Four weeks before the Group of Eight summit in Germany, police conducted widespread raids targeting left-wing activists suspected of planning to violently disrupt the meeting. The raids prompted spontaneous demonstrations and accusations that authorities are attempting to stifle dissent.
According to Spiegel International, 900 security officials raided 40 sites – mostly apartments and offices – across northern Germany Wednesday. Prosecutors said that those targeted were suspected of plotting violence at the upcoming summit.
"The militant extreme left groups and their members are suspected of having founded a terrorist group, or of being members of such an organization, with the specific goal of staging fire bombings and other violent attacks in order to disrupt or prevent the upcoming G-8 summit in Heiligendamm," federal prosecutors said in a statement.
The Associated Press reports that Germany's Interior Minister has called for "preventative detention measures" to hold "potentially violent" activists in custody during the summit. The AP says that opposition Greens, Liberals, and the Left Party condemned the actions.
"One can only describe these methods as police state methods," said Jan Korte, a member of Germany's Left Party, successor to the former East German Communists.
"With these mass searches the interior minister has set the fuse", he told The Associated Press. "And with his threat of preventive detentions he has pulled out the lighter too."
The anti-globalization network Attac expects that Wednesday's raids would only bring activist groups closer together and mobilize them for a massive blockade of the summit.
According to another AP story, the searches prompted protests in Hamburg and Berlin.
The New York Times describes the extensive security preparations for the three-day summit, which begins on June 6 in Heiligendamm, a resort town in northeastern Germany.
German authorities are leaving little to chance. They have constructed a 7.5-mile, $17 million fence that will cut off access to Heiligendamm. Local residents have complained bitterly about the concrete-and-barbed-wire barrier, which some have likened to a new Berlin Wall.
Nine naval ships will patrol the waters off the resort, while 16,000 local police officers and 1,100 soldiers will guard the perimeter, keeping protesters several miles from the meeting. Protest organizers said the security measures eclipsed those for President Bush's visit last July to the same part of Germany.
The annual G-8 summit, in which leaders of the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, and Japan meet to discuss economic issues, has long been a lightning rod for protesters. Beginning in the late 1990s, the so-called antiglobalization movement – a term considered a misnomer by many of its adherents – has sought to disrupt the meeting, as well as other global financial summits, such as those held by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. Activists claim that the economic policies of these organizations favor wealthy investors at the expense of workers and the environment, the AP writes.
The 2001 summit, held in Genoa, Italy, was accompanied by a police crackdown that left one protester dead and many others injured. The BBC later reported that Italian police admitted to planting Molotov cocktails among activists and faking a stabbing to justify police violence.