ROSTOCK, Germany (Reuters) - German police clashed with hundreds of protesters in the port of Rostock on Saturday following a much larger peaceful demonstration against next week’s Group of Eight summit in a nearby Baltic resort.
About 2,000 protesters, identified by police as violent activists, threw bottles, sticks and stones at riot police, who tried to disperse the crowd in the harbour area with water cannons and tear gas.
Reuters witnesses saw dozens of arrests but police declined to comment on numbers.
The violence, which left 146 police officers injured, followed a series of marches through the city in which police said about 25,000 people took part, far fewer than the 100,000 predicted by organisers, who said 80,000 people were present.
“There was a massive outbreak against police officers. Stones were thrown and they used sticks too,” said a police spokeswoman. She could not confirm how many were detained.
Earlier, a diverse group of protesters marched through an overcast Rostock with banners with slogans ranging from “Stop Privatisation!”, to “World Peace Now!” and “Water Is A Human Right!”.
Many wore face masks of U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both will join German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other G8 leaders in Heiligendamm, around 25 km (16 miles) west of Rostock, next week for talks that will touch on climate change and African poverty.
Individuals in one group were dressed as medieval kings.
“We are trying to show the similarities between the kings of the dark ages and how the Group of Eight behave today,” said Sigurd Jakobsen, a Danish student who sailed to Rostock on a boat from Copenhagen.
Church groups, environmental activists, cultural societies and feminists all took part in the demonstrations, joining traditional anti-G8 protesters who say globalisation and capitalism perpetuate poverty in the developing world.
Most of the peaceful protesters dispersed quickly as a hard core of troublemakers, dressed in black from head to toe, started throwing sticks and stones at police late in the afternoon.
Shopkeepers in the main commercial district of Rostock have taken precautions against vandalism by boarding up storefronts.
Activists blamed police for using heavy-handed tactics which provoked the protesters.
Demonstration organiser, Werner Raetz, had warned earlier that stringent checks could anger protesters.
“What we do fear is the police’s actions in the next few days could anger people to the extent that they do things which are not planned,” he said before the demonstration.
A 12-km fence has been built around the resort and around 16,000 police officers are on duty this week, Germany’s biggest security operation since after World War Two.
About 140 supporters of the far-right National Democrats (NPD) gathered at the landmark Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin after authorities refused permission for a demonstration to go ahead in the northern city of Schwerin.
Police said they arrested about 13 people in Berlin and about 150 more in Schwerin.
Protesters are expected to block roads leading to Heiligendamm during the summit. They may also disrupt the arrival of some delegates with their plan to blockade the nearby military airport at Rostock-Laage early next week.
Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold and Madeline Chambers in Berlin
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