Friday, 7 July 2017

A different riot in Hamburg


It is the weather which makes us English so bad at riots. Riots are much more popular in places like South America where the temperature hovers around the 85 degree mark all year round. Hot enough to breed volatile discontent, but not too hot to riot.

I have actually been right in the middle of a riot in Hamburg, and it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be.


We - a group of 4 - had just left a Portuguese restaurant down on the Elbe when a police helicopter hovered about 50 feet above us, training a spotlight on us in the dark. We waved in a friendly manner.

As we made our way up to the Reeperbahn, I noticed two men getting into a car. One of them placed a machine gun on the back seat.

Then we got up to David Strasse and came up against a wall of riot police with their backs to us, dressed in black leather and helmets and holding up transparent shields. Not one of them was less than about 6' 3" and some were about 7'.

They were facing a group of young men - many hundreds of young men - who were at the other end of the road, their backs toward the Reeperbahn. Between them was a fifty yard stretch of no-man's land, carpeted in broken glass. It was quite quiet.

I suggested that we just walk calmly through the police and then through the rioters to get where we wanted to be. The alternative would have been a two-mile detour. We were obvious civilians who took no sides, so it should have been ok to be recognised as such. Anyway, our bravery would probably instil some respect in them.

We crunched our way over the broken glass and when we got to the middle, the police suddenly charged up behind, hitting their long batons against their shields as they ran. That was a bit scary.

The riot police just ran round us and up to the rioters, who retreated to the next street off the Reeperbahn. I have never seen so many police vehicles in one place at one time.

There then followed another quiet stand-off, during which some of the police bought cigarettes from a vending machine and smoked. We were in amongst the police (who were ignoring us) and wanted to cross a junction where the rioters were assembled to get to a bar called the Silbersack at the far end of the road.

We stood there wondering what to do, because we liked the Silbersack very much and wanted to be there. Then I noticed all the rioters slowly pull the handkerchiefs over their faces. This was the sign to get the hell out, which was what we did.

Our flat was on the Reeperbahn, only a few hundred yards behind us, so we went to it and watched the riot explode from the safety of the upstairs window. It went on all night and there was much looting through broken shop windows.

In the morning peace had returned and road sweepers cleared away the glass as glaziers replaced shop windows. By that night it was as if nothing had happened and we finally made it to the Silbersack.

10 comments:

  1. Stories improve so with age, and this one has become perfect. The best was walking through them, bravery instilling respect.

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    1. Oh God, I wish I improved with age as well. I think I have run out of things to tell you.

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  2. I have said it before and I'll say it again Tom - you don't half see life.

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    1. I seem to have had my fair share of interest.

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  3. I would have run in the opposite direction. Were they there because of Trump or just against the world at large?

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    1. This was about 30years ago and I never really found out what it was all about. Something to do with protests against attacks by skinheads on squatters and immigrants I think.

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    2. Whoops. I missed that part. They are showing the clashes in Hamburg on tv. They usually call the protestors anarchists, but I did hope to see some Trump effigies amongst them.

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  4. Holy cow! I would have opted for the detour.

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  5. The Sunday street markets of Hamburg will be interesting. Lots of looted things to buy. "Unwanted Christmas present Guv.... Honest".

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