G20 protests

Anti-G20 Activists Told Us What They Brought to the Protest in Hamburg

"My inflatable crocodile works as a shield against police batons, and as a seat. It also just lightens the mood."

by Alexander Indra
07 July 2017, 1:41pm

Photos by the author

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

I'm generally not comfortable leaving the house without my baton, gas gun, a can of pepper spray and a pocket knife, but going to the G20 protests in Hamburg, I had no choice but to leave them at home. Hamburg police have banned all these items, along with helmets, mouth-guards, gas masks and other items that protesters could use to protect themselves during the demo.

Around 19,000 police officers are currently working on the G20 summit in Hamburg. World leaders are meeting to discuss being the top-donnies of the world economy, and the city is virtually on lockdown. But those officers can't completely control what the 12,000 protesters have in their pockets or sneak past them under their clothing. I spoke to eight protesters at their camp, to find out what they're bringing to the demos.

Michael, 25, Italy, Student

"I always bring a cloth to obscure my face a bit – there are so many cameras everywhere. I use the carabiner to attach my second pair of shoes to my rucksack, and the shampoo is just essential when you're staying in a camp for a couple of days. If you spend all day running around, erecting barricades and running some more, you need to wash up at the end of it. I make sure to wear generic black clothing and bring a first-aid-kit, too. It would have been very handy to bring a gas mask as well, but those are banned. They're considered a 'passive' weapon."

Anna, 27, Berlin, Graphic designer

"I always bring my wedding ring to protests. It's for good luck and makes me feel close to my husband. My glasses have survived dozens of demos and protected me from loads of tear gas and pepper spray. This one time in Palestine was the absolute worst – I couldn't see a thing. I also bring a pair of sunglasses, to protect my anonymity a bit. Oh, and I never leave for a demo without tobacco. Smoking calms me down in stressful situations."

Melanie, 28, Berlin, Currently unemployed

"I bring this bag everywhere I go – to parties, on holiday and, of course, to protests. This way, I keep the essentials like my phone, ID, money and tobacco close. I would never bring a weapon to a demo – not even a pocket knife."

Bernadette, 24, Hamburg, Studies and works

"The most important thing to have is a demo map. It helps me to navigate through a strange city, and indicates the starting point of the demo. I never bring my phone to protests, so I can't rely on Google Maps. This green container is for my cigarette butts – it's airtight and easy to clean. It's ideal for protests or at festivals – you can't just chuck away all your rubbish.
I think alcohol and drugs don't belong at protests. If you want to make a powerful stand, you can't be staggering around, piss drunk. It's counterproductive and a just a really bad look."

Enrico, 26, Graz, Studies Chemistry

"I always bring a permanent marker with me, to write important numbers on my arms in case I'm arrested. And because I learned the hard way, I now always remember to bring a first-aid-kit to treat cuts and bruises, and water to wash the pepper spray from my eyes.

"There's a lot of stuff you're not allowed to bring to the demo and police have often searched me, but they don't always find something. You can hide a lot in the right clothing. I came to this camp with my mum, by the way. Have you met her yet?"

Tina, 25, Hamburg, Studies Sociology

"I'm bringing an inflatable crocodile to the demo. It works wonders as a shield against police batons, and I can sit on it to rest a bit, if necessary. The added bonus is that it just lightens the mood.

"I don't bring face masks or goggles – they're very effective against tear gas and pepper spray, but they're banned in Germany at protests."

Sara, 24, Hamburg, Sales assistant

"These chocolate bars are really tasty and nutritious, and they'll instantly give me the energy I need, when I need it. Especially in extreme or dangerous situations, like when police are closing in, it's important to have a clear head and fast legs. The headlamp helps me find my way through the camp in the dark, and that little orange thing is a container I fill with water. I use it to clean out my eyes if we're attacked with tear gas or pepper spray. I've unfortunately had to use it a couple of times already, but it works perfectly."

Anonymous

"These gloves are just normal cycling gloves. They're nothing much, but they protect my hands when I fall down during the protest. I always carry around a couple of contact lenses in my rucksack, because I can't see without them. Unfortunately, contact lenses enhance the effect of pepper spray and tear gas, when you get that in your eyes. That can get very painful."