Protests turn violent near APEC venue

Protests turn violent near APEC venue

18 Nov 2005 12:02:20 GMT

Source: Reuters (Updates with more quotes, protest dispersed and injuries)

By Jack Kim

PUSAN, South Korea, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Thousands of farm activists and union workers hurled bottles in a clash with police near a meeting of Pacific Rim leaders on Friday and had to be quelled by water cannon.

The clash broke out about two km (1.2 miles) from the convention centre where leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies were meeting.

About 2,000 farmers and farm activists and 3,000 union workers took to the streets of Pusan to denounce APEC, the World Trade Organisation and U.S. President George W. Bush, who was attending the leaders’ meeting.

Organisers had hoped as many as 100,000 would attend. They said police had turned back busloads of people on highways before they even got to Pusan.

Nearly 30,000 police were deployed in and around the summit. When several hundred protesters who made it to the city tried to get to the venue by pushing past a police line they were stopped.

"We want to hurt them and we want them to hurt us," a farmer from just north of the port city said, as he brandished a weighty three-metre (10-foot) bamboo stick, his face masked with a red handkerchief and his breath smelling of South Korean rice wine.

The protesters threw rocks and bottles and propelled them with bamboo sticks and metal rods. Police repelled the assaults with shields and fired high-pressure sea water.

The protesters failed to break through a make-shift police barricade of ocean-liner cargo containers and cross a bridge on to the grounds of the convention centre.

A handful of riot police officers were taken away by ambulance with injuries from rocks thrown by the protesters, some the size of a volleyball, police said.

The protest dispersed after two hours.

The farmers were rallying against a bill being considered by South Korea’s parliament to increase incrementally foreign access to the country’s rice market, as well as global trade talks such as those under the World Trade Organisation.

"No to Bush, No to APEC. No to rice market opening. No to the WTO," they shouted as they marched through Pusan. Some older farmers had tears in their eyes as their voices rang out.

Leaders at the two-day APEC summit are working to revive a round of WTO talks that have stalled due to resistance to measures to liberalise global agricultural trade.

"WTO is an evil, dirty party," said Moon Kyung-sik, the chairman of the Korea Peasants’ League.

source: Reuters