Leading article: Police and protest in Rostock

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The Independent Online

It was planned as a peaceful demonstration, and for much of the time it was. Yet in Rostock this weekend some 1,000 people were hurt - including more than 400 police officers, 30 of them seriously. The violence was the worst to have marred a G8 protest rally since the "battle" of Genoa six years ago.

The mayhem was an unfortunate prelude to a summit whose planning has been mercifully low-key. Yet signs of trouble had long been apparent. G8 hosts have become adept at choosing venues from which protesters can be kept away. Heiligendamm is no exception. This fosters frustration among even the most amiable protesters.

The Rostock region, with its high level of unemployment, had resentment in the air even before the outside protesters arrived. Nor had the German authorities concealed their fears. They had been declaring exclusion zones, issuing warnings and threatening penalties for weeks. Still the police proved unequal to the task.

Such violence does no one any good. We disagree with much of the anti-globalisers' case, but they have an argument and it deserves to be heard. A violent minority risks discrediting the cause. What happened on Saturday, though, harms Germany as well.

Certainly, there was a hard core of violent protesters. Certainly, there was enormous provocation. Yet the heavy-handed police tactics took us back to the old-style German clumsiness that was so successfully banished during the World Cup.

It is just a year ago that Germany was drawing international praise for its friendly people and sensitive policing. We hope that Rostock will prove an aberration rather than a reversion to type.

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