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Anti-WEF protests end in disarray and violence

Police used tear gas to disperse protestors in Bern

(Keystone Archive)

An anti-globalisation protest, planned to take place at the World Economic Forum summit in the Swiss resort of Davos, has ended in confusion and violence.

Only about half the protesters made it to the march on Saturday, due to a stand-off between protesters and police at a checkpoint near the summit.

Meanwhile, some 1,000 protesters, unable to get past the blockage, returned to the Swiss capital, Bern, where demonstrations turned violent.

Police in Bern said protesters began demonstrating in the city late evening, and clashes with police soon followed. Police said three officers were hurt, but they were not aware of any injuries among the protesters, around 30 of whom were arrested.

Tear gas and water cannons were used by the security forces to try to control the crowd, but some protesters managed to smash the windows of buildings around the main station, including one of the city’s main hotels.

The crowd was eventually dispersed into small groups late on Saturday night.

Insurers said on Monday that the cost of the damage in Bern would be in the region of SFr500,000.

Stand off

During most of Saturday, some 2,000 protesters were stuck 40 kilometres away from Davos in the town of Landquart, after a stand off between some protesters and police blocked rail links to the summit.

The blockage came after 250 members of the Olten Alliance and 200 trade union activists refused to submit to security checks when police stopped their train at a check point in the village of Fideris, further up the valley.

The stand off lasted several hours, with neither side willing to compromise.

Although some protesters eventually got through to Davos, many took trains back to Zurich, where protesters had turned violent when barred from entering the WEF summit at Davos two years ago.

But, this year, a heavy police presence in Zurich stopped any demonstration from forming, and the crowd split, with some seemingly heading home and others, around 1,000, heading for Bern.

Low-key in Davos

Although some 2,000 protesters eventually made it to Davos from Landquart to protest against the summit, the turnout was less than half the amount expected.

The Social Democrats' 200-strong delegation, led by its president Christiane Brunner, passed through the strict security controls in Fideris without incident, arriving in Davos around midday.

The Social Democrats' train was ahead of the one involved in the stand off, however, and no more protesters arrived for about four hours.

The official Davos demonstration had originally been scheduled to get underway in Davos at 12.30pm, but many protesters arrived hours later than planned, and the march finally began at 4pm.

Brunner later criticised the protesters involved in the stand off, and sympathised with the Swiss authorities, saying the protesters had been more "authoritarian" than the police.

The Olten Alliance stood by their decision not to back down to the police. However, Alliance member, Walter Angst, added that they did not support the ensuing violence in Bern.

German police

The incident in Landquart marks the first time ever that German police were deployed in Switzerland.

According the newspaper "NZZ am Sonntag" 65 police officers from southern Germany were sent to Landquart. The police stopped around 200 demonstrators from obstructing traffic on a Swiss motorway.

The cross-border deployment was made possible under an agreement between Switzerland and Germany that has been in force since last March.

swissinfo, with agencies

In brief

Planned demonstrations against the World Economic Forum Summit in Davos had less than half the turn out expected due to the stand-off outside Davos between protesters and police, which blocked rail access to the site.

Many remained stuck at Landquart station, 40 kilometres west of Davos, for most of the day, and some clashed with police there.

Eventually, other protesters got through to Davos, but four hours late, while others headed for Bern, where demonstratrions turned violent.

The Swiss Social Democrat Party took part in the march, but its president, Christiane Brunner, criticised the protesters involved in the stand-off for thwarting the official demonstration.

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