Over 8,000 protesters have clashed with riot police as they protested against the planned eviction of squatters from a popular social centre, and against the eviction of hundreds of people from heir homes. The largely peaceful protest erupted following a baton charge, and use of teargas, and water cannons by the police. The protesters responded by building barricades, throwing stones, fireworks, and bottles. It is reported that over 500 people has been injured, and around 150 arrests made.
The Rote Flora is an old theatre building which has been used as a social centre since 1989. The initial sale of the building to developers took place in 2001, and has sparked widespread outrage and protest. There are also wider issues relating to an old apartment building nearby, the ‘Esso houses’ that had been the home to around 300 people, until they had been evicted last week. The Esso houses are described by post-autonom, as:
"ESSO Houses is the name of an appartment complex, inhabiting flats, a gas station, two music clubs and some other small businesses. It was evicted a week ago, after the walls shook and frightened inhabitants called the police. The Esso Houses were bought by a big investor a couple of years ago and inhabitants and supporters claim the investor lets the houses rot to eventually build new and more expensive houses at the same place."
One of the Rote Flora squatters said that:
“There was a mood of aggression from the outset,” adding that “we came under serious attack. It has become more violent than anything we have experienced in a long time. Through the overwhelming use of batons, pepper spray and water cannon, there were numerous injuries,”
Running battles were fought throughout the night across Hamburg. Several shop fronts were smashed and many cars set on fire. The police claim that 82 officers required treatment for injuries.
A police spokesperson claims that:
“The protesters suddenly started marching, and this was not what we agreed on with them, so we had to stop the march. Then bottles, stones and fireworks were thrown at us, injuring several officers. We had no option but to deploy water cannons."
Despite video evidence clearly showing the police initiated trouble, the media (typically) have laid blame at the feet of protesters. A local newspaper claimed that:
"The situation escalated shortly after the start of the demonstration in the afternoon than in the immediate vicinity of the occupied cultural center "Rote Flora" rioters from the so-called Black Bloc attacked forces. These thereafter blocked the march and put a water cannon. Even from a bridge officers were pelted with objects, said a police spokeswoman."
Prior to the start of the demonstration the police had declared the city as a ‘Danger Zone’ which enables them utilise extended rights to stop and search, and to use preventative detention orders.
Hamburg has been the scene of other large scale disturbances in the recent past. Police clashed with marchers on May Day, earlier this year, and 700 anti-fascists fought with police and boneheads, late last year.
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