Geneva police say 'situation is calmer' after rioting at anti-WTO march
GENEVA - Anti-capitalism protesters smashed the windows of banks, shops and cafes in central Geneva and set cars on fire on Saturday during a demonstration against the World Trade Organization.
Some demonstrators were breaking the windows of every building they passed and setting off fireworks in the main shopping street.
Police in riot gear headed off groups of violent protesters.
At least three cars were set on fire near the city bus station. A pall of smoke hung over the city center and tear gas drifted through the streets.
The violent protesters were a minority in an otherwise good-natured crowd of about 2,000 people, accompanied by a dozen tractors and a marching band, who were demonstrating against a three-day WTO conference that starts Monday.
Protesters held up signs saying "Stop Capitalism, No WTO," "WTO is enemy of the climate" and "We will not sell our souls to the multinationals."
'Situation is calmer now'
Police spokesman Patrick Puhl said later that "the situation is calmer now and the march has resumed its normal route."
Police blocked off roads to the WTO's lakeside headquarters, which has been barricaded for several days and which was untouched by the protest.
Activists say trade policies adopted by WTO members create poverty in rich and poor countries by squeezing farmers in developing countries and depressing labor standards in industrialized nations.
In a related development, Swiss officials refused entry at Geneva Airport on Friday evening to three South Koreans who wanted to come into Geneva because Swiss security specialists judged them to be capable of violence, Puhl said, noting that other countries had previously barred them for the same reason.
Yoon Geum Sum, of the Korean Women Peasant Association, one of the groups organizing the protests, said the three had been stripped and body-searched.
"This is a violation of human rights and a criminalization of social movements. Our demand is their immediate release and an apology from the Swiss government," she said in a statement.
Protests last January
The last major demonstration in Switzerland was in January during the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, when police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.
WTO called the meeting of its 153 members to examine major issues at a time when global exports are falling rapidly and the WTO's long-sought Doha liberalization round is limping into its ninth year.
Instead of sensitive tariff and subsidy negotiations, the conference running Monday through Wednesday will focus on the big picture — stabilizing and rejuvenating commerce in the face of increased protectionism, unemployment and exporting of jobs.
The WTO had hoped to avoid the acrimony and sometimes violent protests that plagued previous ministerial conferences.
I hate how the media doesn't say a word about the protests until a few people get violent. Also, wtf at the random inclusion of that bit about the South Koreans.