Protests Turn Violent Near APEC Venue

By Jack Kim
Friday, November 18, 2005; 4:16 AM

PUSAN, South Korea, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Thousands of farm activists and union workers clashed with police not far from a meeting of Pacific Rim leaders on Friday, hurling bottles and swinging bamboo sticks at police who responded with water cannon.

The clash broke out about two km (1.25 miles) from the convention centre where leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies were meeting.

About 2,000 farmers and farm activists and 3,000 union workers took to the streets of Pusan to denounce APEC, the World Trade Organisation and U.S. President George W. Bush, who was among those attending the leaders' meeting.

Organisers had hoped as many as 100,000 would attend. They said police turned back busloads of people on highways before they even got to Pusan.

Nearly 30,000 police were deployed in and around the summit, and when several hundred of the protesters who made it to the city tried to get to the venue by pushing past a police line they were stopped.

The protesters threw rocks and bottles and hit them with bamboo sticks and metal rods. Police repelled the assaults with shields and fired high-pressure sea water.

The farmers were rallying against a bill being considered by South Korea's parliament to incrementally increase foreign access to the local rice market, as well as global trade talks such as the WTO.

"No to Bush, No to APEC. No to rice market opening. No to the WTO," they shouted as they marched through Pusan.

Some older farmers had tears in their eyes as their voices rang out, witnesses said.

Leaders at the two-day APEC summit are working to revive a round of WTO talks that have stalled due to resistance to measures to liberalise global agricultural trade.

REUTERS Reut08:31 11-18-05

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