Thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators clashed with police near the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Evian and in Switzerland Sunday, blocking highways and bridges, setting fire to barricades and drawing volleys of tear gas and rubber pellets from anti-riot squads.
The most violent protests early Sunday were in Lausanne, across Lake Geneva from the G8 summit site.
Hard core demonstrators wearing masks hurled rocks at police and an upmarket hotel and looted a gas station and a supermarket.
It was unclear how many were arrested, but police were seen apprehending several rioters.
The morning protests kicked off a day of demonstrations scheduled to coincide with the arrival in Evian of most of the leaders of the world's seven industrial powers and Russia.
Two marches, one from Annemasse and one from Geneva, started before noon and were to converge near the Swiss side of the border.
In Annemasse, a town west of Evian approved as a protest point, demonstrators blocked a highway leading to the summit site with a burning barricade.
About 100 riot police fired constant streams of tear gas to stop them from breaking the security cordon and heading towards Evian.
Later in the day, thousands marched peacefully through Annemasse and crossed over the border into Switzerland.
No police were seen along the march route, and there was no one monitoring the border when the demonstrators crossed.
Authorities predicted that as many as 50,000 protesters could attend the rallies. The demonstrators represent a mishmash of causes, from anti-globalization to relief from Third World debt and protection of the environment.
They accuse the G8 of profiting by exploiting the world's poorer nations.
Swiss police said on Saturday that they were taking a cautious approach, hoping to avoid the clashes with demonstrators that occurred at the 2001 summit in Genoa, Italy, when one demonstrator was killed by police.
About 25,000 police and soldiers were on hand to secure the entire summit region.
Protesters gathered in Geneva early Sunday, blocking the city's main bridge, the Mont-Blanc, and several others with burning barricades made of trash cans and other items.
The crowd, which grew to 10,000, was mostly peaceful, though some smashed the windows of a gas station and threw rocks through the windows of an employment agency, spray-painting "slave-trader'' on its walls.
The crowd later left central Geneva, heading towards the border to meet up with the marchers from Annemasse.
In addition to Russia, the G8 includes the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada.
(China Daily June 1, 2003)