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Police and Protesters Prep for NATO Summit

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2 Apr 09 | AP

Some 25,000 French and German police — and perhaps as many protesters — are taking up positions around three cities on both sides of the Rhine before a NATO summit involving President Barack Obama and 25 other leaders.

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie called it France’s biggest security operation in years, and warned of possible terrorist acts and clashes over Afghanistan and waging war in the 21st century.

The summit runs Friday and Saturday in the French city of Strasbourg and the German cities of Kehl and Baden Baden, following a similarly tightly monitored summit of the G-20 leaders on the world economic crisis in London on Thursday.

Already Tuesday, police boats were patrolling the river that divides Strasbourg and Kehl. Military helicopters were mobilized, and hospitals kilometers (miles) away were stocking up on supplies in case protests turn violent.

Schools and stores were shut in most neighborhoods of Strasbourg, home to several European institutions and a symbol of the postwar reconciliation between France and Germany. The renowned Strasbourg cathedral will only be open for one afternoon mass. Football matches were postponed and weddings relocated away from Strasbourg City Hall.

“It’s an extremely important summit. We have all the characteristics to see extremely violent groups appear,” Alliot-Marie told reporters in Strasbourg on Monday, warning of terrorists and extremist protesters.

Some 9,000 French police and 15,000 German police were on hand, according to French security officials.

Alliot-Marie predicted up to 30,000 or 40,000 protesters “including 2,000 representing a danger of violence.”

Alliot-Marie predicted as many as 30,000 protesters could come to the event, where Obama and other leaders will focus on boosting NATO’s force in Afghanistan and the role of the alliance NATO in conflicts around the world.

Local officials have provided hay and tents to protesters setting up in a “Counter-Summit” camp at a farm near Strasbourg.

On Friday, protesters plan a peace march in which one group will arrive from Kehl to Strasbourg, via the Europa Bridge that joins them, and join another group from the French side.

March organizers are advocating “peaceful” demonstrations and will have their own security people, wearing white armbands, watching out for troublemakers.

Protest organizers and police were watching in particular for the so-called “black block” of hooligans who have disrupted summit protests in the past.

The city will be closed to nonresidents from Thursday evening through Sunday evening.

The U.S. Embassy in France warned Americans to avoid the area if possible and “exercise extreme caution” near any demonstration.

“There may be large, disruptive demonstrations in which activists seek to target the NATO venues,” the embassy said in a warning message Monday.


Written by Editors

2 April 2009 at 7:24 am

Posted in Europe, Global

Tagged with , ,

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