What happened?

On the morning of July 7, 2017, thousands of activists took to the streets to demonstrate against and block the G20 summit in Hamburg. A group of around 200 people also set off early in the morning from a camp in Altona Volkspark. In Rondenbarg, a street in an industrial estate in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld, they were attacked and brutally beaten up without warning at around 06:30 by the police Blumberg Evidence and Arrest Unit (BFE), which is known for its violence. 14 activists were injured, some of them seriously, e.g. with open bone fractures, when they were pushed by the police towards a railing that collapsed and caused activists to fall onto the parking lot several meters below. 58 people were arrested on the spot, 12 of them were even remanded in custody – some for weeks and months.

Police video of the operation at Rondenbarg
CN/Warning: This video contains scenes of brutal police violence

The events at Rondenbarg have become a political issue in Hamburg: The police had claimed that they had been massively pelted with bottles, Bengalos and firecrackers by the group. Shortly after the summit, however, videos of the incident emerged that refuted the police’s claim. They show a demonstration slowly approaching the police. Very occasionally bottles are thrown, then the police officers storm off and bring the activists to the ground in an extremely brutal manner. In the aftermath, the Hamburg police did not miss an opportunity to criminalize the events at Rondenbarg. For example, further activists were searched for as part of a public manhunt, in December 2017 23 homes in several federal states were searched by the so-called Soko „Schwarzer Block“ (special commission „Black Block“) in connection with the „Rondenbarg complex“ and left-wing bogeymen were conjured up at every police press conference.

More than 85 activists have now been charged by the Hamburg public prosecutor’s office in the so-called „Rondenbarg complex“. They are accused of joint aggravated breach of the peace, grievous bodily harm, resisting and assaulting law enforcement officers, damage to property and forming armed groups.

After the first trial in the „Rondenbarg complex“ against the Italian comrade Fabio V. collapsed in February 2018 after a five-month trial with no result, a further trial against the five youngest defendants was to begin in December 2020 – three and a half years after the G20 summit – as a pilot trial. They were part of a group of 19 accused juveniles and adolescents who were to be tried under juvenile criminal law due to their age at the time. These proceedings were suspended in January 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic and have not been reopened since.

At the beginning of 2024, almost seven years after the G20 summit in Hamburg, the Hamburg public prosecutor’s office continued its prosecution of the political protests. In the third attempt in the so-called Rondenbarg complex, six opponents of the summit will stand trial from 18.1.2024 for their participation in the demonstration.

The trial not only criminalizes the G20 protests, but also has considerable significance for the entire political movement. This is because the defendants are not accused of any individual crimes. According to the public prosecutor’s construct, the mere presence of the defendants on site should be enough to imply joint action and justify a conviction for breach of the peace (Section 125 StGB). In doing so, the public prosecutor’s office is adopting a ruling by the Federal Court of Justice from May 2017, in which the Federal Court of Justice ruled in the case of a hooligan brawl that the offense of breach of the peace does not require personal participation or (psychological) aiding and abetting – which is actually the prerequisite for criminal liability – but that so-called „ostentatious co-marching“ is already sufficient. If this interpretation of the law were to prevail in the area of assemblies, every participation in a demonstration would in future be associated with enormous risks of criminalization. Crimes committed by individuals could then be attributed to everyone present at the event.