Dozens of police injured in G20 protests

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Police officers walk through smoke from flares as anti-G20 protesters try to breach the security zone and disrupt the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

HAMBURG - Dozens of police were injured in clashes with protesters before a G20 summit in Hamburg on Thursday, tarnishing the start of a meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes will cement her role as a stateswoman as she seeks re-election in September.

Merkel, who is campaigning for a fourth term, can ill afford the images of chaos and disharmony that dominated news coverage of the summit. The summit, which starts in earnest on Friday, is a chance for her to polish her diplomatic credentials but would be disastrous if marred by widespread violence.

She met US President Donald Trump for an hour on Thursday evening, but less than an hour later police clashed with anti-capitalist demonstrators near the summit venue, firing water cannons and pepper spray at hundreds of black-clad protesters after they threw bottles.

READ: Protests turn violent for Trump's maiden G20

Nearly 75 police officers were injured throughout the evening, with three requiring treatment in hospital, police said. The pilots of a police helicopter sustained eye injuries when laser pointers were directed at them, police said.

Protesters damaged cars, set other objects ablaze and threw bottles in roving clashes that lasted until midnight.

A Reuters eyewitness saw at least one protester with blood on his face being treated.

"Welcome to Hell" was the protesters' greeting for Trump and other world leaders arriving for the two-day meeting.

Trump faces a testy confrontation at the summit with leaders of the other big Group of 20 economies after deciding last month to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate deal.