G-8 Protesters So Diverse They Fight Among Themselves

The thousands of protesters converging on this year's Group of Eight summit (search) are an eclectic bunch with a grab-bag of divergent interests -- so much so that some of them clashed on Saturday with Socialists sympathetic to their cause.

A group of about 350 protesters disrupted a meeting of France's Socialist Party (search), tossing rocks through the windows of a conference center and accusing the party of not being radical enough.

The protesters scuffled with police who fired tear gas, dispersing the crowd.

The violence -- no injuries were reported but windows were broken -- was a vivid reminder of the divisions among G-8 critics, who espouse a wide range of causes including forgiving poor nations' debt, protecting the environment and stopping globalization (search).

Later Saturday, dozens of protesters set fire to shops and smashed windows in downtown Geneva, where tens of thousands were to gather for a protest march on Sunday.

Geneva police spokesman Jacques Volery said at least 10 shops were targeted during the melee involving some 300 individuals, but he was unable to give details of the extent of the damage.

"It keeps stopping and starting," Volery told The Associated Press. "They are operating in small groups, which makes them hard to control."

There are disagreements among the protesters over methods. Some like the Socialists are sober-minded activists. Others are loud "revolution" seekers. Most believe in peaceful demonstrations, but a small band of anarchists think destructive protest is more effective.

The Socialists were meeting Saturday as part of a "counter-summit" to address issues critics say the G-8 is ignoring, such as the woes of immigrants and refugees in Europe, debt relief and African development.

Some 500 Swiss G-8 protesters lit 52 bonfires simultaneously Saturday night along the 104-mile crescent-shaped shoreline of Lake Geneva in a peaceful demonstration meant to contrast with summit protests that have turned violent in the past.

"It's a symbolic encirclement of the G-8," Swiss left-wing lawmaker Josef Zisyadis told the AP.

Protest leaders condemned Saturday's Socialist clash and denied their movement is divided.

"The mass of people is united, and it's just a very small group of people who want to break things just for the sake of breaking things," said Jacques Nikonoff, president of ATTAC France, a major protest organizer.

The protesters in this working-class French suburb bordering Geneva have found at least one common theme: They all insist the Group of Eight leaders -- from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia -- don't speak for them or the world.

"They are eight -- we are six billion" is on the lips of just about everybody in Annemasse, France's designated hub of protest, about 25 miles west of the site of the three-day G-8 summit in picturesque Evian.

On Saturday, nearly 2,000 activists marched through central Annemasse and went to closed service stations to cover gasoline pumps with plastic sheets that read, in French, "G-8, you get on our nerves -- the world is not at your service."

By Friday, about 4,500 people had set up in two separate protest camps, and the number was expected to rise, police said. Thousands of riot police have deployed, and many shops, banks and restaurants have closed for the weekend.

The activists divided themselves up into the two camps to show their diversity. One is the "intergalactic village" -- grouping environmental, anti-nuclear or other social activists. The other is the "anti-capitalist, alternative, anti-war village."

On Sunday, the opening day of the summit, two sets of protesters plan to march from Annemasse and Geneva and will converge on the Franco-Swiss border.

Some vowed to obstruct the G-8 proceedings. While the leaders were to fly by helicopter to the summit, protesters said they would try to block any delegations from using the roads to get to Evian.