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Many Swiss Upset Over Violent Protests by Anti-Evian Summit Demonstrators - 2003-06-02


As industrialized country leaders continue to meet in Evian, France, Monday, Switzerland is still reeling from the violence of anti G-8 demonstrations.

The glass store front of Migros supermarket in downtown Lausanne is still shuttered, a day after rioting youths broke into the store. But signs pasted outside inform shoppers Migros is open for business.

Around the city located just across Lake Geneva from Evian, where the G-8 summit is being held, scars from Sunday's demonstrations are plainly visible, mostly in the form of broken windows and graffiti sprayed on walls and public signs. Local residents like Jean-Daniel Gardel said they're shocked at the violent turn of the anti-Evian demonstrations.

Mr. Gardell admits Lausanne residents should have been better prepared. After all, he said, they've all read about previous counter-G-8 protests. And Swiss especially, he pointed out, hate disturbances.

Although tens of thousands of anti-summit protesters also marched in France Sunday, much of the violence took place in the Swiss cities of Lausanne and Geneva. In Lausanne, police rounded up hundreds of rampaging youths. In Geneva, they used rubber pellets, tear gas and water cannons against violent crowds.

On Monday, the city's streets were mostly empty and there were no incidents of public disturbance reported. "I've got nothing against people manifesting if they have a good cause," said resident Barbara Lannutti, 63, who was far from happy about the violence. "And the actual manifestations weren't bad, but it's all the hooligans and bad people who come in and profit and who do all the damage."

A government spokeswoman in Geneva said the country had not witnessed such violence in several years. Besides allowing anti-summit protesters to meet and demonstrate, Switzerland also hosted the dozen developing country leaders who joined the G-8 members on Sunday. But the price-tag for playing a role in Evian has been high. Authorities estimate damage by vandals in Geneva alone at millions of dollars.