Thousands of Protesters Converge on G-8 Summit

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 6, 2007; 1:32 PM

BAD DOBERAN, Germany, June 6 -- Thousands of protesters converged Wednesday on an eight-foot high fence that the German government had erected around the hotel and conference center in Heiligendamm where the summit of the Group of Eight industrial countries is underway.

The protesters' move foiled police efforts to keep them miles away from the summit site.

Most demonstrations Wednesday were peaceful, although police sprayed protesters with three blasts from water cannons at one checkpoint near the fence in response to a stone-throwing incident, said Lueder Behrens, a police spokesman.

Later in the day, officers discovered some protesters armed with Molotov cocktails, although the makeshift weapons were not used, he said.

"We are happy it did not escalate, but there are definitely militants in these groups," Behrens said.

By 5 p.m., police reported arresting 137 people and issuing citations to 23 others for disobeying police orders. No serious injuries were reported, in contrast to demonstrations that got out of hand over the weekend in the nearby city of Rostock, injuring an estimated 1,000 police officers and protesters combined.

Police had hoped to prevent the protesters from getting anywhere near the summit site and set up roadblocks on all the paved routes leading to Heiligendamm several days ago. But early Wednesday, an estimated 10,000 demonstrators easily outwitted the security forces merely by tramping through farmers' fields to reach the fence.

Protesters then turned the tables by dragging logs and branches across roads to make it more difficult for police to chase after them in their vehicles. They also blocked a tourist railroad that summit organizers had used to transport journalists to Heiligendamm, forcing the German navy to ferry reporters by boat.

About 7,000 protesters completely blocked one of the main roads leading to the summit site by conducting a sit-down demonstration. Police officials were debating late Wednesday whether to forcibly remove the demonstrators, saying they needed to clear the road so they could have access to the G-8 conference.

Causten Wollerman, 22, a community organizer from Denver, was among a group of about 3,000 protesters who evaded the police in the fields and successfully blocked a road and checkpoint next to the fence.

"They didn't seem prepared to handle so many people moving across such a vast terrain," said Wollerman, part of a group called Block G-8. "By the time we got there, they let us do our thing. Everything was really peaceful and there was little tension between the police and protesters."

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