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Sunday, 28 January, 2001, 21:24 GMT
Press attacks Davos crackdown
Swiss riot police
Police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators
The Swiss authorities' supression of anti-capitalist demonstrations in Zurich has drawn fierce media and political criticism in the country.

Tear gas and water cannon were used on the streets of the Swiss capital as police fought running battles with scores of protesters who were prevented from demonstrating in the ski resort of Davos, where world economic and business leaders are meeting.

Protesters at Zurich railway station
Violence flared at Zurich railway station
Damage is estimated to have run into thousands of Swiss francs, more than 100 people were arrested, and three policemen were injured by stones.

However, political controversy is mounting, with some newspapers blaming heavy handed policing for Saturday's trouble.

"Police methods just like a dictatorship," read the headline on the tabloid Sonntags Blick.

'Police coup'

The paper's editorial said that a "police coup" had inflicted more damage on the World Economic Forum and its professed goals of dialogue than the demonstrators ever could have.

The spirit of Davos suffocated in tear gas

Sonntags Zeitung newspaper
"The Davos opponents won...despite the police," commented the French-language newspaper Dimanche.

"The spirit of Davos suffocated in tear gas," said the respected Sonntags Zeitung newspaper, in reference to the summit's track record in forging groundbreaking political and business agreements.

Peter Bosshard, of the Declaration of Berne, a Swiss group taking part in a parallel conference in Davos for non-governmental critics of globalisation, said the police behaviour was "totally out of proportion".

He said the ban on demonstrations fuelled the violence.

'Democracy violated'

His comments were echoed by the Socialist Party - of which Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger is a member - which condemned the ban as a violation of free speech.

The Swiss Trade Union Federation accused authorities of "violating basic principles of democracy".

However, centrist and right-wing parties have defended the massive security operation as necessary to protect delegates and ensure that Switzerland could continue hosting the prestigious conference.

"The freedom of the demonstrators stops when they endanger the freedom of other people," said Peter Aliesch, a local government leader in the state of Graubuenden, which ordered the ban on demonstrations.

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