Sunday, October 20, 2019 | ePaper
French police fire tear gas, water cannons at anti-G7 protesters
AFP, Irun :
Anti-G7 protesters attend a protest march on the French-Spanish border, in Hendaye during the Biarritz G7 Summit.
French police used tear gas and water cannon to break up anti-G7 protesters in the southern city of Bayonne on Saturday, as leaders from the world's leading industrialised nations arrived for their summit just a few kilometres away in Biarritz.
Since Monday, anti-capitalist activists, environmentalists and other anti-globalisation groups have been flocking to a counter-summit in southwestern France that organisers insisted would be peaceful.
More than 9,000 anti-G7 protesters took part in the largest protest on Saturday-a mass march over a bridge linking France and Spain that took place without incident.
However the atmosphere was more hostile in Bayonne, where hundreds of protesters chanting anti-capitalist slogans did not seem to follow a route, instead wandering the streets trying to find a way into the city centre.
However the police, who were deployed en masse in the city, put up a barricade blocking their path.
The protesters tried to get through the barricade and police faced them down for more than an hour, according to AFP journalists.
The angry crowds were eventually dispersed in the evening after the police used tear gas and water cannon.
While several people were detained, the local authorities have yet to announce the number of arrests.
The larger, peaceful march took place in the French coastal town of Hendaye, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Biarritz, with police giving a figure of 9,000 but organisers saying as many as 15,000 people turned up.
Biarritz is a popular tourist destination that would normally be basking in its annual summer boom, but with US President Donald Trump and other world leaders flying in for three days of talks, the resort was in lockdown.
"Heads of state: act now, Amazonia is burning!" read one banner as the huge crowd rallied under cloudless blue skies in Hendaye, the slogan referring to the wildfires ravaging the world's largest rainforest.
"If the climate was a cathedral, we would already have saved it," read another, referring to Notre-Dame in Paris, which was ravaged by a fire in April that prompted donors to pledge 850 million euros ($954 million) to rebuild it.
Waving thousands of flags, they marched across the Bidassoa River heading for the Spanish town of Irun, chanting slogans while some played drums.