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Anti-Globalization Rally Hits Zurich; Ends in Mayhem

  • Both Pro- and anti-globalists claimed victory after riots in Switzerland.
By P. Samuel Foner

Anti-internationalist rioters trashed downtown Zurich, Switzerland Saturday night and Sunday morning (Jan 27-28).

But few got near the meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the posh ski resort at Davos and there was no violence there.

Demonstrators had announced that they wouldn't be stopped and Swiss police said they wouldn't disrupt the WEF proceedings.

On Monday morning, both sides announced victory.

Police arrested 121 masked rioters on Sunday after about 1,000 protesters rampaged through Zurich, burning cars, smashing windows of local businesses and pelting police with stones.

According to Swiss sources, most of the rioters were released as the clean-up began, but 35 will face criminal charges including "grievous bodily harm," "vandalism" and "breach of the peace."

The police were criticized by Swiss commentators after they fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators after the riot broke out on Saturday night.

For their part, officials described the mob as "extremely violent" with "a destructive fury."

Sonntagsblick, a German-language weekly newspaper, accused police of a "mobilization like in a dictatorship."

"I wouldn't have believed that possible in Switzerland," Franco Cavalli, head of the Socialist Party in the Swiss Parliament, told the German newspaper. 'The police have trampled on state law."

Another newspaper, Sonntagszetung, wrote: "The spirit of Davos was suffocated in tear gas."

It added that police had "trampled on basic rights." however, the force defended its actions, saying it used "moderate, exemplary intervention."


Swiss newspapers reported that the riot began after police stopped hundreds of anti-globalization protesters from reaching the ski resort of Davos on Saturday night, where they wanted to join a banned demonstration against the annual WEF.

They returned to Zurich in trains and buses, and marched through the city, over-turning cars and setting them on fire.

Swiss newspapers said the majority of those arrested were Swiss, along with groups from Germany, France, Spain, and Italy and individual protesters from as far away as Canada and the Dominican Republic.

Several hundred protesters turned out for the banned demonstration in Davos which proceeded peacefully before it was dispersed by police.