Geneva prepares for anti-globalisation demo

16th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Swiss authorities ask for help policing an upcoming demonstration against the World Economic Forum.

GENEVA - Swiss authorities are preparing for a protest rally in Geneva against the World Economic Forum later in January, calling off police leave in the city and asking for reinforcements amid fears of violence.

The demonstration on 31 January was authorised by local officials and some of the organisers are calling for peaceful protests.

But elected officials are now being stirred by memories of protests against a meeting of G8 industrialised countries in nearby France in 2003, which became violent with running battles between rioters and German police reinforcements in the streets of Geneva.

Earlier in January, a Swiss group of "anarchist and communist political forces" released posters depicting fiery images of masked protestors, calling for people to join the "revolutionary block" or to "smash WEF" and take part in the demonstration.

The canton of Geneva's minister in charge of home affairs, Laurent Moutinot, said in remarks published Wednesday that the regional government would not hesitate to prohibit the gathering "if the risks become too great".

"We'll weigh up the interests between the freedom to demonstrate and the risks to public order", said Moutinot, a Socialist.

The WEF's annual meeting of global business and political leaders from 28 January to 1 February takes place in the Alpine resort of Davos.

But the elite business club's administrative headquarters are just outside Geneva.

With Davos blocked off for the Forum's meeting, some anti-globalisation groups regard Geneva as a symbol of capitalism due to its collection of private banks, financial services industry and commodity traders.

"To demonstrate there peacefully ... means putting forward our demands in the heart of the capitalist system", a group linked to ATTAC Switzerland said.

An added complication for Geneva authorities is their small police force.

They are in a dispute about overtime compensation for police officers following the Euro 2008 football tournament last summer.

Now one of the local police personnel unions is threatening a work-to-rule on 31 January  unless its demands are met.

[AFP / Expatica]

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