NATO protests in Strasbourg descended into violence as police and demonstrators clashed less than 3 kilometers from the gathering of world leaders for NATO's 60th-anniversary summit. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and other spouses canceled a visit to a cancer hospital out of concern for security.
Balacava wearing protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police and set a customs station ablaze on a bridge linking France and Germany that served hours earlier as the backdrop to NATO leaders.
Eyewitnesses saw protesters storm a nearby hotel, pilfering alcohol from its bar and setting the building on fire.
The violence and the vandalism left one local resident furious. She says that the protesters should go to the politicians and not destroy her neighborhood where elderly and children live.
Around 1,000 other anti-war protesters tangled the streets of Strasbourg, stopping NATO members spouses from attending a planned visit to a cancer research center. Police barricades and narrow pedestrian streets meant it was a question of safety for their motorcade.
A smaller group staged a sit-in blocking the tram. Peace activist, Oliver Suenderagauf said it was important that they got their message across. "We say that NATO is creating war in the world, we want to show the world that there are some people against this war machine," he said.
But the violence is the only message Strasbourg resident, Virginie Lebrun, says people will remember. She says people should be allowed to protest, but not with violence because it is pointless and not fair on locals.
After police regained control of parts of the city, officers used water cannon that they had been using to douse protesters to put out the fires.
As NATO leaders departed heavy plumes of smoke rose from many points across the city.