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Anti-G-8 protests marred by isolated violence

The main march ended peacefully

(Keystone)

Anti-G-8 protests stemming from Geneva passed off largely peacefully, although the number of people taking part fell well below expectations.

However, the day was marred by a small number of violent altercations between protesters and security forces.

The march which ran from Annemasse in France to Geneva and involved around 30,000 people, proceeded peacefully for most of Sunday. But police came out in force when protesters returned to Geneva.

swissinfo's correspondent, Anna Nelson, said officers fired tear gas at a crowd of at least 1,000 protesters.

Clashes between some of the protesters and police in Geneva ensued for nine hours, with police dispersing the crowds with water cannon and rubber pellets.

Shop windows were smashed in the centre of the city, as some protesters looted pharmacies, petrol stations and other shops.

In Lausanne, with around 400 violent protesters were detained by police.

Peaceful march

During the five-kilometre march from Geneva to Annemasse, there were hardly any reports of violence beyond a few minor skirmishes.

Amnesty International's spokesperson, Hasina Giraude, told swissinfo that there had been some minor incidents but that everything was "relatively calm and peaceful".

Last month, organisers were predicting that up to 100,000 demonstrators would converge on Geneva to take part in anti-G-8 protests.

In the event, only about 30,000 protesters turned out for the march.

About 10,000 left Geneva on Sunday to participate in the march and linked up with others from France in Annemasse, the closest they could get to the summit in Evian.

Diverse messages

swissinfo's correspondent said the protesters were a disparate crowd, seemingly without a common message or platform.

Judging by the placards and comments of the marchers, the most prominent demands were for the US to withdraw from the Middle East and for the creation of a "free Palestine". Others condemned the G-8 for putting "profit before people".

Trade unionists, various political groupings, anti-capitalist campaigners and ordinary people were among the marchers.

Fortress

Geneva was literally turned into a fortress ahead of the G-8 summit, amid fears that scenes from the last summit in Genoa, Italy, would be repeated.

swissinfo's correspondent said shops had been boarded up and police officers were stationed on every street corner in the town centre.

The Swiss authorities admitted in May that they were unsure whether the country's police force would be up to the task of policing the crowds.

The government consequently drafted in 1,000 German police officers to help keep the peace.

Violence condemned

Protest organisers in Lausanne has vowed to go ahead with demonstrations in defiance of a last-minute ban by the Swiss authorities.

The organisers were told on Sunday morning after violent outbreaks between protesters and police that they would have to limit their demonstrations to a small human chain on the outskirts of the city.

Protesters earlier blocked bridges across the Rhône river with burning tyres in an attempt to cut off roads leading to Evian.

The Swiss cabinet said it condemned the violence that had taken place in Geneva and Lausanne but paid tribute to the efficiency of the police forces involved in keeping order.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

Key facts

At least 10,000 people marched from Geneva to Annemasse in France to demonstrate against the G-8 summit in the French town of Evian.
Organisers praised the party atmosphere, saying the march was largely peaceful.
Over 10,000 police and soldiers were in charge of security in Switzerland; more than 1,000 German police officers were supporting them.
Some 18,000 soldiers and police were keeping the peace in France.
The meeting of the most industrialised nations runs from June 1 to 3.

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