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Germany

German Police Declare No-Go Zone for G8 Protestors

In a move criticized by left-wing groups, German authorities have said protestors will not be allowed near a Baltic Sea resort where G8 leaders will hold their June summit.

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In recent years G8 summits have attracted strong anti-globalization protests

August Hanning, deputy interior minister, defended the decision by police to ban protests near the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm during the Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations in June.

"As host of the G8 summit, we have a duty to do everything to protect our guests," Hanning told German public broadcaster ARD.

Authorities are building a 12-kilometer-long security fence around the G8 venue. Germany is expecting up to 100,000 anti-globalization demonstrators to target the gathering of world leaders in the plush seaside resort of Heiligendamm in northeastern Germany.

On Wednesday, police in Rostock, a northern German city located just 23 kilometers from Heiligendamm, said all public gatherings and demonstrations within 200 meters (656 feet) of the security fence surrounding the G8 meeting area will be banned between May 30 and June 8 -- the day the summit ends.

From June 2 to June 8, protests and demonstrations will also be forbidden at the Rostock-Laage airport which serves Heiligendamm.

"A real security threat"

Protest gegen G8

Anti-G8 demonstrators in Heiligendamm in April

Police said the measures were justified because "anti-globalization activists have repeatedly called for a veritable blockade of the G8 summit.

"This shows that there is a real security threat for those participating in the summit."

The Internet portal of the weekly magazine Stern reported that during the actual summit, demonstrations within a two-kilometer radius would be prohibited. AFP news agency, however, said protestors would not be allowed within a five-kilometer radius of the Baltic sea resort town.

Last week, when Rostock police initially announced its intention to prohibit nearby protests, they said it was to "ensure the area surrounding Heiligendamm would be open for police and emergency vehicles."

Hanning said that police were now aware of "potentially dangerous" actions planned by people who intended to destroy the security fences and disrupt the summit. He said the decision to prohibit public gatherings near the fence was a "legitimate, preventative police procedure."

He also said that the disruptions could not only pose a threat to G8 leaders, but to nearby G8 opponents as well.

Rallies possible elsewhere

Demonstration in Gleneagles

Protest at the G8 summit near Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005


Hanning said, however, that German authorities still wanted to ensure that "rallies can take place which aim to criticize the G8 summit and certain aspects of globalization."

Demonstrations which had been previously registered would now be reviewed based on the new ordinance, Hanning said. 60 demonstrations had been registered in all, 10 of which were authorized by police.

But G8 summit opponents are angered. One told AP new agency: "People who have officially registered demonstrations these past few months have been deceived." Summit opponents said it was a constitutional right to be able to protest.

Possible appeals

Demonstration in Gleneagles

Police and anti-G8 protesters clashed in Gleneagles


Opponents have said they will take legal action to appeal the ban, but the organization Gipfelsoli Infogruppe said that the late announcement by police was a delaying tactic intended to make it difficult for opponents to appeal.

The prohibition will affect the "Star March," which had been planned with protestors moving in from different locations to gather at Heiligendamm, where a rally was also scheduled. Smaller protests near the security fences will also be affected.

The decision follows on the heels of a major raid last week on the homes and offices of of left-wing G8 and anti-globalization activists.

Around 900 police officers raided 40 sites in northern Germany linked to left-wing activists believed to be preparing arson attacks and other violent protests during the summit.

The massive security operation was slammed by critics as overblown and an unnecessary show of force by the German state. The operation angered left-wing groups who warned that it only served to mobilize their followers. Some 5,000 people took to the streets of Berlin, Hamburg and smaller German cities in protest at the police raids.

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