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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 04:43 GMT 05:43 UK
May Day protesters clash with police
Mounted police tackle demonstrators in Sydney
Police made several arrest in Sydney
Demonstrators have clashed with police in Sydney, Australia, as protesters worldwide take to the streets for May Day.

Anarchists, environmentalists, trades unionists and students were in the crowd of about 500 driven back by police as it tried to approach offices of a company which runs detention centres for asylum-seekers.

May Day
Declared an international working-class celebration in 1889
Public holiday in many countries
Celebrated in pagan times in Europe as the first day of spring

Police are on the alert for anti-globalisation protests across the world, with special attention focussing on London, where previous May Day events have degenerated into riots.

In France and Venezuela, demonstrations have taken on a special, political significance this year with rival marches planned by parties vying for power in both capital cities.

Police in Sydney described the disturbances outside Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) as "not major" despite scuffles as police on horseback forced back the protesters.

Protest organiser Zanny Begg said the aim had been to "imprison" ACM in its offices so that the company could "know what it feels like, in the way that they imprison refugees".

May Fayre

There were violent scenes at a much bigger rally in Berlin, Germany, on the eve of May Day.

Hundreds of police officers rushed into a crowd of about 5,000 at a rock concert after masked protesters reportedly broke into a supermarket and began looting it.

German riot police seize protesters in Berlin
Police in Berlin were pelted with bottles and flares
Several officers were injured, but there were no reports of protesters being hurt at the rally in the Kreuzberg district, which has been a traditional event for years.

In London, about 6,000 police officers are on duty ahead of an anti-globalisation protest in the city's exclusive Mayfair district by about 10,000 people.

Some businesses have been boarding up their windows in anticipation of anti-capitalist violence, although organisers of the "May Fayre" have portrayed it rather as a carnival.

Features include a strolling circus and a mass football match.

Le Pen's May Day

With the run-off in France's presidential election falling this Sunday, May Day in Paris will see two huge rallies for and against far-right contender Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The leader of the National Front is leading the party's traditional march to honour France's patron saint, Joan of Arc.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people who oppose Mr Le Pen's views are due to march in protest at his success in reaching the run-off.

Police are hoping that the scheduled routes will keep the marchers safely apart.

Launch new window : May Day in Paris
Detailed map of May Day marches

In the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, supporters and opponents of the controversial Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, are due to hold rival May Day rallies.

Previous protests against Mr Chavez's radical leftist policies have ended in violence with 17 people shot dead last month in unrest which removed the president from power temporarily.

May Day protests could spill over into unrest this year in other countries:

  • In the Philippines, riot police are surrounding the presidential palace in Manila against supporters of Joseph Estrada, the imprisoned ex-president.
  • In South Korea, tens of thousands of trades unionists will turn out in 10 major cities.
The BBC's John Sudworth
"Some of London's most familiar monuments have been boarded up"
The BBC's Ben Geoghegan
"Some trade union militants will be taking part in a separate unauthorised demonstration"
See also:

30 Apr 02 | UK
The spirit of Seattle
30 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Manila braces for Estrada protests
01 May 01 | UK
What is anti-globalisation?
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