- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2007

ROSTOCK, Germany — Protesters with black hoods and bandanas covering their faces showered police with rocks and beer bottles yesterday, before the heavily armored officers drove them back with water cannon and tear gas during a rally against an upcoming Group of Eight summit.

Black smoke from burning cars mingled with the sting of tear gas in the harbor-front area of the northern German town of Rostock, where tens of thousands of people had gathered peacefully at the start of the day. The clashes broke out among hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators and police on the edges of the crowd as the rally progressed.

Some 146 police were hurt, 25 of them seriously. Police said they made 17 arrests.

It was an unruly start to what is expected to be a week of rallies against the three-day G-8 summit beginning Wednesday in the fenced-off coastal resort of Heiligendamm, 14 miles from Rostock.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host the leaders of Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Russia, Canada and the United States for discussions on global warming, aid to Africa and the global economy. The summit, like past ones, is attracting protesters opposed to capitalism, globalization, the war in Iraq and the G-8 itself.

Police have surrounded the summit site with a seven-mile-long fence topped with barbed wire and closed the surrounding waters and airspace, fearing terrorism or disorderly protests like the ones that marred the 2001 summit in Genoa, Italy, where police and protesters clashed for days and one demonstrator was killed. Protests near the fence are banned.

In Rostock, the legal demonstration began peacefully yesterday with two groups of marchers gathering at the waterfront. Clashes broke out near the end of the scheduled four-hour rally, as some people pried up paving stones and broke them into smaller pieces.

Eventually, five large, green police trucks with twin water cannons moved in to blast the rioters. A police car was destroyed and several parked cars burned, spreading black smoke over the area. Protesters also torched a large blue recycling bin.

Police spokesman Frank Scheulen estimated the number of violent demonstrators at about 2,000. Police put the size of the demonstration at 25,000, while organizers said it was 80,000.

Werner Raetz, an anti-globalization activist with Attac, one of the organizing groups, distanced himself from the violence: “There is no justification for these attacks.”

As for the demonstrations planned over the next few days, Mr. Raetz said both sides should try to get the “emotional situation” under control.

Anti-globalization protests have plagued similar summits in recent years, especially meetings of the World Trade Organization. In 1999, 50,000 protesters shut down WTO sessions in Seattle as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. There were some 600 arrests and $3 million in property damage.

At subsequent WTO meetings in Cancun, Mexico and Hong Kong, smaller protests also disrupted meetings.

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