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Protesters, police clash as G-20 kicks off

Thousands of G-20 protesters marched through Toronto on Saturday; several hundred clashed with police, setting cars ablaze. Meanwhile, world leaders began economic recovery talks on the first day of the G-20 summit.

A protester with a bandana over her face confronts a riot police line-up

Protesters faced off against riot police throughout the city

As world leaders met for the start of the two-day G-20 summit in Toronto on Saturday, thousands of protesters marched in opposition through city streets. Several hundred turned violent, torching police cars and smashing store windows in the downtown core.

Self-described anarchists dressed in black broke away from peaceful protests organized by labor groups, setting at least four police cruisers ablaze, damaging media trucks and vandalizing storefronts, banks and coffee shops. Local media reported that more than 100 people were arrested over the course of the day.

At least 12,000 Canadian police and security forces, some on horseback, were patrolling the streets and a three-meter high fence enclosing the summit site. Clad in riot gear and in some instances using tear gas, police faced off against violent protesters in clashes across the city, including one at Queen's Park, the provincial parliament building, and on Yonge and Bloor Streets and University Avenue, some of Toronto's busiest thoroughfares.

Toronto Mayor David Miller condemned the violence, but said it was caused by a small group within the larger protest made up of at least 10,000.

Protesters in costume demonstrate in front of a line-up of riot police

Not all protests were violent

"A relatively small group of people ... came clearly with the intent of damaging property and perpetrating violence," he said at a news conference. "They're criminals that came to Toronto deliberately to break the law."

Groups opposed to the G-20 have been demonstrating in Toronto leading up to the summit of the world's rich and emerging economies, which follows a smaller meeting of the world's eight richest nations which concluded earlier Saturday in the northern Ontario resort town of Huntsville.

Curb deficits, boost growth

In Toronto on Saturday, world leaders closed in on an agreement to halve their budget deficits within three years and boost economic growth.

In the days leading up to the summit, the United States, the European Union and developing countries were at odds over whether to prioritize budget cuts or economic stimulus. But leaders on Saturday looked set to end the disagreement by calling for both, though leaving room for countries to set their own pace.

"To sustain recovery, we need to follow through on delivering existing stimulus plans. ... At the same time, recent events highlight the importance of sustainable public finances," read a draft summit statement.

Following the G8 talks in Huntsville, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said all leaders had agreed that winding down stimulus programs was critical to curbing budget deficits, while they differed in their opinions on exit speed. Many EU countries have planned tough austerity measures in the wake of the Greek debt crisis. At the same time, the US is considering more stimulus for its own economy, and worries that EU budget cuts could derail the global recovery.

Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at Pearson International Airport in Toronto

Merkel said all G8 leaders had agreed that ending stimulus programs was crucial

"The scars of this crisis are still with us," said US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. "We all need to act to strengthen the prospects for growth. This will require different strategies in different countries. We are coming out of the crisis at different speeds."

"We're aiming at the same target, which is world growth and stability, but ... those countries that have big deficit problems like ours have to take action in order to keep that level of confidence in the economy, which is absolutely vital to growth," said British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The draft statement indicated that the G-20 is likely to call for fiscal stimulus to be completed this year "where appropriate," with of "growth-friendly fiscal consolidation" from 2011. Budget deficits would be halved by 2013 and government debt "stabilized" by 2016.

Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega warned, however, that the aim of halving deficits by 2013 was "very Draconian, a little exaggerated."

"We know the remedies," he said. "Now it's a matter of gauging and fine-tuning the dosage of this medication. If we do the right thing at the right dosage, we'll heal the patient. If you go too far, you kill it."

Author: Martin Kuebler (dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Kyle James

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