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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Analysis: Summit policing tactics
Seattle police
Protests at Seattle set the tone for future summits
By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala

Mass protests, and the violence and disruption they can bring, are now a regular feature of international summits.

Apart from the security concerns surrounding a summit, the authorities in a host city will seek to strike a balance between controlling violent demontrations and allowing peaceful, legitimate protests to go ahead.

Genoa tactics
Deployment of thousands of police and soldiers, backed by planes, helicopters and naval ships
City closed to the outside for two days
Tough border controls
Area around the summit venue declared "red zone" and kept completely clear of protesters
Railway stations and motorway junctions closed, and flights into Genoa diverted
Police authorities have been able to argue that they need to take severe security measures to combat the violence of a hardcore of activists - what UK Prime Minister Tony Blair recently called the "anarchists' travelling circus".

The police in the Italian port city of Genoa have several examples to draw on in trying to prepare for the G8 summit which starts on Friday.

They will be keen to avoid a repetition of the scenes at last month's EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Though the summit was a political and diplomatic success, demonstrators overwhelmed police who then shot demonstrators with live ammunition.

Conciliatory approach

The Swedish police had warned ahead of the summit that they feared being outnumbered by protesters.

They opted for a conciliatory approach, emphasising a need for dialogue with demonstrators but in the end they were pelted with bricks and bottles.

The Swedish police were caught unprepared and were criticised for overreacting when three protesters were injured by police gunfire.

Protests in London on May Day, were handled entirely differently. Police overwhelmed protesters with their numbers and organisation and violence and damage was largely avoided.

Overwhelming force

Civil liberties groups complained that the heavy policing meant legitimate and peaceful demonstrators were prevented from protesting.

The principle, argues Roger Bingham of the civil liberties organisation Liberty, must be that non-violent demonstrators have the right to protest.

Swedish police do battle with protesters in Gothenburg
Swedish police failed to control the protests at the Gothenburg summit in June
"Police forces have to be able to distinguish between violent and peaceful protesters and act appropriately. When policing demonstrations they cannot act indiscriminately as if everyone was a criminal," Mr Bingham told BBC News Online.

Some protests were allowed to take place, but even when protesting cyclists slowed traffic in central London, the cyclists were held up in a side street to let things get back to normal.

Serious clashes between police and anarchists were expected to happen at Oxford Circus, the junction of two of the city's main shopping streets.

A massive police deployment trapped what were believed to be the hardcore of protesters in a small area and they were then only allowed to disperse slowly so as to prevent them gathering and elsewhere.

Liberty is in the process of taking legal advice on behalf of several May Day protesters on whether they were detained unlawfully by London police.

It is estimated that about 3,000 people were penned in by police for several hours because of suspicions that less than 100 people in the crowd intended to cause damage.

Seattle lessons

Police and protesters on May Day in London
Police overwhelmed protesters in London on May Day
Police in London were able to learn the lessons from the World Trade Organisations in Seattle in 1999.

The scale of the demonstrations and the anger and determination of those who took part in those protests took most people by surprise.

Police and army soldiers took a hard line. A state of civil emergency was declared, a curfew ran for two nights, and plastic bullets, tears gas, pepper spray, truncheons, and water cannon were used - but they were unable to prevent serious disruption.

The lessons drawn from the events in Seattle were more to do with the need of organisations like the WTO and the IMF to address the concerns of protesters, and less to do with how best to police such occasions.

Travel restrictions

Ahead of the Genoa summit, governments and police forces around the world are exchanging the intelligence they have gathered.

The plan is, through co-operation between police forces, to prevent key organisers of violent protests from entering the countries hosting meetings.

An anti-globalisation activist makes a plastic shield
An anti-globalisation activist makes a plastic shield in preparation for the protests
European police forces are considering adopting a technique used to restrict football hooligans from the travelling at the time of major tournaments or matches.

Another possible tactic may be to hold these international gatherings in remote locations.

The next WTO summit, in November, is to be held in the Gulf state of Qatar.

This may cut the numbers of protesters that might be able to get to summit, but should large numbers arrive the Qatari authorities might struggle to control them.

Genoa preparations

About 100,000 protesters are expected to gather in the narrow streets of Genoa.

The Italian authorities are assembling thousands of police and soldiers, backed by planes, helicopters and naval ships, to combat the threat of violence.

The city is being virtually closed to the outside world two days before the summit starts.

The streets around the summit venue have been declared a "red zone" into which no protesters will be allowed and will be blocked off by dozens of armoured vehicles.

Outside the red zone, some areas will be set aside for protesters to make their views known.

Railway stations and motorway junctions will be closed, and flights into Genoa diverted.

Italian police will also be depending on tough frontier checks. Interpol have built up a file of undesirables that will be stopped at the border.

Italy is likely to withdraw temporarily, as Sweden did last month, from the EU's Schengen agreement on a borderless area.

Rome is also planning to invite leaders of developing countries and others of "high moral standing" to the Genoa summit in an attempt to take some of the sting out of the protests.

The especially invited heads of state include Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa and chairman of the non-aligned movement, Sheik Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and a spokeswoman for the 49 poorest states.

The guest personalities include Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchu, the Nobel peace prize-winning human rights campaigner from Guatemala, Mary Robinson, the former Irish President, and the Indian economist Amartya Sen.

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