SALZBURG, Austria (AP) -- Helicopters circled overhead and
busloads of riot police suited up in black, full-body armor Sunday
as Europe's top economic and political leaders converged on
Salzburg for a summit expected to draw anti-globalization protests.
Hundreds of protesters, meanwhile, gathered at the local
communist party headquarters before pulling hoods over their heads
and marching on the main train station where they planned a rally
coinciding with the European Economic Summit's opening Sunday
Carrying communist hammer-and-sickle flags, they chanted, ''Our
world is not for sale, put the bankers into jail!''
Youths are frisked by special police forces at the Central Station of Salzburg, Austria, Sunday, July 1, 2001 prior to the start of the European Economic Summit to be held here July 1 - 3. Police brace for potentially violent anti-globalization protests as the continent's top economic and political leaders converge on Salzburg for the summit. (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher)
Police had earlier sealed off the convention hall itself with
rings of barriers that turned this medieval alpine tourist city
into a fortified maze of checkpoints.
The extra precautions come after street fighting left 70 people
injured last month at the European Union summit in Goteborg,
Sweden, and similar riots injured 32 people at an anti-World Bank
rally last weekend in Barcelona, Spain.
Local press reports estimated nearly 5,000 police were on duty
to make sure mayhem doesn't erupt in Salzburg, the hometown of
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The event, hosted by the World Economic Forum and chaired by
billionaire financier George Soros, runs through Tuesday.
Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden, speaking to Austrian television
ORF, defended the bulked-up security saying his city's tourist
industry could not afford to be scarred by scenes of looting,
street fighting and stone throwing.
Kelli Smith, a 24-year-old tourist from San Diego, Calif., and a
travel companion were scared off even before the protests began.
''We came down from Munich 24 hours ago and we're getting out of
here,'' Smith said. ''I've never seen so many police.''
Protest organizers complained Saturday that authorities were
exaggerating the threat of violence, and the streets were quiet
overnight. By midday Sunday, police had made no arrests, police
spokeswoman Sonja Fiegel said.
The European Economic Summit brings together the region's
political and business leaders to discuss such topics as EU
enlargement and Russia's relationship with the rest of Europe.
More than 600 participants from 44 countries were to take part
in the meeting, including 15 heads of state or prime ministers.
Copyright 2001 Associated Press