Geneva braces for anti-globalisation demo revival

18th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Elected officials are recalling protests against a meeting of G-8 in nearby France in 2003, which turned ugly with running battles between rioters and German police reinforcements in the streets of Geneva.

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

The demonstration on January 31 has been authorised by local authorities 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 G-8 industrialised countries in nearby France in 2003, which turned ugly with running battles between rioters and German police reinforcements in the streets of Geneva.

This week, a Swiss group of "anarchist and communist political forces" put out 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 January 28 to February 1 takes place on the other side of the country in the Alpine resort of Davos.

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

With Davos cordoned off for the Forum's meeting, some anti-globalisation groups regard Geneva as a symbol of capitalism thanks to its cluster 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 disgruntled small police force.

They have been locked 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 January 31 unless its demands are met.

AFP/Expatica

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