Thousands of anti-capitalist demonstrators have taken part in a second day of protests at the World Economic Forum summit in Melbourne, Australia. A police spokesman said that the situation was under control and all of the delegates had gained access to the meeting. The chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates, was earlier forced to cancel an address to 4,000 Australian schoolchildren because of fears that the event would be disrupted.
The demonstrators have taken to the streets over concerns about the impact of globalisation on the poor. The opening of the Asia-Pacific WEF meeting at Melbourne's Crown Casino Monday was marked by violent protests, during which at least four demonstrators and a policeman were hospitalised. Protesters have claimed that more than 100 of their number were injured by baton-wielding police.
All 850 delegates managed to get into the conference, unlike on the first day when pickets blocked entry to almost a quarter. Police baton-charged protesters today, after deciding that tougher tactics were needed to break the siege and get delegates into the summit. Among the protesters were two New Zealand Green MPs who were trampled as they sat with hundreds of other anti-globalisation demonstrators. Protest organisers said that, of those injured, 11 needed hospital treatment because of what they claimed was police brutality and heavy-handed tactics to break up a "peaceful" protest demonstration.
Protest organisers complained to the ombudsman for Victoria state accusing police of inappropriate use of batons, hazardous use of horses, misusing fire hoses and driving vehicles at high speed through demonstrators. Protesters, for their part, threw urine, ball bearings, rocks and other missiles at police and their horses and threw nails under car tyres. Five police officers and a horse received minor injuries in the scuffle. However, Victoria's state premier Steve Brack praised police tactics and restraint. Conference delegates had no complaints.
Almost 10,000 protesters, including Trotskyists, anarchists, students, gay rights activists, environmentalists and even school children, began the blockade yesterday. Their numbers had dropped by two thirds on Tuesday morning, but were swelled again by 5,000 trade unionists rallying in support of the campaign.