“Never again G7” – bad mood in Elmau

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The G7 heads of state and government met for three days in Elmau, Upper Bavaria. Meanwhile, the region is in a state of emergency. A report by Sabine Kinkartz.

Rage at the summit: A shopkeeper in Garmisch writes what he thinks

Chocolate wherever you look. Different varieties are stacked on large plates in a display case. Cranberry white is next to dark chocolate refined with cardamom, clove and pepper and whole milk with peanut and salt. Chocolatier Franz Käßer makes the delicacies and sells them in his shop in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. But the customers have been staying away for weeks. “We've lost a lot,” says Käßer angrily.

Franz Käßer is missing customers

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a spa town in Upper Bavaria that lives primarily from tourism. Skiers come in winter and hikers come in summer. “The stranger's beds are occupied, but for the last three weeks there have been police officers, security guards and people doing the set-up for the G7 summit,” says Kaesser, explaining his problem. “Of course, they don't buy from us or eat with us because they are taken care of differently.” It's not just him. “I had dinner last night, there were three people in the place, which is usually a banging place at this time of year.”

Even the schools are closed

At least 18,000 police officers have been dispatched to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Elmau, which is located above the spa town in a valley that is difficult to access, to secure the G7 summit. Police cars are lined up everywhere, and helicopters keep rattling through the air. The heads of state and government meet hermetically sealed off in Schloss Elmau, and the media center for the around 3,000 journalists who have traveled to the event has been set up in Garmisch. Hundreds of manhole covers have been sealed with white adhesive, there are no garbage cans on the streets, schools are closed, and students are having distance learning online.

Police are everywhere, even in front of the Zugspitz-Bahn

Police checks have been set up on all access roads within a radius of 16 kilometres. Motorists have to stop and their personal details are checked. The plan is to identify and filter out disruptive and violent demonstrators before reaching Garmisch.

The protest camp is formed

“Many activists don't come because of the controls, they don't want to be searched and they're also afraid of repression,” says Tatjana Söding, who, together with Christopher Olk, pitched her tent in a protest camp on a meadow on the outskirts of Garmisch.  Söding has just finished her masters in human ecology, Olk is doing her PhD in international political economy. Both belong to the “Stop G7 Elmau” alliance, which wants to accompany the summit with several protest rallies.

Tatjana Söding and Christopher Olk

“Seven heads of state pursue their own interests and their decisions affect them world population that is not allowed to have a say in decisions,” criticizes Olk. “They talk about climate justice, with their very own specific political and economic interests in the foreground, which do not allow for real climate justice at all.”

Lentil stew with the Federal Chancellor

When Söding and Olk arrived on Friday evening, it was pouring rain. “It was a bit uncomfortable.” Now the two are standing barefoot and in summer clothes on the meadow in the sun and watch as more and more tents are set up in the protest camp. The authorities have allowed it for 750 residents. What would the two say if they had the opportunity to speak to Chancellor Olaf Scholz in person? “I would invite him to eat lentil stew with us and then we would talk about how we can make Germany part of a just world,” says Olk, laughing in disbelief. Talking to the Chancellor is not planned.

More and more tents are being set up in the protest camp

Instead, it was suggested to the activists that 50 of them could be driven up to Elmau and demonstrate under guard out of sight of the heads of state and government. But they find that unacceptable. “Freedom of movement and assembly is severely restricted,” criticizes Söding.

Will the protest remain peaceful?

The plan is for the demonstrators to march through the city down in Garmisch, but they also want to try to march through the mountain forest to Elmau. The police know this and have already announced that the activists will not get far. “There's a lot of police in Garmisch, and there's a reason for that,” said the police chief of Oberbayern Süd, Manfred Hauser, at the presentation of the security concept.

The business people in Garmisch hope that the protests will remain peaceful. “Many residents went away for a few days,” says chocolatier Käßer. “But we had already planned all the vacations here in the shop when we found out six months ago that a G7 summit was to take place in Elmau for the second time.” In 2015 they were informed a year and a half in advance and could have planned differently. “I can't just send people on vacation again.”

G7 summit outdated?

Käßer is certain that there will be no G7 summits for a third time. “Never again G7,” he says with fervor in his voice. “The people here in town wouldn't go along with that and that's supported by some in the municipal council.” The whole effort is no longer up-to-date, criticizes the chocolatier. “We're supposed to heat less and shower less, and they've been pumping out the energy here for weeks with hundreds of police cars driving around and helicopters doing practice flights.”

The media center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen provides jobs and food for around 3,000 journalists

Käßer also knows that heads of state and government have to meet, and he doesn't deny that either . “But please not in this format. There are hundreds of people in every convoy. Why don't they meet with their closest circle of advisors and all the other people can meet online these days?” There are also places where such meetings could be better held. “A NATO summit with important people was organized in Rammstein at very short notice, so the US President could land his Airforce One directly on the site. You don't have to expect anyone to do that anymore.”

Watch video 01: 06

Thousands protest in Munich before the G7 summit