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Tens of Thousands Plan to Protest Trump and Globalization at G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany

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Thousands of protesters are expected to attempt to disrupt the G20 summit in Hamburg Germany, where President Trump is headed. The protests followed actions earlier in the week, in which German police attacked protesters with water cannons as thousands gathered to protest against the summit and Trump. The summit is viewed by demonstrators as centered around exploitation of people and global resources. We speak with Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. The group released a statement titled “Campaigners tell the G20: your model is broken, only radical reform can undermine Trump.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We go now to Hamburg, Germany, where thousands of protesters are expected to attempt to disrupt the G20 summit, where President Trump is heading next. On Wednesday, anti-G20 protesters danced through the streets of Hamburg under the motto ”Lieber tanz ich als G20,” meaning “I prefer to dance than G20.” Wednesday’s protests come after actions earlier in the week when German police attacked protesters with water cannons as thousands demonstrated against the summit and Trump. The summit is seen by the protest groups as centered around exploitation of people and global resources. This is protester Cesar Hennig.

CESAR HENNIG: [translated] I don’t like how the police treat normal people. For example, the water cannons yesterday were completely unnecessary. The atmosphere was peaceful. In general, I think it’s really bad that the G20 summit is being held in Hamburg. I’m not a radical left-winger or anything, but I think the police provoke the people and encourage violence on the streets. They almost want it to be violent.

AMY GOODMAN: Police said around 7,500 people took part in the protests. Organizers put the figure at 18,000.

For more, we go to Nick Dearden, director of the Global Justice Now. The group released a statement that said, “Campaigners tell the G20: your model is broken, only radical reform can undermine Trump.”

Nick, welcome to Democracy Now! from Hamburg, from coming off the streets to talk with us. Talk about why the protests are happening at the G20.

NICK DEARDEN: I think there’s two reasons. I mean, one, people here in Europe don’t want Donald Trump or the other right-wing populist leaders that are coming into their country.

But I think there’s something more than that, which is the very policies which caused Trump in the first place, the neoliberal, free market policies that we’ve seen your after year after year, exactly those politics are on the agenda of this G20. And so, the G20 leaders, like Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany, you know, they’ve said, “Well, we need globalization to work for everybody. We realize there have been mistakes and things have gone wrong.” But, actually, the policies they’re putting forward are the same tired and broken policies that they’ve put forward for the last 20 or 30 years. And so, many people here are saying, “If we want to undermine the ideas, the values, the policies of Donald Trump, we need something radically different.” And, indeed, one of the best-selling dailies here, Der Spiegel, this morning, its lead article said we need a radical set of policies, and these 20 people are not the people to express or implement those policies.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Nick, can you describe the scene in Hamburg? How many protesters are there? And what do you expect will happen tomorrow when the summit, G20 summit, opens?

NICK DEARDEN: Well, last night I was on the disco protest you talked about, which had a lot of glitter, disco balls, glittery anti-Trump flags, really exciting, really young, really enthusiastic protesters. The night before, the police had been a lot more provocative. But, I mean, you’re talking about—you’re certainly talking about many, many, many thousands of protesters so far. One of the theories being put forward here is the police are being particularly provocative in order to put people off coming to the really big protests that are going to happen tomorrow and Saturday. And that may indeed be already working. A lot of people who have got kids in kindergartens here and so on are saying they’re not going to bring them into the city tomorrow because they’re so scared about what’s going to happen.

But, actually, I’m here at the countersummit, if you like, where we’re talking about how to build an alternative world. The background noise is the noise of activism. And everybody here is extremely thoughtful. We’re having many debates about the kind of world that we actually want to see, as opposed to the G20 world that’s been created, and really a very vibrant mood. Of course people are scared. I mean, people are scared about what’s happening in the world today. The world is in chaos. And Trump is a kind of symbol of that. But at the same time, there’s more energy than I’ve seen for a very long time behind the idea that we need to build something else, something very different.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Trump’s decision to go to Poland first, the coal country of Poland, before going to G20, where we understand that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will be emphasizing the issue of climate change, which Donald Trump rejects?

NICK DEARDEN: That’s absolutely right. And the reason he decided to go to Poland is because he thought that the right-wing populist government in Poland was more likely to be supportive and friendly towards him. And we know that they bused in protesters overnight to get them there to cheer him on in Poland.

Look, one of the things that Trump wants to do, because he believes in this kind of zero-sum economic gain, where America must make its gains at everyone else’s expense, one of the things he wants to do is weaken the competitive trading blocs, as he sees them, one of those being Europe, and one of those being China. He sees those as America’s big competitors. So, by originally supporting the Brexit referendum in Britain and now by going to Poland, he’s trying to drive a wedge and stoke up nationalisms in Europe and to weaken Europe, because he thinks that’s the best way that the United States can make economic gains. So that’s why he went to Poland. He’s hoping to sow divisions that will continue into this summit.

He also knows that as soon as he arrives here in Hamburg, he’s going to be met by tens of thousands of people protesting against him. He doesn’t want that to be the media shots that are immediately sent back to the United States. He wants a nice, supportive audience, so he’s gone there. And, indeed, there was even talk about him popping into London after he’s finished at the G20, although I think he’s rather underrepresented the mood there, where there’s a lot of opposition and hostility towards him.

But, essentially, I think that his long-term strategy here is to weaken his competitors. And the problem is that his kind of beggar-my-neighbor global economic policies aren’t just about economics, as important as that is. We’ve seen too often in history how trade wars can lead to real wars. And I think that’s very much on everyone’s mind here. It’s certainly on Angela Merkel’s mind. But I must say, the problem with Merkel’s position—she wants to present herself as this moderate G20 leader against the nasty populists like Trump—is she actually represents nothing different, nothing different to the same policies that have given rise to him. One interesting thing is, he agrees with her on the deregulation stuff. He was talking about that in Poland. But he’s mixed that in with some really nasty nationalist and racist politics, so you end up with the worst of both worlds. And I think that speech in Poland will take some getting over by some of the other G20 leaders here.

AMY GOODMAN: And President Trump announced in Poland that Poland will be buying the Patriot missile defense system from the United States, congratulating them there. The significance of this, going from country to country to announce weapons deals?

NICK DEARDEN: Absolutely, and he did the same in Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago, right just before they made this decision to suspend relationships with Qatar. So, everywhere he goes around the world, he’s using weapons and military to try to sow division and sow nationalism. And this is one of the things that I think the protesters here and the campaigners here are eager to try and avoid. One of the things we want to do—and we’ve got American citizens here alongside us at this conference—is to create a world based on cooperation, a better understanding of each other, and a world that can work in the interest of the many, not the few. And I think that that’s coming very clearly, and we’ll need to reaffirm that in the years ahead, because the direction that Trump’s going in with some of these policies is very, very dangerous to the future, not just of the United States, but the whole world.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Nick, could you explain, really, the significance of the G20 summit, who is involved, what heads of state, and why it’s so significant? What are the issues on the table that heads of state who are members of the G20 will be deciding?

NICK DEARDEN: Sure, so we have—we used to have the G8, the eight most powerful countries in the world, that came together once a year in order to make decisions that affected the whole world. And that forum was set up broadly, because world leaders at that time didn’t want to discuss these things in a more democratic and sovereign forum, like the United Nations. They wanted to undermine those global cooperation forums. That’s why they set up things like the G8, to control energy supplies and so on.

The G20 was when, during the financial crisis, the G8 realized that actually they needed to bring more countries on board if they were going to hold sway in the world. So they brought extra countries on board, like Saudi Arabia, like Argentina, like Turkey, like Mexico, but they’re still—they still represent the most powerful leaders on Earth. And they discuss everything from the global economy to terrorism, to aid and development, to migration—the big issues that affect everybody in the world.

Now, of course, with Donald Trump, and also some of the other nationalists who are going to be here, like Erdogan of Turkey and so on, you have a breach in the unity of those global elites. They don’t agree with each other anymore. And so, this is going to be a very different G20 to any that we’ve seen before, because normally they come out with a nice communiqué, a nice statement, that kind of says, “Yeah, we’re really worried about all this stuff, but we’re going to continue with these policies that benefit big business. The market knows best”—all the stuff we’ve seen for so long. But what you’re going to find with this summit is a really serious disagreement. And one of the big concerns that Angela Merkel has is that they don’t come out with meaningful communiqué at all. She’s going to be talking about free trade, migration and climate change. We know that she doesn’t agree with Trump on any of those issues.

So you’re going to see, this is probably the most significant G20 there has ever been, because you really have a global elite divided on itself as to the best way forward. And we’ll be watching in the coming days to see what comes out of that. But I think one of the big feelings here in the countersummit is, as long as those global elites are divided on the way forward, as long as we know that they don’t have the solution to the world’s problems, the people need to take center stage, because it’s only mass movements of people at this moment that can avert the catastrophe of runaway climate change or military buildup.

AMY GOODMAN: Nick, let’s go back to President Trump speaking today, just minutes before we went to broadcast, in Warsaw, Poland.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak, and we will not survive.

AMY GOODMAN: Nick Dearden, can you respond to President Trump, from where you are in Hamburg, Germany, in the midst of an activist space, in the midst of the G20 protests, with the G20 just about to meet tomorrow?

NICK DEARDEN: I mean, it’s a really chilling message that reminds many people here—look, we’re in Germany, so reminds many people here of the catastrophe that the world went through in the 1930s. His talk of closing borders, of might is always right, of divisive nationalism is very reminiscent of the kind of politics we’ve seen in the past. And that should chill all of us.

One of the things, though, that I think that Trump’s going to find when he gets here is that the protest movement in the street actually is extremely optimistic, extremely hopeful, extremely lively, extremely diverse. And that’s the only kind of movement that can beat Trump’s message at the end of the day. You know, Merkel’s attempt to say, “Business as usual, everything must just go on as it was before, and that’s how we’ll defeat Trump,” that’s not going to work. We need radically different solutions, because, of course, what Trump’s playing on is the fear, the poverty that’s being created, the inequality that’s being created, the racism that’s being created by these free market policies over the last 20 years. And, you know, Trump, for me, is like a kind of poison that seeps into the million different cracks in our global economy, in our broken society. And we’ve got to mend that society, if we’re to do anything about Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you, Nick Dearden, for joining us, director of the Global Justice Now, the group releasing a statement titled “Campaigners tell the G20: your model is broken, only radical reform can undermine Trump.” We’ll be going back to Hamburg tomorrow with the meeting of the G20.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be joined by one of the founders of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: A tribute to Berta Cáceres by singer and composer Liam Rivera—Berta Cáceres, the indigenous environmental leader who was murdered in Honduras. Her daughter Bertita Cáceres was just the victim of an assassination attack. And you can go online at democracynow.org to see our conversation with her from her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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