the protesters wanted to highlight?

NELSON: Well, global warming and war were the big ones, as well as arms sales because a lot of these G-20 countries make quite a profit on that. Protesters were also chanting against some of the G-20 leaders, including President Trump, Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan. No one felt that the G-20 would fix anything, or at least the protesters I spoke to said that.

MARTIN: So what were the crowds like?

NELSON: Well, there were tens of thousands of protesters today. They were peaceful. And what was also interesting is you had thousands of police officers in riot gear looking relaxed. And they were not intervening, they were sort of along the side of the road. Protester Grunja Gruenert said she was pleased with how it was going.

GRUNJA GRUENERT: It's very important to come here to say we have to do much more for the climate, for the refugee problem, why people have to go away from their home countries.

NELSON: Her younger son was carrying a poster which had a caricature of Donald Trump with the slogan no horror clowns. His mother said Trump is a horror clown because his America first approach is kind of a horror movie for Germans.

MARTIN: Soraya, it sounds as though the atmosphere there was very different than some of the others, which we saw did turn violent at points, especially last night. You know, why is that?

NELSON: Well, the difference is that these were like registered protests with various groups that are actually recognized groups, as opposed to rioters and looters, who are just sort of causing chaos. Certainly, as you mentioned, the worst one was last night in the multicultural lefty neighborhood of Schanzenviertel. A grocery store was looted. Barricades were set on fire. And police sent in SWAT teams because they believed that rioters had actually stashed Molotov cocktails on the rooftops. They say a lot of these violent protesters actually come from outside Germany.

MARTIN: Were there foreigners involved in the anti-G-20 protests?

NELSON: Yes, there definitely were foreigners there. I mean, most of the people were German, but there were a lot of foreigners just based on different languages you would hear. One prominent speaker at today's protests was an American, actually - New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. He told me he'd been invited by Hamburg officials to provide an alternative voice to the American president who is at the G-20 summit.

BILL DE BLASIO: One election does not change the larger course of history that's already underway. If you look at America at the local level, climate change is being addressed. Income inequality is being addressed. There is an alternate American reality, and it is important for others to see it.

NELSON: But not everybody was particularly happy about de Blasio coming here. His political opponents in the States, as well as the new York City Police Union with which the mayor has a strained relationship, they were criticizing him, saying that, you know, he really shouldn't be a diplomat, that he has problems to focus on at home.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joining us from Hamburg, Germany, where she's been covering the G-20 summit and all the street protests over the course of the week. Thanks, Soraya.

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