Swiss police clash with protesters, arrest 60
- Swiss police clash with anti-Davos protesters, arrest 60
1 February 2009
GENEVA - Swiss police clashed with demonstrators against the Davos
forum on Saturday, firing tear gas in central Geneva after officers
were pelted with bottles and fireworks.
Sixty people were arrested after hundreds of protestors converged on
the centre of Geneva to protest against the World Economic Forum in
Davos in defiance of a ban imposed by local authorities, a police
Organisers had appealed for calm, while attacking the ban on the march.
But bottles and firecrackers were thrown at the riot police who
charged the demonstrators, using teargas grenades.
"Around 60 people were arrested, of whom 20 have already been
released," police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt said two hours after
the start of the protest.
He said no injuries had been reported on either side, adding that most
demonstrators had been dispersed and only a hard core of some 100
radicals were being contained by police.
After tentatively allowing the rally to go ahead, the regional
government said earlier this month the organisers of the demonstration
had been unable to provide sufficient security guarantees to stage the
event in the western Swiss city.
Police equipped with a water cannon had blocked the planned route of
the march, while participants were systematically checked and their
In Davos itself, a group of several dozen protestors marched through
the snow-covered Alpine village, holding a giant banner that read "You
Are The Crisis".
Another small group chanting "No To the WEF" threw fake blood on
security barriers and ripped down sheeting on the perimeter.
Anti-globalisation groups frequently protest against the annual
meeting of the select group of the world's business and political
elite in the eastern mountain resort of Davos, although demonstrations
have subsided in recent years.
Laurent Moutinot, the Geneva canton's minister in charge of home
affairs and policing, said last week, "We're not facing a popular
movement, but a group of people who deliberately aim to come here for
Banners being carried Saturday called for freedom of expression and
attacked the "capitalist swindle", claiming that "the blackmailers of
the WEF are mortgaging our future."
Some demonstrators disguised as clowns attempted to provoke the police
by ridiculing them.
Later Saturday a "large group" returning to the capital Bern from the
Geneva protest tried to hold a demonstration but were dispersed by
security forces who used teargas and rubber bullets, Bern police
spokesman Franz Maerki said.
Organizers protested strongly over the banning of the Geneva
demonstration, with Eric Decarro of the Solidarites union declaring:
"The government of Geneva canton banned a demonstration for the first
time in 35 years."
Earlier this month a Swiss group of "anarchist and communist political
forces" put out posters depicting fiery images of masked protestors,
calling for people to join the "revolutionary block" or to "smash WEF."
That stirred up memories in Geneva of protests against a meeting of G8
industrialised countries in nearby France in 2003, which turned into
running overnight battles between rioters and police and left shops
Although the Davos meeting takes place on the other side of the
country, the WEF's administrative headquarters are just outside Geneva
and the prosperous city's private banks and commodity traders are
taken as something of a symbol for capitalism.
Davos, perched high in the Alps, is also cordoned off by a massive
security operation during the event, but a small authorised
demonstration of a few dozen people took place there Saturday.
Police kept a low profile, and only some symbolic snowballs and a few
shoes were thrown by the protesters.
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