G-8 Security Fence Troubling for Germans

The Associated Press
Monday, June 4, 2007; 2:27 PM

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany -- Bystanders gazed in curiosity and disgust Monday at the razor-wire-topped fence that will separate Group of Eight leaders from the rest of Germany during this week's summit _ part of security measures that, for some, evoke memories of life behind the Iron Curtain.

"It's not good given the history of Germany _ we had it in East Germany, and now it's up again," said Ralf Klonschinski, on vacation from a home in eastern Germany, as he looked at a security camera and floodlight perched atop the eight-foot fence.

"I'm not so sure it's necessary."

Cutting across seven miles of verdant farmland near some of Germany's main seaside playgrounds, the fence is reviving memories of the Berlin Wall as authorities confront the modern realities of global terrorism and radical protest movements.

German officials say a 16,000-strong police presence at the G-8 meeting as the only way to safeguard the free expression of nonviolent demonstrators, after more than 400 police officers and 500 protesters were injured in nearby Rostock over the weekend.

But some precautions don't feel so benign to Germans with long memories.

Prosecutors already face criticism for taking scent samples in a pre-summit investigation of a handful of G-8 opponents _ a technique used by the dreaded East German Stasi secret police to track dissidents with dogs _ and for intercepting and opening the mail of another suspect.

Like other vacationers, Klonschinski and his wife hiked to the edge the fence supported by massive concrete blocks at every post and reinforced with iron bars driven into the ground to prevent people from going underneath.

Protesters will not legally get anywhere near the barrier, after a court last week upheld a ban on demonstrations within about four miles of the fence. An alliance of activist groups that plans a June 7 march has appealed to Germany's highest court.

On Monday, officers on foot patrolled the inside perimeter. Police vehicles periodically drove along the dirt road built along the outside of the fence, bisecting lush green fields and a forest.

The public could see the fence only where it meets the sea, with the other area restricted to journalists and officials. Inside the fence, all was quiet: A small red fox even emerged from a farmer's crops to examine the barrier between him and the forest before retreating.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host the leaders of Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Russia, Canada and the U.S. for discussions on issues including global warming, aid to Africa and the world economy.

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