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Protesters Sound Off, Clash with Police Ahead of G8 Summit

  • Ivana Kuhar

Protesters again have fought with police in Rostock, Germany, ahead of this week's Group of Eight summit at the nearby resort in Heiligendamm. Authorities say more than 8,000 anti-globalization protesters on Monday marched peacefully through Rostock. Stone and bottle-throwing incidents broke out when officers halted a group that violated a ban on wearing facemasks during the protests. The clashes were the second outbreak of violence ahead of the summit. VOA's Ivana Kuhar and Valer Gergely have more on the protesters.

They come from around the world to make their voices heard. The expected 100,000 protesters are not a homogenous body. Their causes range from reducing global poverty and AIDS to fighting climate change and corruption in government.

While their ages, aspirations and viewpoints vary widely, the protesters do seem to have one thing in common.

One student, Michael, offers his views. "From my point of view, the G8 and the summit are connected to those developments that I don't like in the world and I am here with many other people to say we are not happy with what is happening [in the world]."

Michael is a student of politics from Germany, who intends to spend a week protesting as the world's top political leaders hold their annual summit in the German North Sea resort Heiligendamm.

To accommodate the large number of political activists from out of the area, volunteer groups have set up what they call "demonstrators' camps." Spreading within 25 kilometer radius of the G8 summit site, the six makeshift tent cities are expected to house up to 50,000 people this week.

The visiting protesters eat, sleep and stay for free, although donations of five euros per day are encouraged to cover the costs.

Sasha is a law student from nearby Rostock, who helped organize the demonstrator camps. "They are from all over the world -- from everywhere. There are Americans, Germans, people from the Netherlands, from France from Spain, from Africa.

"It is really diverse. There is a cultural program going on, music and theater and movies, political and social discussion groups, and, on the other hand, it's a place where people can find calm and prepare for the next day."

Demonstrator camps have showers and sanitation facilities, playgrounds for children, bars and recreation fields. The food is vegan, but organizers say many locals brought deserts to welcome the protesters.

Police are staying out of the protesters' camps. But, there is a large police presence around the temporary facilities.

Rostock police spokesman Axel Folkenberg says the majority of demonstrators are peaceful, as they try to express what they do not like in the world. But Folkenberg adds not all demonstrators are benevolent. "There is a number of people who are ready to use violence. Those people have nothing to do with the G8. They mostly seek confrontation with the police, as they did recently in Hamburg and Berlin and on Saturday in Rostock."

On Saturday, demonstrations turned violent in Rostock, as about 2,000 protesters began rioting against the police. One hundred eight two people from 12 countries were arrested and 433 police were injured, 30 of them seriously.

While some are protesting out of a deeply held conviction, some others might have a lighter approach to demonstrations. Nevertheless, as a four-legged marcher attests, the area around Heiligendamm is these days a protesters' capital of the world.

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