ROSTOCK, Germany (Reuters) - organizers of anti-G8 demonstrations and the media on Sunday condemned violent clashes between police and a hardcore group of militants in the German port city of Rostock in which 1,000 people were injured.
A peaceful demonstration involving tens of thousands of diverse protesters was marred on Saturday by the worst street violence seen in Germany for years when hundreds of black-clad activists bombarded police with stones and torched three cars.
Police used water cannon to disperse the militants who left a trail of destruction in the harbor city, just days before Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts the Group of Eight (G8) leaders in the nearby resort of Heiligendamm for their annual meeting.
“This was inexcusable and that is the opinion of all the groups concerned,” said Mani Stenner, a spokesman for the organizers of a week-long program of demonstrations in the port city. “We hope that this situation was an exception.”
Police blamed the violence on some 2,000 militants known as the ‘black block’. Some 430 police officers and 520 protesters were injured and police said 128 people were arrested in the clashes at the city’s harbor.
The mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper declared the violence Germany’s “G8 Shame!” and carried a large front-page picture of a balaclava-clad militant aiming a stone at police.
“Yesterday images were formed in our country that will damage our reputation across the world,” wrote commentator Claus Strunz in a column for the newspaper.
Merkel will host the G8 for talks on June 6, focusing on African poverty and climate change.
At the same time, Rostock is hosting a broad range of protests and demonstrations against globalization, capitalism, African poverty and human rights abuses.
“We have a lot of work to do to consider how we can prevent these violent events from happening again,” Stenner said.
Aid groups and charities condemned the violence and distanced themselves from the militants. “There was no justification at all for these attacks,” said Pedram Shahyar, a spokesman for the group Attac.
The violence followed weeks of tension between police and militants in Hamburg and Berlin after street riots prompted by a series of raids last month on premises used by left-wing groups.
Around 16,000 police will be on duty during the summit, the biggest force assembled in recent times in Germany. Protesters are expected to try to block road access to the summit and stage demonstrations at a nearby airport.
A 12 km (7.5 mile) security fence has been built around the resort itself to keep demonstrators and militants away from the summit.
additional reporting by Sabine Siebold