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Protesters trash downtown Geneva: police

An unauthorised demonstration over Geneva budget cuts for alternative culture spun out of control late Saturday, with protesters vandalising much of the centre of the Swiss city, police said.

Many luxury shops and banks had their windows smashed or covered in graffiti with messages like: “Rich people are ugly” and “Fuck this society”.

The facade of Geneva’s main theatre, the 19th century Grand Theatre, and the sculptures lining its entrance were splashed with black and coloured paint, interspersed with white graffiti.

“The damage is considerable,” Geneva police spokesman ean-Philippe Brandt lamented to AFP.

The wildcat demonstration was organised on social media to protest against budget cuts for alternative culture sites, even as Geneva “is subsidising the Grand Theatre, a bourgeois culture site with prices out of reach for most people.”

The demonstration began around 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) outside the central train station, Brandt said.

Some 400 people showed up, but a hard-core group of around 30 people were responsible for most of the damage, he said.

Police had blocked off parts of the city to try to halt their movement, but had not immediately made any arrests.

“It is difficult to do so in the heat of the moment. Now we are investigating to try to clarify who the main culprits were,” Brandt said.

Sunday morning, Geneva residents appeared shocked by the damage, with many stopping to take pictures as work began to scrub clean the Grand Theatre facade.

Head of Geneva’s security ministry Pierre Maudet meanwhile told the Tribune de Geneve daily he was “furious and scandalised by this intolerable vandalisation.”

“We are dealing with a gang of professional hooligans,” he said, calling for the perpetrators to be “severely punished.”