Thousands attend French protest ahead of G8 summit
Several thousand anti-globalisation demonstrators protested in the northern French city of Le Havre Saturday, ahead of the G8 summit starting next week just a few kilometres down the coast.
Leaders of the Group of Eight nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- will meet on Thursday and Friday in the nearby coastal resort of Deauville.
The city's commercial district was largely deserted and many shops were closed, as some 7,000 protesters, according to the organisers -- 4,000 according to local officials -- denounced the G8 leaders.
Through a megaphone, one speaker said people "were fed up with the eight puppets who close our plants and close our schools," referring to the G8 heads of government.
Leaders from the Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States have also put "the old in misery (and) the youth in a mess," he added.
"We think that the decisions that affect the entire world should be made by all the citizens of the earth and not by the most rich," said Davide Rossi, from Italy -- one of the few foreigners at Saturday's march.
Christian Pigeon, one of the demonstration's organisers, said police had visited various businesses on Friday, advising them to remain shut on Saturday. They had cited concerns about the violence triggered by radical German activists during a NATO summit in Strasbourg in 2009.
By Saturday morning, security forces were discreetly deployed around the city centre.
Pierre Ory, a local government official, said they had received no indication that the demonstration could turn violent, and in the event the march passed off without any major incidents.
March stewards intervened quickly when about a hundred masked youths threw paint and bricks and office buildings, breaking the windows of a few office buildings near the station, including that of a bank.
The organisers of the protest had made it clear they would not tolerate anything that might reflect badly on the demonstrators.
French security services are on heightened alert ahead of the G8 meeting, with the authorities concerned about radical fringe groups staging violent protests.
More than 12,000 police and military personel have been mobilized around Deauville. Marine surveillance units are also monitoring access routes to the coastal town.
On Saturday morning, checkpoints were in place on the roads leading to Havre, including at the Normandy bridge, which was closed to pedestrians and cyclists, according to AFP correspondent.
Buses chartered by anti-G8 groups from Paris and Caen were stopped and the identity of each passenger checked, said protest organisers, who complained that the checks had delayed the start of their march.
© 2011 AFP