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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 02:26 GMT 03:26 UK
Protesters maintain Cancun pressure

By Tristana Moore
BBC correspondent in Cancun

Anti-WTO protest
Women have been to the fore of protests
Several thousand anti-globalisation activists marched through the centre of Cancun on Saturday in protest at the World Trade Organisation.

They headed towards one of the police barricades at the entrance to the main road leading up to the site of the WTO meeting.

Led by a group of women, the protesters started to dismantle the metal barrier.

The women were determined - and one by one, they removed the bolts on the metal fence.

"This is a space for women only," one activist from Seattle said. "We don't want any men here. It's our chance to reclaim this land."

On the other side of the metal barrier, there were hundreds of Mexican police, in full riot gear.

Some of the women were beaten back by the police as they moved forward.

Over a loudspeaker, the organisers of the protest urged the activists to keep calm.

"Do not take up arms, this is a peaceful protest, and the police are allowing us to do this," one woman shouted.

Amongst the crowd, there were dozens of anarchists, dressed in black and wearing hard hats.

"But this is a war," one protester screamed back.

Tear gas fear

Dave, who described himself as an anarchist from California, said: "Together we can stand up to the delegates who are meeting behind those concrete walls up the road. We must regain our sovereignty."

Protesters break down fence in Cancun
For some protesters, it's war
As he was speaking, a group of South Korean farmers, using large ropes, tore down a section of the fence.

There were loud cheers from the crowd. Some protesters were pushed back as the fence collapsed, but others pushed towards the police lines.

But still the police watched impassively.

A protester told the crowd to sit down and they obeyed. Prayers were then held for the South Korean farmer, who died at the police barricade earlier this week.

"Brother Lee, we will always remember you," one Korean activist said.

The crowd repeated his words. As the ceremony ended, a few activists set fire to an American flag.

Tensions were high and many of the protesters and journalists put on their respirators and goggles, expecting the police to respond with tear gas.

But after several hours, the demonstrators dispersed - the protest was over.

Hard to reach

Many of the thousands of Mexican farmers who took part in the first large-scale march on Wednesday have already returned to their homes.

Oxfam protest
Protesters have used street theatre to target world leaders
Cancun is a difficult place to get to - and so many anti-globalisation activists stayed away from the protests.

The delegates have been meeting at a conference centre on a narrow strip of land full of five-star luxury hotels.

Its single road touches the mainland at only two points which have been fortified by multiple steel fences, guarded by thousands of police and troops.

But, as one American activist, told me, "it's not about the number of demonstrators who came to Cancun".

"The delegates can hide away wherever they like, but we will always get the message to them, somehow. They can't hide away from the people."




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