GERMANY

Protesters hike to G7 summit: ‘We protested the ban on protesting!’

Hundreds of protesters went on an eight kilometre hike on Sunday towards Germany's Elmau Castle, where leaders from G7 countries had been meeting for two days of talks. But they weren’t only protesting the world powers’ policies. They also wanted to defend their right to demonstrate, after local authorities fenced the area off to keep protesters away. 

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A hike through Bavarian mountains on June 7 to protest against the G7. All photos taken by our Observer.

Hundreds of protesters went on an eight kilometre hike on Sunday towards Germany's Elmau Castle, where leaders from G7 countries had been meeting for two days of talks. But they weren’t only protesting the world powers’ policies. They also wanted to defend their right to demonstrate, after local authorities fenced the area off to keep protesters away.

The leaders of Germany, Canada, the US, France, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom met on June 7 for two days of talks that focused on the Greek debt crisis, Ukraine and climate change. But the G7 summit, which brings together seven of the world's most advanced economies, also attracted thousands of anti-G7 protesters. From June 4, more than 30,000 of them began spilling onto the streets of Munich - around 100 kilometres away from Elmau - to voice their opposition.

Demonstrations also took place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where a makeshift protest camp was set up. The resort town is barely five kilometres away from where the summit was held. On Saturday, several people were injured after scuffles broke out with security forces during a march by some 4,000 protesters through the town.

"The area was fenced off to stop us gathering under the windows of the castle, as if we were bound to be violent..."

Grecko lives in Frankfurt. He's a member of the 'Blockupy' movement and the left-wing 'Die Linke' party, which took part in anti-G7 protests.

On Sunday, we set off from Garmisch-Partenkirchen at around 8:30 in order to walk right up to the barrier surrounding Elmau Castle. There were about 800 of us. We quickly split up into two groups to make it harder for the police to stop us all at once.

The beginning of the hike in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Protesters set off on the morning of June 7 from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There were armed police along the entire length of the route. They constantly stopped us, before eventually letting us continue our walk. Omnipresent groups of police officers lined the protest route.

Police officers were stationed all along their hike route. 

We arrived at the fence towards midday after having walked eight kilometres. We then staged an on-the-spot sit-in to defend our right to protest. This metal barrier, which is several kilometres long, was put in place to stop us gathering under the windows of the castle, as if we were bound to be violent. Around 20,000 policemen were deployed throughout the area to protect the G7 leaders, but also to strangle any attempt to protest.

Sit-in in front of the fence surrounding the castle in which G7 leaders gathered.

Nobody wanted to risk breaking down the fence, given the harsh manner in which police had responded to protests the day before. I personally got hit by a police baton in the knee, even though there'd been no major trouble in the two days leading up to the incident. Then, after an hour, we set off on foot back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Policemen along the protest route.

The protests in Garmisch-Partenkirchen were coordinated by 'Stop G7', an antiwar and anti-capitalist group that was formed about two years ago. But the protesters that took part in Sunday's march represented a whole range of causes. There were members of anti-globalisation groups, pro-human rights groups, left-wing political parties, environmentalists, and trade unionists.

We protested against the policies of the G7 because we reckon that these countries exploit poor nations to make bigger profits, produce too many weapons - which in turn, fuels conflict - and don't do enough to protect the environment. We also wanted to speak out against TTIP [Editor's note: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership], a transatlantic free-trade agreement currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. Moreover, we believe that it's too much to invest millions of euros in such an event [Editor's note: although the G7's pricetag is kept secret, the German Taxpayers Federation believe it may cost the German state around 360 million euros].

Post written with France 24 journalist Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).