United States President George W. Bush is the man G8 protestors love to hate. US citizens who oppose Bush's policies are increasingly making themselves heard, and Europeans are listening.
An American protesting against the G8?
Their president is the main hate figure of these G8 protests; his administration seen as responsible for the lack of commitment to climate change accords, the wars that rage around the world and the eradication of human rights. George W. Bush is not welcome here. But how are the US citizens who have traveled to demonstrate received?
"The response we've had from other protestors has been good, but we really didn't expect anything different," said Minou Arjomand, a native New Yorker now living in Berlin. "People hear us speaking English with an American accent and they're all like, 'hey, it's so cool that you're here.' I'm not sure how many people have actually flown here from the States -- it's expensive and hard to justify in terms of environmental impact -- but there are a lot of ex-pat Americans from around Europe at the G8."
Understanding the difference
George Bush is reviled by many G8 protestors
Only a few years ago, the anti-American feeling in Europe arising from the invasion of Iraq would have made life very uncomfortable for Arjomand and her fellow country folk. These days, the differentiation between administration and populace is more clearly understood by those outside the US due to a growing anti-war movement and obvious rejection by many of the Bush government's policies towards other global and domestic issues.
"In 2003, I think a lot of people saw the US as Bush -- period," said Alix Rule, another ex-pat American protesting at the G8. "When he was re-elected, okay…that didn't help either but since then there has been a growing opposition to this administration in the United States, not only due to its domestic record and the war but because of the effect it is having on the world."
Anti-G8 activists show their displeasure
Rule said she believes that the growing opposition movement within the United States, one willing to take its beliefs onto the international stage, came of age at the WTO summit in Seattle in 1999.
"That really opened the eyes of a lot of people," she said. "Here were thousands of international protestors demonstrating global issues on US soil. This was not in some far away country, this was Seattle and the problems and injustices being protested had American fingerprints on them.
"Now you've got Al Gore running around, winning Oscars and stuff," Rule said. "Americans are not seen as much as being a nation lacking a social conscience."
When asked if it was significant that the majority of US protestors in and around Rostock have come predominantly from European bases, Arjomand said that those Americans that choose to live abroad have a wider, more international outlook. But she added that while at college during the invasion of Iraq, mass walkouts of students and high school pupils around the country gave her hope that a new generation of awareness was taking root.
Finding a social conscience
An activist stands in front of riot police
But isn't that just another example of the educated classes having more knowledge of events and therefore a more informed opinion?
"You don't have to go to school to know that war is wasteful and wrong," Rule said. "Not everyone in Germany cares if the polar cap melts in their lifetime; some might not even know that there is a danger of that happening. People all over the States -- rich, poor, white collar, blue collar -- are waking up to the fact that we have a place and a responsibility in the world and that what we do matters."
While the attendance of hundreds of US protestors on the marches is not even an issue for the majority of demonstrators, the German police are not taking any chances that people with a more radical grievance against the United States will be equally tolerant. The Radisson Hotel in Rostock where a large contingent of US journalists is based has a very visible security presence outside and an almost war-zone-like camaraderie inside.
The beer tab
"I think the police protection thing is a little bit of overkill," said Charlie Jameson, a freelance photojournalist from Washington. "If any extremists didn't know where all the Yanks were before they sure as hell do now."
If anyone wanted to inflict any damage or injury on Americans at the G8, wouldn't the civilian contingent be more of a viable target than the president who is even more heavily protected?
"Sure, you never hear about US diplomats getting kidnapped and beheaded, right?" Jameson said. "But this is Rostock, not Baghdad. I'm more afraid of what my editor is going to say about the bar tab."