Police clash with protesters after May Day rally in Zurich

Riot police gathered outside Zurich railway station during a May Day demonstration Keystone

Police in Zurich have clashed with protesters, following the city's annual May Day rally to mark Labour Day. Hundreds of demonstrators pelted police with missiles, prompting police to respond with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon.

This content was published on May 1, 2001

Violence broke out towards the end of the official May Day celebrations, when a crowd of protesters with their faces covered scuffled with police following a speech by a controversial Palestinian resistance figure, Leila Khaled.

Police used water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters. A spokesman said 30 arrests were made. There were no reports of injuries.

The Zurich authorities had been prepared for violence after riots last year, in which six police officers were injured and 40 demonstrators were arrested.

"We will not tolerate any violent outbursts," the head of the municipal police department, Esther Maurer, said before the rally.

In her address, Khaled said the Palestinian people were being "systematically massacred". She said Israeli policies were damaging the Palestinian economy to the point where people were living in bitter poverty.

She also called for support for Palestinian self-determination and for a boycott of Israeli goods. "We have an apartheid regime in Palestine," she said.

The only way out of the current situation, she said, was a political solution guaranteeing the Palestinians basic political rights. She said that until this happened, the struggle would continue.

Khaled was formerly an active member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, which hijacked and blew up a Swissair jet in September 1970.

She was invited to speak by the 1.May Committee, a federation of 80 left-wing groups, "to show solidarity with oppressed people". But the decision was criticised by some trade unions and also Jewish groups.

The president of Zurich's Jewish community, Werner Rom, denounced the organisers as "ill-advised".

According to police estimates, 6,000 to 7,000 people took part in the official Zurich rally. The organisers said the number was closer to 10,000.

Around 5,000 people took part in a May Day parade in Basel, while fewer than 2,000 gathered in the capital, Bern.

swissinfo with agencies

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