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Anti-G20 Demonstrations Begin in Seoul

Participants of a rally protesting a US-South Korea free trade pact and G20 summit to be held this week, Seoul, 7 November 2010

Thousands of demonstrators converged on downtown Seoul, South Korea, Sunday for the first of a promised series of protests against this week's G20 leaders' summit.

South Korean labor union activists, joined by a smattering of foreign protesters, have begun what they are calling a peoples' week of collective action against the Group of 20 Summit.

They are hoping their voices will be heard, calling for alternative solutions to global economic and social concerns.

While this gathering in the Seoul City Plaza is peaceful, it has been surrounded by thousands of riot police. The officers are part of an unprecedented security cordon this week in the South Korean capital.

Officials say any attempts by protesters to approach embassies or the summit site will be repelled.

The previous G20 leaders' summit, earlier this year, in Toronto, Canada, saw violence erupt on the streets.

Government officials here say they have barred hundreds of foreign activists, known for organizing violent protests at international summits, from entering South Korea.

Local activists call the move to limit the movement of protesters undemocratic. They say they intend to hold peaceful rallies but cannot guarantee there will not be violence if police try to stop the demonstrations.