As Hamburg prepares for the meeting of the world’s most powerful nations at the G20 Summit in July, reports circulated that there may be no room at the inn(s) for the world’s most powerful leader. Originally reported by the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper (yes, that's really its name), the luxury hotel chain Vier Jahreszeiten (Four Seasons) favored by Trump was either unable or unwilling to accommodate the President and his American contingent. The irony of a real estate titan unable to get a room has not escaped Germany’s largely anti-Trump public, where memes and articles concerning the report spread rapidly.
When asked to comment, the Four Seasons and other hotels that reportedly refused to accommodate Trump declined to elaborate beyond saying that he would not be staying with them. According to Interplan, the official agency responsible for housing the delegations for the summit, “All delegations have a hotel in Hamburg.” However, with hundreds of American officials, journalists and security officers belonging to Trump’s contingent—and more than 9,000 rooms needed for the meeting—it's not easy for Trump to find a room “presidential” enough for him.
At one point, his team apparently decided to stay in Berlin and fly in by helicopter for the forum held on July 7 and 8, but last week the Hamburg government found a private villa in the city where Trump could stay. (No word on whether he had to promise there would be no hookers or golden showers.)
Formed in 1999, the G20 (or Group of Twenty) was originally focused solely on economic policies and attended by finance ministers and bankers from 19 of the world’s most powerful economies with the 20th member being the European Union. But for the last 11 meetings, the leaders of the respective member countries have used the event to reach deals and agreements in largely unofficial, backroom deals. The impact of the G20, which accounts for 85 percent of the world’s economy and two-thirds of the world’s population, is huge, affecting everything from climate policy to banking regulations and trade.
The G20 in 2009, hosted by former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, created a $1.1 trillion financial aid package for the global economy following the 2008 financial crisis. In 2014, President Barack Obama commandeered the Brisbane conference to put climate change at the top of the agenda, even though host countries generally set the agenda for the conference.
This year’s G20 Summit will be one of the most-contested and publicized G20 forums to date due to Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, the ever tumultuous situation in the Middle East and escalating tensions between China, Russia, North Korea and the United States.
And Hamburg has been feeling the heat for months in the lead-up to the summit. In March, left-wing activists set ablaze police cars in front of a police station and the mayor's home to protest the G20. The group, calling itself Fire and Flame for the Police, wrote in an online post that the attack was meant to “heat up the days before the summit.” Hamburg, and especially its football club FC St. Pauli, have long been associated with left-wing activism, and with the meetings being held only blocks away from the club’s stadium and meeting point for activists, things could escalate quickly.
"It is quite clear that in the event of a loss of control during the G20 summit, the possibility of dead demonstrators cannot be ruled out," the group stated. “Police now have one less vehicle to provide the coffee during the summit, and one less vehicle to block our planned protests. This may not be much, but it can be repeated at any time by all those who decide to do so."
The police are responding with an unprecedented level of security, calling in 14,000 extra police from around the country, setting up barricades and barbed wire fences and heavily monitoring the convention center with patrols and parked police vans where the meetings will be held.
"We are confident that our security personnel have the situation under control," said Jörg Schmoll, the spokesperson for the Hamburg state senate. "It's good if protests remain peaceful."
Campact, a citizens' initiative combining the interests of unions and environmental and human rights organizations, is one of the campaigns planning “colorful, forceful and, above all, peaceful protests” before and during the summit.
“Blockage is the only word the Trumps and Erdoğans will understand,” he said. “We are calling for massive acts of disobedience. The police are not our enemy, but we will be where they don’t want us to be.”
As for Trump, he will be, undoubtedly, where many won’t want him to be.
Photo credit: Unsplash.