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France - Nato summit

Thousands of French police in Strasbourg for anti-Nato protests

Article published on the 2009-04-03 Latest update 2009-04-03 12:02 TU

An anti-NATO protester in a street in a Strasbourg suburb on 2 April(Photo: Reuters)

An anti-NATO protester in a street in a Strasbourg suburb on 2 April
(Photo: Reuters)

300 protesters have been arrested in Strasbourg, as helicopters hover in the sky above the western French city where US President Barack Obama is meeting France's Nicolas Sarkozy. Ten-thousand French police are on the streets amid protests from anti-Nato activists. Around 100 protesters were arrested on Thursday in clashes with the police and more have been detained Friday.

"It is the biggest security operation on French territory since the G8 in Evian in 2003," said French Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie.

Surveillance units are joined by ground forces including those mounted on horseback, on bicycle and on motorbike. On Thursday evening they fired tear gas at protesters who were trying to march from a peace camp to the centre of the city.

Around 100 activists were arrested after bus shelters were smashed, bins set alight and a barricade erected, before calm was restored.

The protesters’ camp is home to around 3,000 activists. But police have already divided zones of the city into different areas of access, requiring badges to gain entry.

"The city is in a state of siege. You must wear a badge sent by the [police] prefecture to come here,” said Dr Fredemann, who works in a psychiatry practice near where the summit will be held.

Anti-NATO demonstrators in Strasbourg on 2 April(Photo: Reuters)

Anti-NATO demonstrators in Strasbourg on 2 April
(Photo: Reuters)

In addition, authorities will ensure that protesters do not get near the summit.

“The route we are assigned is situated in no-man’s land.” Arille Denis, co-president of the peace movement, told RFI. “The participants are in the centre of the city, upsetting the inhabitants, and we consider it extremely worrying that Nato and the richest countries in the world are taking the city hostage and refuse to see the protests,” she told RFI.

After the summit in Strasbourg, the delegation travels to Baden-Baden, where the German authorities have also stationed large numbers of security forces.

Despite the disruption and demonstrations, some in Strasbourg are happy to see the Nato summit in France.

“For us, this summit is an opportunity, it creates publicity for the city,” said Patrick Lips, manager of a local hotel, which the Lithuanian and Danish delegations have chosen to use.

The anti-Nato protests follow demonstrations in London on Thursday for the G20 meeting.