This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
On Thursday, around 12,000 anti-capitalist protesters gathered in the streets of Hamburg, to protest just two miles from where world leaders were meeting for the G20 summit.
Local authorities tried to ban the protest in June, and aimed to keep protesters from setting up camp in the city – even clearing out a formally approved camp for protesters earlier in the week. That, of course, didn't deter protesters, who gathered yesterday for their dramatically named demonstration: "Welcome to Hell".
Both police and protesters had anticipated some violence, but as far as I could tell, everyone seemed surprised with how quickly it escalated. I was standing in the middle of the crowd before the start of the demo, when it was still quite peaceful. Banners were fluttering and I saw a few girls dancing to music someone was playing. Then, police announced that the demo wasn't allowed to start until all protesters had removed anything covering their faces, and I heard people in the block next to me complain that they'd never get very far if that was the case. That's when everything blew up.
Police used water cannons and pepper spray on the crowd – I heard loud bangs, something bounced against my head, people ran by bleeding. The air filled with smoke, making it hard to see much. I saw a woman crying out that a man had fallen unconscious, but a medical team couldn't reach her. Another man in his forties sat down on the ground next to me, bleeding profusely from a large wound on his head. "Fucking cops!" he shouted.
But when the violence died down, the protesters were still there – maybe even more than before the chaos started. And they stayed, which meant that a couple of hours after it was supposed to start, the "Welcome to Hell" demonstration took off peacefully, after all.
Scroll down for more photos from yesterday's protests in Hamburg.