GERMANY:German Police and Protesters Battle Near Site of G-8 Meeting

German police clashed with hundreds of protesters in the port of Rostock on Saturday following a much larger peaceful demonstration against the Group of 8 summit meeting next week in a nearby Baltic resort.About 2,000 protesters, identified by the police as a hard core of violent activists, threw bottles, sticks and stones at riot police officers, on the fringes of a rally in the town's harbor area.The protesters, most of whom were clad in black from head to toe, set fire to a car, damaged shop windows and set bins ablaze.Tens of thousands of protesters had taken part earlier in two peaceful marches against the Group of 8; converging at the harbor for rock music and speeches.

"The so-called 'black block' of activists were agitating," said a police spokesman, Ingolf Dinse. "They attacked a car and then attacked police massively. They threw stones and rockets at police, prompting us to change our plans and respond."

Water cannons and tear gas were used to disperse the violent protesters, who had gathered around the edge of the rally and in the narrow streets of the restored medieval town.

Mr. Dinse said that by early evening a majority of the protesters had dispersed and the police had restored order.

Around 150 police officers were injured in the violence, some 25 seriously, and about 50 people were arrested, the police said. There were no details on injured protesters.

Earlier, a diverse group of peaceful marchers passed through an overcast Rostock, blowing whistles and waving banners with slogans ranging from "Stop Privatization!" to "World Peace Now!" and "Water Is A Human Right!"

Church groups, feminist organizations and German labor unions took part. One group came dressed as medieval kings.

"We are trying to show the similarities between the kings of the dark ages and how the Group of 8 behave today," said Sigurd Jakobsen, a Danish student dressed as a monarch.

As many as 100,000 people had been expected but the police said only 25,000 attended. Organizers disputed the police figures and said at least 80,000 people had come.

Many wore face masks of President Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Both will join Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other G-8 leaders in the resort of Heiligendamm next week for their annual summit meeting.

In recent years, security surrounding the G-8 has been stepped up after riots and the death of a protester at the 2001 gathering in Genoa. Some 16,000 German police officers are on duty for the meeting, the biggest force in post-war German history.

During the meeting itself, which will take place Wednesday through Friday, protesters will be prevented from approaching the exclusive hotel venue. A three-quarter-mile security fence has been built around the resort and access is tightly controlled.

The measures have been described as heavy-handed by some left-wing groups. Last month the police raided some of their meeting places, setting off street riots in Berlin and Hamburg.

A demonstration organizer, Werner Raetz, warned earlier that stringent police checks could anger protesters.

"What we do fear is the police's actions in the next few days could anger people to the extent that they do things which are not planned," he said before the demonstration.

Germany's right-wing National Democrats are also protesting against the G-8. The police arrested about a dozen people in Berlin and about 150 more in Schwerin after the party's rally was banned.

AMP Section Name:Environment
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