German chancellor Angela Merkel is hopeful that President Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin, and other G20 leaders will be able to come together to “solve the world’s problems” through face-to-face meetings throughout the G20. Merkel told the G20 summit as much in her welcome speech, but stopped short of showing full support with a cautionary note. “…solutions can only be found if we are ready to compromise.”
Merkel also directly encouraged leaders not to fear their differences. To many people on the outside, “differences” are really all Trump and Putin seem to have in common.
Early and Swift Reaction
Trump’s brash and unmeasured approach to politics is already causing problems at the G20, with several self-contained riots breaking out in the street and protests in full swing since early yesterday evening in Hamburg.
While Trump and Putin “exchanged pleasantries” and shook hands on the world stage, anticapitalist protesters outside crafted smoke bombs and other weapons aimed at the police officers protecting the G20. Protests began early and resulted in security lockdowns for several leaders, including Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, and First Lady Melania Trump herself.
Riots targeting local police over the G20 began even before the G20 itself began, with rioters destroying luxury cars and local infrastructure. By Thursday, widespread demonstrations were reaching a fever pitch.
Blamed On Trump
Many of the most prominent protesters are protesting largely because of Trump’s presence and potential effect on decision-making. Turkish-German protester Fatima Cicek highlighted this in an interview, saying that “He is the most disruptive and egotistic leader at the summit.”
Greenpeace is also in attendance with “No Trump, Yes Paris” signs to show their displeasure at the POTUS’ presence. Though support for the organization has waned in the USA over the last few decades, the environmental protection group maintains robust support in Europe. They are mostly protesting Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Trump’s withdrawal disappointed many key allies, but some experts believe it was the right move to make and put the American working populace first.
Response from Hamburg Police
Over the last three days, police have struggled to regain control of Hamburg and the area around the G20. They are directly responsible for protecting both Trump, 35 other high-profile leaders, and nearly 6,500 summit attendants, making security of the utmost importance.
By 12:50 PM CEST on Friday, police had already been pelted with Molotov cocktails, real bullets, glass bottles, and other projectiles. Entire streets were locked down to try and stem the violence. At least 76 police officers and an unknown quantity of protesters were injured in the back-and-forth fighting.
Police have utilized rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons in an effort subdue hundreds of protesters.
Trump Questions his Own People
Inside the summit, the POTUS met with a rotating series of leaders, including key players from Russia (Putin), Poland (Duda), Japan (Abe), and South Korea (Jae-in). He also found time to deliver a speech in Warsaw, the historical location of one of Poland’s largest Jewish ghettos during WWII.
In a surprising move, he seemed to question the west as a whole, indicating that he was unsure “whether the West has the will to survive.” Trump also outwardly admitted to the possibility of Russian interference in the election, but was quick to identify the possibility for interference from other countries, ending by reminding people that “no one really knows for sure.”
First Lady Remains on Lockdown
The First Lady remains segregated in her guest accommodations, unable to leave due to the street scuffles taking place just outside. She and other spouses are missing a program with lunch, a boat ride, and a climate control center tour because of the lockdown.
Trump continues to meet with other leaders despite continued protests and riots breaking out on the streets below.