In politics the best we can do is to go into dialogue with each other. That’s also why a format like G20, bringing together the major economies to talk about issues that goes beyond each country’s individual responsibility, is so important. Of course there are many things to argue about this meeting, especially against some participants that are dangerous partners because of their authoritarian leadership like Russia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia or unstable partners like a Trump America. However, whether we like it or not, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia belongs to the club of the 20 richest countries, which combined make up 85% of the GWP and thus have a huge impact on the whole world. Having G20 countries coming together to talk to each other is positive, as they have the duty to not only think about their countries but also be aware how their actions impact the rest of the world. In unstable political times diplomacy is the key, and the symbolism of having world politics happen in and open and diverse city as Hamburg is great.
In any case we should welcome that politicians come together to work on the challenges of our time. One does not have to support every country, every politician participating or even the format itself. But one has to welcome the dialogue between countries. If one opposes dialogue in itself he is plain wrong, but if one wants to express an different opinion he has all the right to do so, because democracy lives by different voices peacefully advocating their beliefs. Everyone has the right to speak their mind but every protestor also has the duty to not misuse the options of an open society for their aggressive and illegal behavior.
The G20 in Hamburg was as well the chance for Germans and for Europeans as such to prove authoritarian countries wrong. A change to show that the freedoms of speech and assembly should not be feared and that everyone has the right to express their opinion. Unfortunately, instead the left extremists used these fundamental freedoms and the platform for legitim political protest as a cloak to live out their fantasies of violence and demolition to turn parts of Hamburg into a civil war-like zone.
I deeply wish that the pictures of violence will not be those that will be remembered from the G20 summit in Hamburg. I wish for the pictures to stay on people’s minds to be those of peaceful demonstrations, politicians coming together to cooperate and the beauty of the town of Hamburg. There are so many challenges in the world and they can only be solved together. Those who want to make a better world should come together to shape it, may it be in the conference halls or peacefully on the streets and shall unite against those that want to see it go down. Because that is what happened in the riots in Hamburg: The people that destroyed all they passed by are not protesters, they are criminals.
As democrats we need to support the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech and expression to the very last breath. This is also why we need to fully condemn people that misuse these freedoms to roam the streets, spread fear and panic, demolish the city and the worst: willingly hurt human beings and even risk taking their life.
The riots also proved how unstable a society can be. Living together is only possible because we can trust that the people surrounding us act in accordance to the law and we will be protected by law enforcement. It’s a contract of society the vast majority agrees with. When we see that this contract is broken the openness of society is in danger. This openness and the freedoms we have in a democracy should never be abused and those who do so, have to be punished. That’s why the stream of news about masked attackers roaming the streets destroying what they can, attacking police officers and risking other humans lives frightened us and then made us mad.
With their acts the criminals also took away the opportunity for peaceful demonstrators to speak their mind to use the platform of G20 to lobby for their ideas for a better world. The criminal protestors do what they accuse the G20 summit of: shutting down other voices. They don’t even realize the irony that lies in their acts, as they obviously never intended to share their visions for a better world but only literally wanted to fight. They claim to protest against authoritarian ideas and regimes, against Erdogan, Putin, Trump, and the sheikhs of Saudi Arabia. But instead they demolish local shops, small cars of elderly people and complete neighborhoods. They hurt the average citizen of Hamburg. Their acts are crimes and these criminals need to be punished. As an inhabitant of Hamburg I am extremely thankful for the police officers risking their own life to protect the city and its people. And I am even more thankful that the police tried to secure that peaceful demonstrations could happen, so the criminals didn’t completely succeed in shutting down other people’s voices.
Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are states that strictly use force against demonstrators, they systematically restrict the freedom of assembly and speech, they incarcerate individuals that oppose their politics or just have different ideas of a way to live. But now these politicians have TV pictures to go home with and say: See it’s totally normal to push back demonstrators, to use force against people. They will not differentiate between peaceful protestors that wanted to voice their opinion and those that had only violence and demolition on their mind, that committed crimes and had to be stopped by the police. These criminal protestors are a disgrace to our open society playing into the hands of authoritarian states.
For our democracy it is now more crucial than ever to defend our universal freedoms and to oppose the enemies of open societies, may it be in our own or in other countries.
Svenja HAHN, 27, is a PR manager, the Vice President of LYMEC and a resident of Hamburg.