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Violent protests erupt in Geneva over G8 summit
( 2003-06-03 11:01) (7)

Police fired rubber bullets and water cannon at rock-throwing demonstrators in Geneva as protests against a nearby summit of world leaders turned violent for the third successive night.

A crowd several thousand strong gathered around a central city bridge where demonstrators were staging a sit down protest at the arrests of some two dozen of their number.

Police, wearing full riot gear, moved in to end the action, using water jets and tear gas, but they came under attack from other parts of the crowd.

There were a number of arrests as the clashes continued into the early hours of Tuesday around the center of the city, the self-proclaimed humanitarian capital of the world for its concentration of relief agencies but also home to some of the globe's richest private banks and plushest stores.

"The fighting is going on...in the center," said police spokesman Jacques Volery, adding that one policeman and several demonstrators had been injured.

With demonstrators prevented from reaching the site of the June 1-3 summit of the Group of Eight leading industrial countries over the border in Evian, France, the protests have focused on Geneva, with the neighboring Swiss city of Lausanne also seeing violent incidents over the weekend.

The French government picked Evian, a pretty spa resort on Lake Geneva, for the annual meeting because the narrow lakeside roads are easy to close off to protesters who see the G8 as a rich state club deaf to the suffering of the Third World.

Demonstrators, among them roving gangs of hooded and masked youths bent on causing mayhem, have done millions of dollars of damage in central Geneva over the past three days, city officials said.

The violence first erupted on Saturday on the eve of the summit that was also attended by leaders of a number of developing countries, including Brazil and China.

Geneva is the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO), long a target of anti-globalization anger, and houses the European headquarters of the United Nations.

The security operation mounted by Switzerland for the G8 has been its biggest since World War II.

Some 200 protesters demonstrated peacefully outside the WTO earlier on Monday demanding a halt to rich countries' calls for developing states to allow their mainly state-controlled service industries, including water, to be privatized.

"Water is not for sale," said one banner draped across the gates of the empty building, which has been closed until Wednesday because of the protest threat.

French and Swiss police have been on high alert after the violence that rocked the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, two years ago when a protester was shot dead by police. Last year's summit was held out of reach in a remote Canadian mountain resort.

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