Police beat back a protest against the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the ski resort of Davos on Saturday, but anti-globalization protests spread to other Swiss cities.
Four cars were set on fire during protests in Zurich by up to 1,000 demonstrators after many were prevented by police from traveling to Davos. Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber pellets.
Earlier, several hundred demonstrators defied a ban on protests in Davos and a strict police crackdown on travel to the ski resort where the forum holds its annual meetings for 3,000 of the world’s top business and political leaders.
When demonstrators marched toward the heavily fortified compound where the forum meets, they were confronted by a huge force of riot police, who sealed off the street with barricades, vehicles and a water cannon truck. Police surrounded about 200 protesters and ordered them to disperse before blasting a few with water.
Heavy snow fell in Davos as the activists, some with faces concealed by bandannas, chanted “Wipe out the WEF!”
Participants in the forum “are here to say they want to plan the future of the world, and we are definitely against this future they want for us,” said one demonstrator, David Boehner.
Swiss police have mounted their biggest security operation in decades to try to prevent protesters from disrupting the conference. All week, authorities have stopped suspected demonstrators traveling to Davos and turned back more than 100 people at the Swiss border.
In Zurich, about 150 demonstrators skirmished with police, who used a water cannon, tear gas and rubber batons to disperse them, a police spokesman said.
Later Saturday, up to 1,000 protesters were reported to be congregating near the railway station and were met with police firing tear gas and rubber pellets.
In Berne, police detained two people after about 100 demonstrators threw bottles and damaged cars.
In Landquart, police used tear gas to disperse about 300 people who had been prevented from heading for Davos. The protesters later boarded a train for Zurich.
Also Saturday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates pledged $100 million to the search for an AIDS vaccine and challenged the rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum to pitch in as well.
Noting that more than 5 million people were infected with the AIDS virus in the last year alone, Gates said at the forum that the private push was meant to correct “an unbelievable market failure” of not developing a vaccine 20 years after the first cases.