Merkel-Gabriel spat: Could G20 chaos tear coalition apart?

Germany's foreign minister says Chancellor Angela Merkel bears responsibility for the violence last week at the G20 summit in Hamburg. Polls show Sigmar Gabriel's Social Democrats trailing Merkel's CDU by double digits.

In an interview printed Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the Funke newspaper group that Chancellor Angela Merkel's G20 summit in Hamburg had proved a "total bust." Gabriel also defended Hamburg's mayor, a fellow Social Democrat.

"Olaf Scholz is not responsible for the staging of this summit," Gabriel said. "Whoever wants his resignation ... must also demand the resignation of Angela Merkel. She carries the political responsibility for the staging and direction of the G20 summit in Hamburg."

On Tuesday, Merkel - who looks set to win a fourth term in September's parliamentary elections - shook off the criticism. "Honestly, I was delighted that Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel accompanied me to Hamburg, that he met the foreign ministers from different countries and that he participated in various talks, among other things with the American president," she said. "This contributed to the success of this summit."

A Merkel ally in Bavaria's Christian Social Union, part of the ruling coalition in Berlin, had harsher words for the foreign minister: "Gabriel has blown a fuse," Andreas Scheuer, the CSU's general-secretary, told the daily Bild.

The fallout continues

Even before tens of thousands turned out to protest, politicians, pundits and residents criticized Merkel's choice to hold the summit of the leaders of the world's 20 richest countries in Hamburg. More than 20,000 officers failed to suppress a segment of protesters estimated in the hundreds.

Police reported 476 officers injured, while more than 200 protesters sought treatment in local hospitals and scores more received on-the-spot care from volunteer medics after inhaling tear gas and pepper spray. Though residents and city workers managed to clean up the streets by Sunday afternoon, Germans watched in shock as media broadcast images of property damage and ransacked shops.


"Schanzenviertel" covered in debris

This part of town was the scene of escalating violence. That did not come as a surprise: The quarter is traditionally the hub of Hamburg's leftist activists. It has been subject to gentrification, turning into a "hip" place to live and magnet for tourists.


A night of devastation

Police regained control over the streets of Hamburg in the early hours of the morning.


Looting and rioting

Several shops were looted and damaged during the first day of protests.


Smoke bombs

Black block protesters were throwing flares at police from behind street baracades. It took several hours for police to really push back in the early hours of Saturday morning.


Fires were lit and shops looted

Fires were set in Hamburg streets and some cars were burned out.


Burning barricades

Protesters lit barricades on Friday evening. Throughout the city cars had been set on fire.


Violence took over as night fell

Cars were burned and barricades set alight as a violent mob stepped up its actions, sidelining the majority of mainly peaceful protesters.


Black Bloc

Police blamed anarchists with the so-called Black Bloc movement for much of the violence. Black Bloc protesters wear all black and cover their faces to avoid being identified.


Battle of G20 Hamburg

Riot police disperse crowds with water cannon vehicles on Friday.


Armored vehicles on the streets

Police use water against a woman after she climbed on top of an armoured carrier on Friday.


Chasing protesters

Police chased protesters up a hill to gain control of the streets.


War zone

A picture published on social media shows smoke rising from the streets during protests on Friday.


Children among those affected

Violent protests turned several neighborhoods where children usually play into scenes from a warzone.

German leaders say many of the people who committed the vandalism or violently resisted police came from abroad. Late Tuesday, a court ordered the release of more than a dozen protesters held since the weekend, deciding that no charges could be brought against them.

Restrictions on press, as well as police threats and violence against reporters, have drawn heavy criticism. On Tuesday, Michael Rediske, of the German branch of Reporters Without Borders, criticized the government's decision to distribute a blacklist of members of the press to several police officers as an "unbearable stigmatization of journalists."

mkg/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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