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Austria Economic Summit Protested

September 15, 2002

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SALZBURG, Austria (AP) _ Thousands of anti-globalization protesters marched peacefully down the streets of this historic Austrian city on Sunday, a day ahead of an economic summit set to bring together hundreds of business leaders and politicians from the region.

With police in riot gear deployed throughout the city to prevent possible violence, the activists _ a mix of environmentalists, Socialists, hippies and self-styled anarchists _ marched to protest what they say is globalization’s destructive impact on the poor and the environment.

Police said about 2,500 protesters marched, while organizers estimated the number at around 5,000.

Some activists carried banners saying ``Fight Capitalism″ or ``A socialist world is possible,″ while others chanted ``WEF has to go!″ in reference to the World Economic Forum, the organization that organized the two-day European Economic summit.

The meeting this year will focus on the enlargement of the European Union and economic competitiveness among EU members and countries that hope to join over the next years.

``We hope that the WEF doesn’t ever occur again,″ said Mathias Hinterseer, 19, who came from Germany to protest what he says are a number of injustices caused by capitalism _ as well as what many believe is an impending U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Wearing a sweat shirt emblazoned with the image of Che Guevara, Hinterseer said that ``the public has been blinded″ to think that terrorism is the world’s greatest threat. ``But people need to understand the roots of terrorism, which lie in poverty and injustice _ and especially the policy of the colonial powers, the USA and England,″ he added.

Another protester, 31-year-old Siegfried Kerle, was one of several protesters who wore a white wig, white ruffled shirt, vest and short pants to resemble the popular image of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the city’s most famous son.

``Mozart was born here,″ Kerle said. He described the summit as ``the sound of power,″ concentrated in the hands of the rich.

``I sympathize with entrepreneurs _ but the small ones,″ said Kerle. ``The big corporations are not in fair competition with the small ones because they get subsidies.″

A spokeswoman for Salzburg police, Sonja Fiegl, said that some 700 police officers reinforced local ones to provide security for the march. No violence was reported.

Authorities have sealed off large parts of the city to protect the participants, including several heads of state, from trouble, generating anger among local business owners and residents who complain about loss of income and disruptions.

To lessen the irritation, businesses will receive some compensation for their losses from authorities and the forum.

Protests have evolved into a fixture of international meetings since riots rocked the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle. At last year’s meeting in Salzburg, a small group of protesters clashed with police, leaving one officer seriously injured and a handful of other people slightly injured.

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