Bush feels heat from protesters at summit

President's first meeting with European leaders is marked by clashes with police and a 'mass moon' by 1,000 demonstrators
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The Independent Online

President Bush's first meeting with EU leaders was marked by protest marches, clashes with police and a "mass moon" by about 1,000 demonstrators determined to show the US President what they thought of his policies.

With the Swedish authorities on alert for one of their biggest security operations, trouble started yesterday afternoon when dozens of riot police, some of them on horseback, surrounded a high school used as a base by several anti-globalisation organisations.

About 400 people were held inside the buildings and the confrontation soon turned violent as a group of masked youths appeared and hurled bottles and cobblestones until they were dispersed by mounted police.

The clash gave police a preview of a what could happen when protests intensify over the next two days. More than 10,000 people are expected to join rallies to demonstrate against globalisation, President Bush's environmental and defence policies and a range of other issues.

Most of yesterday's protests were peaceful. Just after 4pm, 1,000 protesters took part in a "mass moon" outside the President's city-centre hotel in one of the most unusual summit demonstrations in recent memory. Police screened the hotel by erecting plastic sheeting and parking a large tram in front of the building.

One of those who took part, a 22-year-old Portuguese student, Pedro Pereira, conceded that he had no idea whether or not Mr Bush was inside the hotel (he was, in fact, in the conference centre) but felt the gesture was well worthwhile. "It is the only way to show him what we think about him."

Protest banners focused on America's rejection of the Kyoto protocol on global warming and one called for "No more Gar-Bush". Bianca Jagger made a more orthodox protest, hosting a press conference on behalf of the Green Party to attack Mr Bush's environmental policies.

But a motley collection of other pressure groups and protesters pushed their way on to the scene. One march organised by Iranian groups demanded the resignation of Iran's President, Mohammad Khatami. Demonstrations were also planned in defence of practitioners of falun gong in China.

On Wednesday the Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, met leaders of some of the protest groups and appealed for their co-operation, arguing that the EU was the only force capable of balancing America's role as a superpower.

Mr Persson made a subtly different political pitch when Mr Bush arrived in Sweden's second city for his 24-hour visit to attend an EU-US summit. The US President is due to fly to Poland today, followed by a meeting with the Russian Presidentin Slovenia tomorrow.

This morning EU leaders get down to a two-day meeting at which Europe's enlargement, and the effects of the Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty, will be at the centre of discussions. But for the people of the city the protests were the main focus of attention. In the city centre there were clear signs of the nervousness with the façades of shops boarded up ­ including the local McDonald's.