THE FACT THAT the toilet brush has become a symbol of resistance among demonstrators taking part in ongoing protests in Hamburg may connote a certain light-heartedness amongst those taking part — but the developing situation in the German city is serious enough to have compelled US authorities to issue a fresh travel advisory for the area.
According to the BBC, the unrest centres of the eviction of an anarchist community centre which was set up nearly 25 years ago. A protest on 21 December attended by thousands of people later descended into violence, while a week later another demonstration saw masked rioters pelt a police station with stones.
Police have since set-up special ‘danger zones’, in which officers are stopping and searching people at will. The restricted zones include the red light district of the Reeperbahn, the Old Town, St. Pauli and Altona Nord, including the Sternschanzen area. According to German English-language news site The Local, some 400 people “were involved in a cat and mouse game with police” in a restricted zone last night, some throwing stones at officers.
Some of those turning out carried toilet brushes, after a video was broadcast of riot police stopping a hooded man and confiscating a brush from him:
The US Embassy in Berlin issued the following warning to American travellers on Tuesday:
Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations or public gatherings, especially in the restricted areas, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.
The Department of Foreign Affairs here has not issued any updated travel advice in light of the developments, although it advises all Irish citizens in Germany to carry a valid passport at all times as “German police have a right to ask for identification at any time”.