ROSTOCK, Germany—At least 30,000 anti-globalization protesters clogged this port city in northern Germany on Saturday, hoping to force world leaders to consider the plight of the world's poorest people when they gather next week.
But the protests are unlikely to be felt by the assembled leaders of the so-called G-8, the world's largest industrialized countries. That's because their meeting is being held in Heiligendamm, a small resort town on the Baltic coast 16 miles from Rostock.
An unidentified protest leader pledged not to let that fact deter plans for days of protest and music as he rallied the thousands.
"For years, the G-8 summits have been held in isolated places, so that we can't get to them," he called across a public address system. "But they are wrong, we are here. We are many. And we are not leaving."
Heiligendamm has always been an elite and isolated resort. But it's been turned into a virtual fortress in anticipation of the beginning Wednesday of the three-day meeting whose attendees include President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The stately white resort complex has been surrounded by a 7.5-mile-long fence that stretches at both ends at the Baltic Sea, creating a vast security zone. For extra measure, protesters will not be allowed within six miles of the fence.
The area also will be protected by what is being called the largest German military mobilization since World War II. More than 16,000 security forces have been deployed for the summit. Nine German Navy minesweepers are patrolling the coast, and helicopters and fighter jets are keeping watch from above.
The vast security operation continues a trend that took hold after the Group of Eight (hence, G-8) meeting in Genoa, Italy, in 2001, when a protester was killed. Since then, the group's leaders have assembled for their meetings in extremely remote locales: Kananaskis, Canada, Sea Island, Ga., and Gleneagles, Scotland.
Some protesters said that isolation seemed undemocratic.
"It's important those who lead listen to the voices of those they're leading, isn't it?" said Fabian, a 26-year-old protester from Halle, Germany, who refused to give his last name because he feared future security investigations. "Locking themselves away from all dissent doesn't serve their best interests, our best interests, or the world's best interests."
Cathrin, a 22-year-old protester and student from Frankfurt, Germany, who also refused to give her last name for security reasons, noted that, "these powerful people want to isolate themselves to make decisions on the course of our future. We shouldn't allow them to do that."
Saturday's protest—expected to be the largest of several demonstrations planned for the next week—was punctuated by isolated clashes between the 13,000 police on hand and the estimated 1,000 anarchists who, dressed in ninja-style black outfits, have become a regular feature at such events.
The anarchists broke paving stones from the cobbled streets and hurled them at police, injuring by police count more than 100 officers. During one such incident, a protester fired a flare that hit a hotel window just feet from where a journalist was taking a photo.
But for the most part, the protesters were peaceful, even waiting by crosswalks for lights to turn green before crossing streets as they left the gathering in the evening.
Werner Raetz, the chairman of the anti-globalization group ATTAC in Germany, told the cheering crowd of protesters not to let up, and not to let the most powerful leaders in the world ignore the poverty they help create elsewhere.
"We are that other world," he said.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.