Police break up anti-WEF rally in Bern

Rows of riot police block a street in central Bern Keystone

Riot police in Bern have broken up an unauthorised demonstration by around 400 anti-globalisation protestors.

This content was published on January 22, 2005

Saturday's march through the city centre was one of many protest actions against the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting, which begins next week. Dozens of protestors were detained.

A large contingent of police officers used barricades to seal off bridges and streets in the centre. Demonstrators jeered and whistled as police loudspeaker announcements called on them to leave.

Numerous small-scale protest actions took place across the city. The police said that in the course of Saturday they had detained 84 people, some of whom had subsequently been released. Those detained had been carrying items which could have been used to cause damage.

In the early afternoon, around 200 young people began an authorised anti-WEF dance parade. Police said the number later swelled to near 500. There were no reports of trouble.

A Green member of the Bern city parliament, Daniele Jenni, said that the large presence of armed police and strict controls in place around the main station had been out of proportion and had made the police look "ridiculous".

For their part, the organisers had kept their promise to stage only peaceful protest actions, he said.

Out in force

Police were out in force in the city centre to ensure no repeat of the violence seen in previous years. Two years ago around 1,000 demonstrators went on the rampage in the capital, causing up to SFr500,000 ($424,000) in damage.

This year, some shops and businesses in the city centre were boarded up in anticipation of trouble.

WEF opponents had planned a mass demonstration for Saturday, but called it off after the Bern authorities said they could gather in Parliament Square but were not allowed to march through the capital.

Instead organisers called for “imaginative acts of civil disobedience” in the city centre.

Meanwhile, a small, unauthorised demonstration against the WEF took place in Davos, the home of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

The WEF meeting begins on Wednesday and runs for five days.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Bern city police had prepared for Saturday’s demonstrations well in advance, fearing violence.

The city police had requested reinforcements from cantons Basel City, Basel Country, Solothurn and Aargau.

At least 400 anti-WEF demonstrators were prevented by police barricades from continuing a march through the centre of Bern.

Up to 100 people took part in a small demonstration on Saturday in Davos, home of the WEF meeting, which begins on Wednesday.

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