Henry Langston, a video journalist, posted a series of videos on July 7 of G20 protesters in the Hamburg district of St. Pauli. In one, dozens of men in black outfits hurl projectiles at police. In another frame there is a man in a gray shirt and baseball cap who looks like he just got off a tourist bus. His clothing sets him apart, but he is symbolic of the rest of the anti-G20 protest; a mob of upper class white privilege that flies in for the riot and then jets off to their parents’ summer homes for the rest of the holiday.
The G20 riots in Hamburg, that have wounded 200 police officers since they began last week, are the peak of “anarchist” and “anti-capitalist” demonstrations made up almost exclusively of white European men with a lot of capital. Protesting the G20 is the upper class version of what soccer hooliganism is to the middle and lower classes and what far-right Islamist extremism is to some Muslim communities. The need to be violent and destroy things speaks to the inner savagery of people. It speaks loudest when there are no consequences, and there are no consequences for G20 protesters.
In other videos posted online, cars drive through a maze of burning automobiles, firebombed and destroyed by the protesters. CNN reported a mile of activists looting shops.
“Residents of the area tried to stop people from stealing from the shop windows.”
Those interested in who the protesters are should take a gander at Kara Fox’s footage and photos (@karadaniellefox), or others who covered the events. One activist organizer, named “Christian,” told CNN that “the point is to disturb the G20, it’s not right that a few countries get to decide what happens to the rest of the world at this summit.”
Ok, “Christian,” so how did looting shops and burning people’s cars disturb the summit? In a Germany that is increasingly diverse, with Syrian migrants and many Germans of Turkish descent, why is the looting and stone throwing and destruction in Hamburg carried out, according to photos and video, by white men? Karl S, another man interviewed by CNN, said “we are living in a democracy and the red zone [around the G20] is not a democracy.”
But is destroying people’s property that they bought through hard work “democracy”? Is looting a person’s small business “democracy”? If it is, then where is the democratic cross-section of German society at the protest? Where are the Syrians and Turkish minorities? They aren’t there because this is a “privileged wealthy only” protest made up of the descendants of the richest one percent of society, setting upon police and shopowners who are from the middle and lower classes. Karl Marx talked about being alienated from one’s labor, but these protesters don’t “labor” and the only people being “alienated” are those whose cars are now burned and who can’t get to work in the morning.
A “groovy house party” is how one journalist described the protest before it became violent. “Groovy” of course is not a word anyone except upper class hippies use. There is nothing wrong with something being groovy, but there is something wrong when you have thousands of men who fly in to burn a city and then go back to their privileged lives.
The reason that these kinds of protests are the “cool thing” to do among the jet set is because police, especially in Europe, have never sought to prosecute them the way they would if it were the urban poor destroying something.
The police are expected to be wounded and local authorities don’t prosecute or imprison the “activists.”
This is because European or other Western countries that host events like the G20, G8, WTO have decided beforehand that protesters will not be forced to take responsibility for their actions. If a poor person in Hamburg loots a shop, he is prosecuted, but if you fly in for a weekend of riots at the G20, no one detains you.
These protesters talk about “anti-globalization” but they are the epitome of globalization. They aren’t local protesters, ever. They are representatives of the profits of globalization. And they aren’t even interested in general in any other events in the world that don’t involve rioting in a Western country and then going to another Western country to relax and do something else “groovy.”
When the protest organizer “Christian” told CNN that these 20 countries should not get to decide what happens in the rest of the world, he is right. But where were “Christian” and his fellow-activists when Islamic State (ISIS) was lining up Yazidi men in Iraq and machine-gunning them and burying them in mass graves? Where was the protest against the selling of thousands of women into slavery by ISIS and gang rape of women? There wasn’t one real protest in Europe. Not one.
WHEN WE hear about “anti-capitalism” and “anti-globalization” and are told to care about the “rest of the world,” it is always by these privileged protesters who care the least about the world. The protesters on the streets of Hamburg won’t help refugees, they don’t volunteer to teach German, French or English to newcomers, they don’t hand out food to the poor, they don’t clean up dilapidated areas, they don’t fight for women’s rights in places where ISIS is persecuting women. They don’t protest Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crimes. They do absolutely nothing and have never done anything for the poor or victimized people of the world. Protest against human trafficking? Modern- day agricultural slavery? No, it’s not “groovy,” bro.
The peak privilege on display at Hamburg was the high point of an unethical and abusive culture of privilege in the West that has taught generations that destroying small businesses, burning the cars of middle class people and throwing stones at police from the lower and middle classes is cool, while helping actual poor people, migrants, refugees, victims of terrorism, is not cool.
Far-left “anarchist” protest is the mirror-image of far-right Islamist terrorism; both seek destruction for its own sake. One is murderous while the other is primarily into rioting, but neither see themselves as responsible for society’s well-being. They want to blow up cars, not help elderly people. Burn a neighborhood, not refurbish it. Smash shop windows, not aid a poor struggling small businessman to aid his migrant family.
Unfortunately Western societies have relied on local authorities to confront these kinds of destructive forces, rather than raise up counter-protests, local neighborhood activists to fight the globalization of anarchism, the globalism of Islamism, to stand up to the anti-capitalist capitalist protesters who fly in to a city to destroy it.
Perhaps one day a city’s people will say no to this charade and say that this week privileged, wealthy young men will not get to fly in to burn cars and shops without facing a counter-demonstration. Until then it is the job of observers to ask critical questions about who these “activists” are and where they come from.Follow the author @Sfrantzman