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Police chief defends Geneva force after demo damage

Geneva’s main theatre, the Grand Théâtre, was badly vandalised Keystone

Geneva’s police chief Monica Bonfanti has defended the actions of local officers after an unauthorised demonstration over budget cuts for alternative culture led to protestors vandalising much of the city centre on Saturday night. 

Bonfanti told the Tribune de Genève newspaper on Monday that local police had respected standard rules of engagement after an unofficial demonstration – organised via social media to protest against budget cuts for alternative culture sites – spun out of control. 

The police had initially observed the situation to know what to expect, “then deployed later to prevent possible explosions of violence while securing sensitive zones like the Rues Basses and official buildings,” she noted. 

Around 400 people took part but the police said a group of around 30 caused “considerable damage” in the city centre. Many luxury shops and banks had windows broken and were sprayed with graffiti along their route. The exteriors of the Musée Rath and Geneva’s main theatre, the Grand Théâtre, were badly vandalised.

Some reports indicate that the police were slow to intervene. Officers later blocked off parts of the city to try to halt protestors’ movements but did not make any arrests. 

On alert

Geneva has been on heightened alert since December 11 due to a terrorist warning with additional police deployed on the city’s streets. 

Bonfanti said there was no lack of police officers on Saturday night to deal with the protestors. 

“The aim is to manage the demonstration but not necessarily to intervene unless something extremely serious happens,” she told the newspaper. 

The police say they are now trying to identify the main culprits. 

Geneva’s security minister, Pierre Maudet, told the Tribune de Genève he was “furious and shocked by this intolerable vandalising”.

He described the perpetrators as a gang of “professional hooligans” and called for them to be severely punished.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR