Protesters gather on Biarritz for G7
As leaders of G7 descended on the French resort of Biarritz for their summit on Saturday, thousands of protesters were marching in nearby towns, accusing leaders of the rich nations of causing many global problems.
The protesters, which included French yellow vest protesters, environmental activists, anti-capitalists and Basque nationalists, marched peacefully from the French border town of Hendaye, about 30 kilometers from Biarritz, toward Irun on the Spanish side of the border.
Arturo Villanueva, a spokesman for the "counter-summit" held just days ahead of the G7 summit, said hundreds of different social groups had already held a week of debates, conferences and workshops.
"First of all, we want to denounce the anti-democratic spirit of the G7. G7 doesn't represent the world," Villanueva told China Daily on Saturday afternoon after the protest.
He attributed the worsening world situation to the leaders of the G7 and said the counter-summit and the protesters not only represent the majority of the people of the world, they also put forward proposals showing there a more responsible way for the world.
In a statement, organizers Alternatives G7 and G7EZ estimated the number of protesters at 15,000. That is also the number of police officers the French government deployed to secure the three-day G7 summit from Aug 24-26.
The protesters had scheduled acts of civil disobedience in several squares near Biarritz on Sunday. But Villanueva said on Saturday they were still assessing the situation.
Maximum security in and around Biarritz means that such actions might result in arrests and conflicts.
Raphaelle Girard, a yellow vest protester, said she wants to show leaders of the seven rich countries that the yellow vest movement is still here. "We will fight till the end for our rights and a better life," she said.
Girard, from Pau, about 160 km east of Biarritz, said she wants a society of more equality and social justice. "Now it's quite difficult today because you have 1 percent of the people who have all the wealth. That's why we are here today," she said.
Jon Metauten, from Basque Country, accused G7 leaders of being guilty of provoking wars around the world such as in Syria.
Asked what he thinks about the G7 summit's focus on environment and inequality, Metauten said: "They are not able to do anything about it". He said people should join hands with Russia, China and other countries against these capitalist and imperialist nations.
In Bayonne, about 8 km from Biarritz, French riot police briefly used water cannons and tear gas on Saturday to disperse protesters.
A police helicopter circled overhead as dozens of protesters, some wearing face masks, taunted lines of police. Some threw stones and other objects at the police and kicked back tear gas canisters. Several people were seen to be detained, Euronews reported.