The G7 Summit: Protests as riot police move in at 'brutal summit'

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The Independent Online
MUNICH (Agencies) - Shouting and whistling, about 1,000 protesters tried to disrupt arrival ceremonies at the Munich summit yesterday.

Police said they had arrested 456 demonstrators, including Jutta Ditfurth, the former head of Germany's Green Party. The number of arrests was so large that there were no more jail cells available at police headquarters. Demonstrators and their supporters accused the police of brutality as officers moved in to break up the protest.

About 100 protesters broke though police barricades about 400 yards from the summit site yesterday morning but were quickly pushed back. They then regrouped with others and got to a point a little more than 200 yards from the arriving world leaders in Max Joseph Square. When they started whistling and shouting, the police moved in and hauled them away. Police said about 1,000 demonstrators took part in the protest.

'Brutal Summit. A Shame on Munich,' read the headline in the city's Abendzeitung evening newspaper. Several protesters held copies of the paper aloft as they marched into Munich's main square shortly before 8pm. 'One- two-three, let the people free,' the demonstrators chanted. Police in riot gear quickly surrounded the demonstrators, who numbered about 200. They dispersed without incident about 20 minutes after reaching the Marienplatz.

Munich's mayor, Christian Ude, accused the police of brutality. 'They were tough to the point of being brutal,' said the mayor, who watched the violence. 'This over-reaction by the police has spoiled Munich's chance of showing itself as a liberal city,' he said. The city had hoped the three-day summit would improve its image by wiping out the memory of the 1972 massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes here, as well as the 1938 Munich conference during which Hitler announced the annexation of Czech Sudetenland.

Thomas Huber, the Bavarian leader of the opposition Social Democrats' youth branch, also spoke of police brutality. He cited examples of young women being kicked, placed in choke holds and dragged off by the hair. Dieter Vogel, the chief spokesman for Chancellor Helmut Kohl, was asked at a news conference whether the force was excessive. 'I'm not prepared to pass judgement on the local police,' he replied.

Across town, Munich police arrested a man between President Bush's hotel and the summit site. The authorities said they would keep the man jail until the G7 leaders leave town tomorrow, but provided no further details.

In another incident, protesters broke a window at a local branch of the Deutsche Bank and threw a firebomb inside, causing extensive damage.

They left a note saying 'Attack the World Economics Summit'.