Protest Fears On Eve of G8 Summit

She's done it so many times that it takes Chiara Cassurino only a few minutes to get ready. She'll strap on makeshift body armor fashioned from a cut-up foam mattress, don a gas mask and goggles, top it off with a construction worker's hard hat — and hit the streets.

Cassurino is one of tens of thousands of protesters set to take part in demonstrations on the sidelines of a summit of the world's big industrial powers — the latest such gathering to be targeted by marchers loosely grouped under the banner of the anti-globalization movement.

Most of the protesters say they want to make a point — peacefully — about forgiving Third World debt, reining in giant corporations, improving workers' conditions, or another in the constellation of left-leaning causes associated with the movement. But others girded for a violent confrontation.

As the first of the leaders began arriving Thursday, the initial demonstration came off without incident. About 1,000 people, nearly all exiled Iranians, staged mock stonings and hangings — using foam ``stones'' and nooses — to press their demands for a boycott of business with Iran. Police kept a close watch but did not intervene.

Demonstrations on Friday, the summit's opening day, were expected to be far larger — and potentially explosive. Cassurino's group, an anarchy-minded Italian bloc called Tute Bianche, or White Overalls, for their trademark jumpsuits, says it's determined to break into a sealed-off area surrounding the summit sites, known as the Red Zone.

Up to 20,000 police and soldiers are guarding the area encompassing Genoa's medieval city center and parts of its old port, which is closed to all but residents, journalists and summit participants. At the heart of the restricted-access zone, secured by tall wire-mesh barriers blocking off the cobbled streets, is the ornate 14th-century Palazzo Ducale, where the leaders of the Group of Eight — the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada, plus Russia — will meet.

Tute Bianche says it's determined to breach the barricades by forming human chains and overwhelming police through sheer numbers, and the group's rank and file say they're steeled for whatever kind of melee breaks out.

``If it's violent, that's up to the police,'' said Cassurino, a 23-year-old veteran of half a dozen such protests, including a clash at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund's annual meeting in Prague last year that left hundreds injured.

President Bush has taken a hard line against militant protesters.

``Those who try to disrupt and destroy and hurt are really defeating their cause, it seems to me,'' he told foreign journalists Tuesday before leaving Washington. ``I think a lot of people in the world are just sick of it.''

With Genoa's international airport closed and regular rail service suspended, protesters poured into the city aboard special chartered trains. The Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella group that is organizing demonstrations by hundreds of separate groups, said it expects up to 30,000 people to arrive in the next day aboard some 25 trains.

On Wednesday evening, young protesters whooped and whistled as their train pulled into the Brignole station near the heart of the city — then bent to struggle with bulky knapsacks and bedrolls. Many carried makeshift protective gear such as shin guards and knee pads.

For the past 19 months, gatherings of organizations like the European Union and the World Bank-IMF have attracted international summit-hoppers who gravitate from one protest to the next. But Italy also has a well-established homegrown anarchist movement, which is out in force for this summit.

Tute Bianche's staging ground is a soccer and rugby station east of the city center, where hundreds of protesters are camping out in tent dormitories. Volunteers man a desk to register arrivals and take contact telephone numbers. ``Welcome, Disobedient Ones!'' said a sign at the gates.

The stadium was adorned with eight big plastic pig heads, said by protesters to represent the G-8 governments. Leaders of the industrial nations are ``deeply unjust,'' said Peppe de Cristofaro, 30, a demonstrator from the Young Communist group.

Multinational corporations that are traditional targets of anti-globalization protests braced for trouble. McDonald's boarded up its four restaurants in Genoa for the duration of the summit. Two small parcel bombs exploded Wednesday in the offices of the Italian clothing giant Benetton in Treviso, near Venice.