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Militants Hijack G-20 Protests In Melbourne
[Photo Story] Scenes of violent demonstration
Michael Clough (clough)     Print Article 
Published 2006-11-18 20:40 (KST)   
Parts of Melbourne became a battleground on Saturday afternoon after protests against the G-20 Summit of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors turned violent with a number of battles between a minority of militant protesters and Police.

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A disappointing crowd of only 1,500 to 2,000 people assembled for the protest at the steps of the State Library of Victoria, well below the 10,000 organizers had hoped for.

Those assembled were treated to an hour of speeches from both local and international speakers on issues ranging from the environment, poverty, anti-Bono speeches, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and indigenous rights and justice.

The most passionate and entertaining of these speeches came from Robbie Thorpe of Aboriginal activist group Camp Sovereignty, who told the crowd that Australia was responsible for "236 years of terrorism."

"This country is an institution of racism, built on genocide."

"The G-20 is complicit in the genocide of aboriginal people." Mr. Thorpe said.

Margarita Windisch, an activist from Melbourne group "Stop the War," called for the arrest of World Bank President and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for genocide for his part in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Mr. Wolfowitz is currently attending the summit.

Ms. Windisch then pulled out some handcuffs and a mock warrant of arrest for Mr. Wolfowitz.

"You want to arrest Paul Wolfowitz today?" She shouted to the crowd. "We will go to the Hyatt and ask the police to lock up this war criminal!"

Despite the peaceful start to the protest and calls by organizers to keep it that way, it did not take long before trouble began. Trouble was on the cards even before the protest began with a group clad in white overalls and with their faces covered invaded a McDonald's outlet in Swanston on their way to the protest. It was these militants that would be responsible for much of the violence that would follow.

As protesters marched towards the venue of the G-20 Summit, the Grand Hyatt on Russell Street, protesters surrounded a police officer on motorbike, but mounted police quickly offering back-up. The real trouble began when the protest arrived at the tight security cordon in the blocks surrounding the Grand Hyatt.

Protesters at Collins Street wasted no time trying to break through the police barrier and now armed with rubbish bins, milk and bread crates, sticks and even parts of the barriers themselves, pelted police with heavy objects. Riot police were quickly called but showed restraint in this showdown, deciding against retaliation at that time.

Police were forced into action shortly after though when protesters caught a group of police unaware on the intersection of Exhibition Street and Flinders Lane, protesters armed with bottles, poles and even street signs attacked a large police van, smashing all windows. Police re-enforcements responded with a baton charge, dispersing protesters, but a tense atmosphere would remain on Exhibition Street with protesters once again returning to challenge the police, while a group of protesters staged a sit-in on the normally busy intersection with Collins Street. Riot and mounted police moved in at about 6p.m. to clear the intersection.

Stores of Nike and ANZ Bank were also popular targets of the protesters

The protests were the most violent seen in Australia's second largest city since those that greeted the World Economic Forum in 2000.

Margarita Windisch with a set of handcuff for Paul Wolfowitz.
©2006 Michael Clough

Protesters surround police officer, mounted police support would soon arrive.
©2006 Michael Clough

Protester taunts police with bin.
©2006 Michael Clough

Police battered with projectiles.
©2006 Michael Clough

Riot police arrive at Collins Street.
©2006 Michael Clough

Protesters attack a police van in Exhibition Street.
©2006 Michael Clough

Protester hurl bottles at police van.
©2006 Michael Clough

Debris litters attacked police van.
©2006 Michael Clough

Police van with smashed window. Police would respond with a baton charge to disperse protesters
©2006 Michael Clough

Police moments before they charged.
©2006 Michael Clough
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Clough

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