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Anti-G8 Protests Turn Violent in Switzerland
Sun Jun 1, 8:24 AM ET
By Christopher Noble and Michael Shields
LAUSANNE/GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) - Anarchists and anti-capitalists rampaged through rich Swiss cities on Sunday, smashing up shops and looting businesses in anger at world leaders meeting just beyond their reach in France.
In Lausanne, police fired tear gas and water cannon to drive crowds of demonstrators away from the hotel area where some delegates to the Group of Eight summit, being held across Lake Geneva in the French spa town of Evian, were staying.
Dozens of black-hooded protesters in Geneva blocked bridges with burning tires after breaking into luxury stores and petrol stations overnight, daubing walls with slogans against the June 1-3 meeting many of them see as a selfish rich club.
They hoped to stop delegates crossing the city but had little chance of disrupting the tightly guarded summit itself.
The violence threatened to overshadow peaceful marches nearby in which tens of thousands of people chanted slogans against the war in Iraq (news - web sites) and world poverty.
The "G8" includes industrialized Western nations and Russia, but leaders of some poorer countries have also been invited.
Molotov cocktails were lobbed at the main theater in Geneva, self-proclaimed "humanitarian capital" of the world that hosts major relief agencies -- but which also attracts the world's ultra-rich with its discreet private banks and fine jewelers.
"We want these people arrested and punished. We want the population to be able to get on with a normal life," said Geneva councilor Christian Ferrazino, touring the damage.
In Lausanne, protesters, many wearing balaclavas, masks and trademark anarchist black T-shirts, also targeted shops and gas stations and chanted "No blood for oil," a clear reference to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Police eventually moved in, driving protesters toward the outskirts of the lakeside city and making a number of arrests.
Lausanne said it was banning a previously authorized anti-G8 demonstration set for later in the day and police urged local residents to remain indoors.
MEMORIES OF GENOA
French and Swiss police have been on high alert after the mayhem that rocked the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, two years ago when one protester was shot dead by police. Last year's summit was held out of reach in a remote Canadian mountain resort.
Sunday's violence drew attention from the main anti-G8 event, twin marches from Geneva and the nearby French town of Annemasse that joined at midday on the border, some 40 km (25 miles) from Evian.
Police and witnesses said tens of thousands of people, including many children, took part. Organizers claimed up to 100,000.
In Evian itself, behind a wall of police and military security impenetrable for protestors, all was calm.
Local residents gathered behind barriers at the lakeside to watch and applaud politely as dignitaries arrived, many by boat but the world leaders, who will stay in the city, by helicopter.
French President Jacques Chirac hosts President Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin as well as the heads of government from Britain, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada.
Geneva, home to the World Trade Organization, a favorite protester target, Lausanne and Annemasse became the focus for protests as Evian was sealed off.
Police said protesters blocked the main motorway between Lausanne and the French border, which skirts Geneva. As on the Geneva bridges, police had made no move to disperse them.
"With this blockade here, Lausanne and Geneva, we have symbolically encircled the G8," said Cedric, one of the organizers of the Annemasse action.