Police alleged to have used banned combat weapon during G20 riots

Authorities in Hamburg are facing new accusations of abuse of power during July’s G20 summit, after Spiegel reported on Tuesday that they used a banned weapon to fire on rioters.

Police alleged to have used banned combat weapon during G20 riots
A special forces officer in Hamburg during G20 rioting. Photo: DPA

Police used an MZP 1 multipurpose pistol to shoot rubber bullets on 15 occasions and tear gas on a further 67 occasions during rioting in the port city between July 6th and July 8th.

Hamburg authorities insist that the weapon is technically a pistol which they are permitted to use to maintain domestic security. But a Finance Ministry document seen by Spiegel classifies the guns as a banned combat weapon.

The maker of the weapon, Heckler & Koch, also told Spiegel that the MZP 1 is not classified as a pistol, but rather as a grenade launcher.

Ulrich Karpen, a legal expert at Hamburg University, said that the law does not permit for the use of the MZP 1 pointing out that it does not appear on a comprehensive list of weapons which the police are allowed to use.

Die Linke (the Left Party) are now considering filing a legal complaint against police commander Hartmut Dudde, who was in charge of the operation. Die Linke claim he broke German law on the use of combat weapons by authorizing the use of the MZP 1.

According to Spiegel, Hamburg police said before the summit that they would use neither tear gas nor rubber bullets against protesters, but justified the change in tactic through the extreme escalation in violence.

Rioting began in Hamburg on Friday July 6th and continued until the Sunday. Black bloc protesters burned cars and smashed in the windows of shops in several parts of the city, causing several million euros worth of damage.

Police won initial sympathy after 500 officers were injured in clashes with masked protesters. Subsequently at least 35 investigations were launched into alleged crimes by officers against demonstrators, most of which were assaults.

Critics accuse the police of deliberately escalating the violence by intervening in a protest on the Friday night when some demonstrators refused to obey an order to remove face masks.


Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.