GENEVA – Hundreds of riot police with water cannons battled about 1,000 anti-G-8 protesters at Geneva's main Mont Blanc bridge (search) as a third night of violence shredded the city's peaceful image.
Against the illuminated backdrop of one of Switzerland's most famous symbols — a 300-foot-high water fountain and a magnificent sunset over the Alps — demonstrators contained on the bridge taunted police before being allowed through a narrow passage of anti-riot forces after a tense three-hour standoff.
Elsewhere in the city, clashes continued into the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Police used water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas against a group of several hundred demonstrators on the main road linking the railway station, leaving the normally busy thoroughfare littered with spent canisters and glass.
Some in the crowd shot fireworks and threw rocks and bottles at police, and at least two people were injured. One had a head injury and another was seen being carried from the scene; it was unclear how they were hurt. Five people were detained.
The protests were aimed at the Group of Eight (search) summit of the world's seven industrial powers and Russia being held in nearby Evian, France (search). The demonstrators represent diverse causes. Many are against globalization, but others focus on protection of environment, fears about genetically modified foods, and forgiveness of Third World debt.
More than 50,000 people marched against the summit on Sunday. Violence on the sidelines left 15 people injured, including five police. Two people, were seriously hurt, including a Briton who suffered multiple fractures when police cut the rope he was hanging from during a demonstration on a main highway.
Monday's demonstration started out low-key and largely peaceful. Demonstrators on the Mont Blanc bridge even cleared up their litter before they dispersed.
However, they refused police demands to submit to searches and identification checks in order to be allowed off the bridge — although agreed to allow police search one of their trucks for weapons. Police finally issued an ultimatum to allow the searching of bags within 15 minutes, and then fired tear gas and water cannons.
Micheline Spoeri, head of the Geneva police department, ordered her forces to clamp down after a night of looting and violence Sunday. She said the rampages — many involved foreign militants — were designed to destroy Switzerland's image as a "peaceful, humane and tolerant" haven.
Many stores and banks remained boarded up. Authorities said it was too early to estimate the value of the damage.
"Thank you G-8," read the sign in one devastated clothing shop."Because of damage, our shop is closed until further notice. Have a nice day," it said, reflecting the bitterness felt by many Swiss that while France enjoyed the glory of the summit, non-member Switzerland paid the price.