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Violence in Zurich and Basel mars May Day

Thousands of people braved the pouring rain and took to the streets of Switzerland’s main cities and towns on Saturday as part of the traditional May 1 protests.

Although most went off peacefully, a 17-year-old man had to be taken to hospital in Zurich after receiving a serious head injury from a stone thrown at him. Basel was also the scene of street violence.

Zurich police reported on Saturday evening that about 250 leftwing militants were detained in clashes on the sidelines of the official celebration.

Many were later released after identity checks.

Police used water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse masked stone-throwing protesters.

About 120 masked demonstrators went on the rampage in Basel causing what the Swiss News Agency described as "enormous" damage.

Trams were sprayed, shop windows broken and a Molotov cocktail thrown at a police station. There were about 15 arrests.

The authorised protests around the country focused on what the unions and some politicians consider “excessive” bonuses in the banking sector.

Social Democratic Party president Christian Levrat, speaking in Chur and Stäfa, said the excesses made a mockery of the situation of normal workers. He said people were patient but warned that patience had its limits.

The leader of the Swiss House of Representatives, Pascale Bruderer, also spoke out against exaggerated bonuses, demanding in Baden national and international regulations to prevent them.

In Uster, canton Zurich, Swiss Trade Union Federation President Paul Rechsteiner spoke of the bankers’ “boundless cynicism”, adding that the current system on pay and bonuses was corrupt.

He noted that state bailed out UBS and the banking system 18 months ago to the tune of SFr68 billion ($63.1 billion), with bankers now ordering job cuts in the sector and programmes to save money.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who was in Thun, said social peace in Switzerland was in danger, emphasising that top managers were clearly better paid in Switzerland than elsewhere.

Around 2,000 turned up in Geneva to hear the president of the Green Party, Ueli Leuenberger, describing the current crisis as the failure of the economic system.
This, he said, was based on exploiting people and plundering natural resources.

“We have to act and show opposition and that’s why we demonstrate on May 1.” He added that a rethink was needed to focus on social measures and protection of the environment.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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