Chocolate is everywhere you look. Different varieties are stacked on large plates in a display case. There’s cranberry white alongside peanut-salt whole milk and refined dark chocolate with cardamom, clove and pepper. Chocolatier Franz Kässer makes the delights and sells them in his store in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. But the customers have been gone for weeks. “We are wasting a lot of time,” Kässer says angrily.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a spa town in Upper Bavaria that lives mainly from tourism. Skiers come in winter, hikers in summer. “The tourist beds are occupied, but for three weeks it has been police, security guards and people preparing for the G7 summit,” Kässer says, explaining his problem. “Of course they don’t shop with us or eat with us, because they are served differently.”
And it’s not just him, he adds: “I went out to eat last night, there were three people sitting in the restaurant, where normally everything is booming at this time of year.”
Even the schools are closed
At least 18,000 police have been deployed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Elmau, the small village above the resort town in a hard-to-reach valley, to provide security for the G7 summit. Police cars are lined up everywhere and helicopters repeatedly slam through the air.
Heads of state and government are hermetically sealed at Schloss Elmau, a secluded luxury spa retreat, while in Garmisch the media center has been set up for the approximately 3,000 journalists who have arrived. Hundreds of manhole covers have been sealed with white stickers, no trash cans are allowed on the streets, schools are closed and students are forced to take their lessons online.
Police checkpoints have been set up at all access roads within a 16 kilometer (10 mile) radius. Motorists must stop, personal data is checked. The plan is to spot and screen troublemakers and potentially violent protesters before they reach Garmisch.
Chocolate maker Franz Kässer does not want the G7 back
Lentil Stew with the Chancellor
“Many activists do not come because of the controls, they do not want to be searched and are also afraid of repression”, explains Tatjana Söding, who, together with Christopher Olk, pitched her tent in a protest camp on a meadow in the edge of Garmisch. Söding has just completed his master’s degree in human ecology, Olk is preparing a doctorate in international political economy. Both belong to the “Stop G7 Elmau” alliance, which plans to hold several protest rallies throughout the summit.
“Seven heads of state pursue their own interests and their decisions affect the world population, which has no right to have a say”, criticizes Olk. “They talk about climate justice, but their own specific political and economic interests are at the forefront, which does not allow for real climate justice at all.”
It was pouring rain when Söding and Olk arrived on Friday evening. “It was a bit uncomfortable.” Now barefoot and in summer clothes, the two stand in the sun on the lawn and watch more and more tents being erected at the protest camp. Authorities approved 750 protesters.
What would the two say if they had the opportunity to speak with Chancellor Olaf Scholz in person? “I would invite him to eat a lentil stew with us and then we would talk about how we can make Germany part of a just world,” Olk says, laughing in disbelief. But talking to the Chancellor isn’t on the cards.
Instead, it was suggested to the activists that 50 of them be driven to Elmau, where they could demonstrate out of sight of heads of state and government, under guard. But they find this unacceptable. “Freedom of movement and assembly will be severely restricted,” criticizes Söding.
Tatjana Söding and Christopher Olk have joined the protest camp
Will the protest remain peaceful?
The plan is for the protesters to march through the town at the bottom of Garmisch, but they also want to try to advance through the mountain forest to Elmau in a so-called “star march”, in which several groups converge to an agreed point. from different directions. The police know this and have already announced that the activists will not go far. “There are a lot of police in Garmisch, and there’s a reason for that,” Upper Bavarian Police Chief Manfred Hauser said when presenting the security concept to the media.
Garmisch business people hope the protests will remain peaceful. “Many residents have left for a few days,” explains chocolatier Kässer. “But we had already planned all the holidays here in store when we learned six months ago that a G7 summit was to be held in Elmau for the second time.” The last time, in 2015, he added, they had been warned a year and a half in advance and could have planned differently: “I can’t send people on vacation now.”
Some 18,000 police have been deployed in Elmau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen
G7 always up to date?
Kässer is certain that there will be no third G7 summit here. “Never again G7,” he said fervently in his voice. “People here in town would disagree with that, and that’s supported by some local council members.” The chocolatier criticizes that the whole effort is not even up to date. “We’re supposed to heat less and take fewer showers, and here they’re wasting energy with hundreds of police cars driving around and helicopters doing training flights for weeks on end.”
Kässer does not deny that meetings of Heads of State and Government are necessary. “But please, not in this format,” he said. “There are hundreds of people in every entourage. Why don’t they meet their closest circle of advisors, and everyone else can meet on the internet these days, right?”
There are also places where such meetings could be better held, he said. “At (US Air Force Base) Ramstein, a NATO summit was organized at short notice with important personalities, and the American president was able to land directly on the site with his Airforce One. You do not have to impose all this to anyone these days.”