Over 30,000 people crowded onto the streets of Munich, Germany on June 4 to protest the upcoming meeting between leaders of seven of the world’s richest countries.
“I’d say I’m here against the inequality that continues to prevail — that we have it so good and others have it so bad,” a protester named Julia told EuroNews. “And because we must not lose hope that one day the world really will be equal, and we will all have the same values.”
The large, peaceful protest in the Bavarian capital was organized in response to a planned two-day meeting between leaders of Germany, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the United States, collectively known as the G7 countries, on June 7-8. The last G8 talk, also held in Germany in 2007, included Russia at the summit, but Russia has been excluded this year due to its actions in Ukraine. The motto of this year’s G7 summit is “think ahead, act together.” The leaders are set to meet at Elmau Castle, 60 miles south of Munich near the Austrian border. Issues like free trade agreements, climate change, poverty and immigration are expected to be discussed at the meeting.
“We are going to use the 24 hours that we’re together for some very intensive talks over a lot of questions that are affecting the world,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Associated Press in Berlin earlier this week.
Protesters also took the chance to address a wide variety of issues. Chief among these issues were poverty, climate change, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, a proposed free trade deal between the United States and Europe that has been negotiated mostly in secret. Environmentalist groups, NGOs, opposition parties and anti-globalization activists all marched through Munich’s streets together with “Stop TTIP — Save the Climate — Fight Poverty” as their motto.
“The G7 politics means neo-liberal economic policies, war and militarization, exploitation, poverty and hunger, environmental degradation, and the closing-off towards refugees,” the group Stop G7 Elmau 2015 wrote in a statement before the march.
Merkel is expected to have a one-on-one discussion on the TTIP with President Barack Obama on Sunday morning. Obama will likely bring up TTIP’s sister agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, during the summit as well. Both secretive trade deals have been the target of multiple demonstrations in recent months, and both seek to weaken trade regulations amongst industrialized countries and to effectively cede more power and leeway to multinational corporations.
Opposition to these kinds of free trade deals is fairly widespread in Germany with 43 percent of Germans saying the TTIP treaty would be a “bad thing” for the country, according to a recent YouGov poll. The treaty’s secret negotiations have also come under fire. Wikileaks recently leaked 17 documents relating to the secretive talks on a similar free trade agreement, the Trade In Services Agreement. The leak revealed the extent to which large-scale trade agreements are being negotiated without any transparency.
“Once again Wikileaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government,” Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen said to the Huffington Post, which “defaults to giant trade deals that affect generations of Americans shrouded in secrecy until they are virtually adopted.”
These same feelings of mistrust and suspicion apply to Germans and the TTIP negotiations. According to a YouGov poll, 63 percent of Germans say it would be better if “the negotiations were done in public, where the press and the public can see what is being discussed and hold governments to account.”
Recent Blockupy protests in Frankfurt and the last G8 meeting in Germany in 2007 both ended with clashes between protesters and police, along with large numbers of arrests. Anticipating more clashes between protesters and cops, Bavarian police, in their biggest operation in history, mobilized 17,000 cops from around the country in preparation for the march. Thirty helicopters flew overhead during the protests, and 2,000 Austrian police were set up at the border.
“We do not take a political position, instead we protect basic rights,” police spokesman Wolfgang Wenger told Deutsche Welle. “Injuring police by throwing stones, kicking or hitting them is completely unacceptable.”
Police also plan to have a large presence at Elmau Castle where the G7 talks will take place along with a heavy presence at the nearby town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Hundreds of protesters have also camped out there and are planning multiple demonstrations.
Despite the large police presence and expectations of clashes, the protests have gone on without any incidents or arrests. The protesters have also promised that more actions are coming.
“A multitude of individuals, organizations and political parties from varying spectra and convictions won’t let this summit commence undisturbed,” the Stop G7 Elmau 2015 statement read. “We will stand our ground against the politics of the G7 with diverse and creative, open and determined action, demonstrations, blockades, and rallies directly by the castle as well as a mass rally in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and a counter-summit in Munich.”