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(en) Protests Against World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

From Mark Laskey <kronstadt@juno.com>
Date Sat, 29 Jan 2000 16:23:57 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Protests mar Davos meeting
Boisterous group smashes windows, starts bonfire; but held in check by
(by CNN staff write Tom Johnson)

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNNfn) - Windows were smashed, signs torn down and
several Swiss policemen were injured Saturday as roughly 1,300
demonstrators attempted to disrupt the World Economic Forum here, but a
tight wall of police kept the protesters well away from the conference
center where President Bill Clinton spoke to the conference a few hours
Shortly after 4 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET), several protesters in the
boisterous crowd began ripping down and setting fire to several wooden
billboards that run along the main promenade in this normally-peaceful
town high in the Swiss Alps. President Clinton was not in the conference
center when the protests began.
Police in full riot gear and wicker shields later fired a small number of
rubber bullets and used pepper spray to subdue three protesters who tried
to advance beyond a fence barrier set up by police along the main road
leading to the conference center.
Police spokesman Alois Hafner said two policemen suffered head wounds. He
said some demonstrators had also been injured, and that two have been
arrested. Police officials said the damage to the town mainly consisted
of smashed windows and some damage to cars.
McDonalds a target of protesters

The McDonalds' restaurant that lies near the town's entrance was a
particular target as protesters destroyed its signs, smashed its windows
using bottles, painted graffiti on the building and carried signs
berating the restaurant for killing animals. 
However, the group was kept nearly a mile from the Congress Center near
the center of town by two lines of Swiss police, who blocked the road
with three police vans with a fence attached to their bumpers.
A small group was initially allowed to progress slowly up the town's main
road, but were eventually stopped by police using rubber bullets and
pepper spray. Eyewitness said the police largely exercised restraint even
as they were being pelted with snowballs from the protesters.
The protesters did remove several steel, waist-high barriers from outside
one of the town's many hotels and began ripping down flags, chanting and
making speeches, but did not approach the more than 40 police officers
standing outside its doors. One protester said the group was fighting
against large corporations. 
Protests coincide with Clinton speech

The protests were scheduled to coincide with President Clinton's visit to
WEF, although the total number of protesters was much higher than
expected. Davos is a secluded location with temperatures often falling
below 0 degrees - two factors local officials believed would limit the
number of protesters to a few hundred.
Earlier in the day, Clinton gave a passionate speech urging more
countries to adopt open trade policies. The protests follow similar, but
more violent, anti-trade protests in Seattle. Clinton was reportedly in a
nearby hotel meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and U.S.
business executives and was not in any danger from the protests.
According to CNNfn President Shelby Coffey, who was attending the
conference, most of the protesters were young and dressed in ski gear - a
popular outfit in this exclusive resort town that typically serves as a
winter haven to many of the world's most powerful business and political
The crowd seemed to represent a hodgepodge of political agendas. Some
held signs condemning the use of biogenetics to reproduce identical
animals. Others touted environmental concerns. Still others chanted
anti-free trade messages.
But many simply appeared to be enjoying the show. One protester lit
several sticks and began juggling them. Another entertained the crowd by
placing a flaming stick down his throat. All of this occurred as area
residents and visitors stood and watched from sidewalks and rooftops in a
peacefully falling snow.
Area residents said they believed most of the protesters were French and

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