Clashes Mar NATO Allies’ Summit
4 Apr 09 | AJE
A hotel has been set on fire and a petrol station ransacked after thousands of protesters clashed with police near the Nato summit being held in Strasbourg.
Riot police used water cannons and teargas after about 10,000 people turned out for the violent demonstration in the French city on Saturday.
A group of about 1,000 “particularly violent” rioters, some black-clad and masked, led the clashes, lobbing petrol bombs, burning tires, smashing windows and ransacking shops on the second day of the summit, police said.
Protestors were being contained around the Europe Bridge to prevent them spreading through the city, a statement from the regional prefecture said.
Protesters ‘beaten up’
The bridge, which crosses the Rhine River, is 5km from the conference centre where 28 Nato leaders, including Barack Obama, the US president, were meeting.
Black smoke could be seen clearly from the venue.
About 50 of the protesters were reported to be hurt.
Organisers said the majority of demonstrators in Strasbourg and nearby Baden-Baden did not aim to carry out violence and blamed tensions on security forces.
“No one here has attacked any police, but we have been hit with teargas and beaten up,” Monty Schaedel, a protest spokesman, said.
Demonstrators from as far as Japan flocked to Strasbourg to campaign against war, capitalism, defence spending and nuclear weapons in view of the assembled leaders.
The initially calm protest on Saturday had turned violent by noon, when protestors first clashed with police at the Europe Bridge.
Some rioters later set fire to a former customs station on the French side and an Ibis hotel, which were both gutted before fire services were able to put them out.
On the German side, around 5,000 demonstrators gathered peacefully to cross the Europe Bridge, before finding themselves blocked by scores of police backed by water cannons.
France and Germany, which are co-hosting the summit, each deployed 15,000 police and troops at the start of the two-day summit, in a security operation costing about $150m.
Police in Strasbourg had arrested hundreds of protesters before the summit opened on Friday.
Schools and the university were closed and most businesses and restaurants have shut down for the duration of the summit.
- France Cracks Down on NATO Protests (4 Apr 09)
- THE BLOG: Chomsky on NATO, Af-Pak-etnam, and Palestine-Israel (3 Apr 09)
- Wonderland Wire coverage of NATO Summit