Police held back protesters with tear gas and detained two dozen people in a pre-dawn clash before a summit of leaders of 28 Nato nations today on the French-German border.
Some 1,800 protesters left their camp in the south of the French city of Strasbourg at about 4am and headed north through deserted streets to the summit site, watched from above by several police helicopters shining searchlights.
The site is ringed with heavy security, and riot police kept them back with tear gas and barricades.
The police headquarters for the Bas-Rhin region said 25 people were detained in the incident.
US president Barack Obama and the 27 other leaders are meeting to discuss the war in Afghanistan and Nato’s future in a summit jointly hosted by Strasbourg and the German towns of Kehl and Baden-Baden.
Another group of protesters which camped out overnight in a square in central Strasbourg were planning a demonstration later in the day. The crowd was peaceful today. Other anti-war and anti-capitalist protest events have been planned on the German side of the border.
Across the river in Kehl, police outnumbered protesters before a planned unity walk by the leaders along the bridge linking France and Germany.
Protesters in Strasbourg have clashed with police in confrontations in previous days.
On Friday, protesters threw firecrackers at police, causing burns to the legs of one and injuring another officer’s hearing, police said. Both were taken to a hospital for treatment. A similar protest Thursday night resulted in at least 300 arrests.
Some of the protesters said they were frustrated about the large police presence. Some 15,000 German police and 9,000 French police are on call for the summit.
“The police have massively hindered this demonstration,” said Monty Schaedel, an organiser for anti-Nato protests for the German Peace Movement, in Baden-Baden. “We have a situation here where the police used all their power to stifle democracy and the freedom of opinion.”
German authorities had estimated that up to 25,000 protesters would take part in several demonstrations in Baden-Baden and Kehl.
France’s interior minister has suggested 30,000 to 40,000 ultimately could show up in Strasbourg. The numbers have so far appeared much smaller.