By Joseph Nasr and Sabine Siebold
HAMBURG (Reuters) - Police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of violent anti-capitalist protesters in Hamburg on Friday after an evening of clashes between police and protesters seeking to disrupt the city's summit of global leaders.
Heavily armed police commandos moved in after activists had spent much of the day attempting to wrest control of the streets from more than 15,000 police, setting fires, looting and building barricades.
With meetings between leaders of the club of 20 largest global economies over for the day, police prepared to storm the Schanzenviertel district before midnight.
Protesters had torched cars and lorries, broken windows in banks, looted retail stores, set off firecrackers and hurled paving slabs and other objects at police. Some 197 officers were injured in two days of clashes in the port city. Police made 19 arrests and detained dozens more.
The clashes are awkward for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had hoped to demonstrate Germany's unshakeable commitment to free speech, assembly and dissent by holding the summit in the center of a city with a proud radical tradition.
"I have every understanding for peaceful demonstrations but violent demonstrations put human lives in danger," Merkel, who was born in Hamburg, said earlier in the evening.
Participants in the G20 meeting praised the work of police in keeping the event safe but said they had never seen protesters closer to such a summit than in Hamburg.
When world leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping gathered for a Beethoven concert in the city's riverside Elbphilarmonie concert hall, protesters responded by blaring the music of Jimi Hendrix.
Police pursued members of the radical Black Bloc movement, which wants to overthrow capitalism, across scaffolding as they sought refuge on rooftops. Non-participants were warned to stay away and journalists ordered to keep a distance.
In one suburb, police intervened to put an end to a protest by some 200 largely masked activists and detained 59 suspects. Fourteen of them were taken to hospital but it was unclear if the injuries occurred while fleeing across barricades or during the confrontations with police.
Despite the chaos that threatened to overwhelm parts of the city during much of the day, the summit proceeded largely as planned, with thousands of participants from dozens of countries in attendance, although some plans had to be changed.
Police declined to clear U.S. first lady Melania Trump's motorcade to leave her hotel for a tour of the historic harbor, and protests delayed buses taking visitors away from the state dinner that concluded the meetings.
A police spokesman said only small numbers of far-left or anarchist protesters were involved in the disturbances, while the majority of an estimated 100,000 demonstrators in the city remained peaceful.
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr, Andrea Shalal, Thomas Escritt and Klaus Lauer; Editing by Gareth Jones and Bill Trott)