Bush's Europe tour hit by protests
GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Up to 200 demonstrators have been arrested after a protest held while European leaders met President George W. Bush.
About 15,000 protesters -- angry over everything from global warming and globalisation to the death penalty -- demonstrated against Bush's visit to Sweden's second city amid massive police security measures, Reuters reported.
Some dropped their trousers opposite Bush's hotel in what organisers billed as a "mass mooning."
More than 200 people were arrested on Thursday night after more than 1,000 protesters faced off with police at a blockaded a school for several hours, Associated Press said.
Officials said some of the 400 activists inside the school planned violence during demonstrations against Bush and the European Union and would not allow them to leave the building to take part in a rally.
When their supporters approached the building and began pounding on metal containers that the police had placed around it, the police pushed the crowd back and arrested more than 200 protesters who resisted, police spokesman Jan Strannegoerd said.
Five policemen were slightly injured, he told AP.
Earlier many demonstrators hurled paving stones and bottles at armed police who had surrounded the school. At one point two police cars were smashed.
In one of the biggest police operations in Swedish history, crowds were kept well away from the summit venue in the city centre.
Fearing a re-run of anarchist violence that has dogged international gatherings since the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization conference, police sealed off a large perimeter around the centre with a two-metre-high double fence and barricaded approach roads with freight containers.
There was no one issue uniting the protesters -- a fact apparent as the leaders of more than 80 protest groups promised to keep their rallies peaceful.
The Swedish news agency TT reported that police had stepped up checks of foreigners and had detained 10. They included four Germans stopped Thursday morning on a bus outside Gothenburg, TT said.
The protests were spearheaded by ATTAC, a French-based group that champions a tax on speculative transactions to raise billions for poor countries.
Some groups oppose specific U.S. policies, such as the death penalty and Bush's rejection of the Kyoto agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Many protesters are concerned that global corporations have gained too much control and exploit the poor and the environment.
Much of their anger is directed at the United States, home of many of the world's largest multinational corporations.
"I think another world is possible," activist Hans Abrahamsson told Reuters.
An estimated 7,000 Iranian exiles supporting the Iraqi-based People's Mujahideen armed opposition movement rallied peacefully against alleged human rights abuses in Iran.
"They are appealing that the leaders would not shake hands with the murderers of the Iranian people," protest leader Nasser Rashidi told Reuters.
Thousands of environmental activists demonstrated against Bush, a man they dub the "Toxic Texan" for his refusal to accept the Kyoto treaty on climate change.
Earlier, Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson attempted to placate would-be protesters with a statement in which he called on the need for a strong EU to balance U.S. power.
The statement from the centre-left prime minister and current EU president said: "It's (the EU) one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. domination."
Persson noted that the EU shared many common values with the United States, but they differed on moral issues such as on the death penalty, dramatised this week by the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Bush's first official tour of Europe has been met with protesters throughout.
Even before he arrived in Spain for the start of the tour, earlier this week, there had been protests in Madrid against his administration's environmental policies.
"We want to tell him that he is not welcome here if he keeps with his policy to reject the Kyoto Protocol, the first and only international agreement against climate change," said one demonstrator representing Greenpeace.
But Bush's presence in Madrid brought further protests, as crowds chanted "Stop Bush" and "Bush go home!" outside the U.S. Embassy as he rested inside.
Others carried banners, with one saying: "The earth is our mother, not your supermarket."
In Gothenburg, police dragged 40 activists from a protest camp near the site of the EU summit.
Swedish police also detained five people suspected of planning sabotage, but declined to say what they were planning or who was to be the target.
In Norway, about 10 Greenpeace activists boarded a U.S.-bound oil tanker as it loaded oil at a refinery.
The environmental campaign group later issued a statement urging the EU to ratify the Kyoto Protocol without the U.S..
“This is the first international environment agreement that the US has walked away from, and a very profound domino to fall,” said Michel Raquet, Greenpeace International climate spokesperson.
“We ask again that the EU here at this meeting declare publicly and strongly that it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol without the US, now that Bush has abandoned his country’s responsibilities to the international climate agreement.
“The EU must respect public opinion and prove that they are listening to the people who voted them into power and ratify the Protocol with or without the USA by the end of the year,” said Raquet.
Another band of anti-Bush protesters boarded a tanker off La Havre, France, on Monday, while in Brussels, hundreds protested outside the U.S. embassy to Belgium.
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