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Hamburg braces for major pre G20 protest as leaders land

Last Updated Jul 6, 2017 at 11:53 am EDT

Police close in on G20 protesters after they lit several cars on fire on June 26, 2010. CITYNEWS/Michael Talbot

Hamburg police braced themselves Thursday for a major protest by anti-globalization activists as Germany’s second-biggest city started welcoming leaders of the leading Group of 20 industrial and developing economies.

The northern port city is boosting its police force with reinforcements from around the country for the summit, which takes place Friday and Saturday, and has 20,000 officers on hand to patrol the city’s streets, skies and waterways.

Ahead of the summit, a Thursday evening demonstration is planned, which organizers have titled as “G-20: Welcome to Hell.”

While protests so far have been largely calm, city police chief Ralf Martin Meyer told ZDF television: “We are skeptical as to whether this evening and tonight will remain peaceful.”

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Demonstrators have promised massive protests against U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, three of the more controversial leaders of the G-20. A large sign in a shop window near the summit venue featured pictures of the three with the slogan: “We don’t want that!”

A large banner hanging from a building overlooking the congress centre where the leaders will meet said: “G20 Members: Respect the rule of law!”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma were among the first to arrive on Thursday, while Trump joined in the late afternoon, flying in from a stop in Warsaw. Watch the video below or click here.

More than 100,000 protesters are expected in the city, with some 8,000 considered part of Europe’s violent left-wing scene, according to police.

For the anti-globalization protest Thursday night, organizers said they were “calling on the world to make Hamburg a focal point of the resistance against the old and new capitalist authorities.”

Overnight, ten cars were set ablaze outside a Hamburg Porsche dealership, which police are investigating as possibly summit-related.

Many other groups are calling for peaceful protests, and are pushing the G-20 leaders for action on climate change, to address economic disparities in the world and a wide array of other issues. Some are even calling for the dissolution of the G-20 itself so that the United Nations becomes the platform for such discussions.

In the wake of Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the fight against global warming promises to feature prominently in discussions at the summit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected calls from some to push for a strong “G-19” statement – without the U.S. – on climate change; something that Zhu Guangyao, a Chinese deputy finance minister, told reporters Thursday that Beijing also did not support.

“The policies produced by the G-20 should be by the consensus of all member states,” he said. “No one should be excluded.”

Still, he added, “China will firmly promote its policies taking more measures against climate change.”

Activists are expressing concern, however, that the draft language being worked on for the closing G-20 communique apparently calls for a “global approach” on climate change, which they fear could weaken national responsibilities.

On trade, Putin wrote in a guest article for Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper Thursday that “politically motivated” sanctions were being used as a form of protectionism.

“Limits by one-sided, politically motivated sanctions on investment, trade and particularly technology transfer are becoming its hidden form,” the Russian leader wrote.

The European Union and United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, and Putin wrote that such sanctions lead nowhere. He said they “contradict the G20 principles” of working together in the interests of all countries.

Geir Moulson contributed to this report.

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