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Parts of Hamburg burn as G-20 rioters battle police

| Friday, July 7, 2017, 7:54 p.m.
Protesters burn barricades as police attempt to control the area during an anti-G20 march on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. Authorities are braced for large-scale and disruptive protests as Leaders of the G20 group of nations arrive in Hamburg for the July 7-8 G20 summit.
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Protesters burn barricades as police attempt to control the area during an anti-G20 march on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. Authorities are braced for large-scale and disruptive protests as Leaders of the G20 group of nations arrive in Hamburg for the July 7-8 G20 summit.

HAMBURG, Germany -- Police struggled to contain violent protests late Friday as thousands of far-left demonstrators rioted in Hamburg, where Germany is hosting the Group of 20 summit.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the violence as “unacceptable,” adding that she had “a great deal of understanding for peaceful protests, but violent protests endanger human lives.”

Police described the situation as “very serious” on Twitter late Friday, adding that rioters were apparently planning to commit “serious crimes” against officers.

A pharmacy and a supermarket were looted and police said some protesters brandished steel poles and fired projectiles at officers.

Police launched an attempt to clear thousands of protesters from the Schanzenviertel area. Video showed showing officers forcing their way into buildings and standing on rooftops while helicopters with searchlights circled overhead.

Armored vehicles were used to plow through barricades that had been set afire by protesters. Police also used tear gas and water cannons.

Police said earlier that a warning shot was fired by an officer as he approached two men beating and kicking another man who was lying on the street.

All three fled the scene, police said.

In nearby St. Pauli, home to the city's notorious red-light district, police said about 1,000 protesters gathered earlier for a rally whose organizers had called on participants to “carry our rage at the system onto the street.”

The G-20 summit began Friday and has been accompanied by violent protests staged by militant leftists from the start.

Nearly 200 officers were injured in the fighting, though none were seriously injured, police said.

A spokeswoman for one of the groups organizing the protests described them as a success.

“We've done what we said we would: thousands of people have penetrated the so-called blue zone,” said Jana Schneider of Block-G20. “We were where we weren't supposed to be.”

The blue zone is an off-limits area including the conference venue.

Thousands of protesters had attempted to close in on the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, where heads of state and government ended a day of diplomatic appointments with a symphony performance.

However, the event went more or less as planned, with Merkel along with other leaders and their spouses arriving without incident.

Police said 6,000 people were part of the effort to penetrate a protest-free zone imposed by police around the Elbphilharmonie, with at least 1,000 people wearing masks, which is illegal during protests in Germany.

Earlier Friday, protests forced U.S. President Donald Trump to take a circuitous route to the summit.

Police said 20 protesters attacked security guards at Hamburg's Hotel Park Hyatt, which was hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Moon Jae In and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Earlier Friday, Hamburg police requested backup from across Germany to contain the violence. More than 850 officers were already en route to Hamburg from five of Germany's 16 states.

Hamburg's public transportation system was disrupted on a large scale by the protests. Train drivers were ordered not to stop in stations near the protest. Police said demonstrators were throwing objects on the tracks.

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