Image: Activists block a road close to the camp of anti-NATO activists
Carsten Koall  /  Getty Images
Activists block a road close to the camp of anti-NATO activists on April 2, 2009 in Strasbourg, France.
updated 4/2/2009 7:26:26 PM ET 2009-04-02T23:26:26

Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to beat back a crowd of several hundred anti-NATO protesters in Strasbourg on Thursday as the city in eastern France, host of the alliance's 60th anniversary summit, readied for the arrival of world leaders.

Meanwhile, a second day of protests at the G-20 summit in London wound down with little violence reported. Some 120 protesters were arrested over two days.

In France, police lobbed hundreds of tear gas canisters during clashes between about 40 riot police and some 200 masked protesters in the neighborhood of Neuhoff, in the southern part of Strasbourg near the German border.

The masked protesters broke away from a crowd of about 800 demonstrators and repeatedly pelted officers with rocks and bottles. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Police said a dozen protesters were arrested. At one point, protesters set fire in the middle of a street to building materials they had scooped up from a nearby construction site.

By late Thursday, calm had returned, but two more full days of planned protests lie ahead.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have descended on Strasbourg and two southwest German towns to protest the cross-border summit of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which begins Friday. In Strasbourg, many shops and small businesses have shut down during the summit.

Twenty-eight world leaders will attend the two-day summit, including President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In a bid to prevent violence, France has temporarily reinstated border controls with its immediate neighbors for the meeting.

'We want the wars to stop'
As demonstrators gathered in Strasbourg, one Colombian activist, Gregorio Yong, said NATO was "a synonym of war." Daniel Mouray, a protester wrapped in a rainbow flag with "peace," said he expected little from the summit.

"We want the wars to stop and for the Americans to go back home," he said.

German authorities estimate that up to 25,000 protesters will take part in several demonstrations in the German cities of Baden-Baden and Kehl, while France's interior minister has suggested 30,000 to 40,000 could show up in Strasbourg, where a camp has been set up to house demonstrators.

German and French police have said 2,000 to 3,000 members of the violence-prone "black block" — so-called for the black clothes and hoods they wear — were expected.

Some 15,000 German police — including 31 riot squads — and 9,000 French police will be on hand for the summit.

Protest organizers have called for peaceful demonstrations to highlight their complaints, including anti-war, anti-globalization, anti-capitalist and disarmament platforms.

The German chapter of the left-wing Attac group, which is calling for the withdrawal of all NATO troops from Afghanistan and an end to the military alliance, climate protection and a "just world economy," was organizing conferences, camps, demonstrations and blockades.

"The world leaders will be confronted with our protest and our call for a peaceful world," said Attac spokeswoman Gudrun Reiss. "We're calling for massive participation."

The Berlin Anti-fascist Left group said it was sending at least 10 busloads of demonstrators.

The main demonstration begins Friday at noon in Kehl. The activists plan to march across the Rhine river into Strasbourg, with another protest planned for Saturday.

G-20 summit ends
Meanwhile, police were out in force for the G-20 summit Thursday, swarming the east London riverside site as small groups of demonstrators protested world poverty and climate change. A French daredevil scaled a London insurance building to unfurl a banner, delighting people on the ground.

At the ExCel Center in the Docklands area, where leaders of the Group of 20 financial powers held talks on the global economy, police manned barriers and checkpoints around the security perimeter, turning away anyone without accreditation within a half-mile radius. Police boats patrolled the River Thames.

Outside the summit venue, dozens demonstrated with signs that read "Stop Ethiopia from Starving."

At the Bank of England in central London, demonstrators returned to the scene of police clashes to express anger at the death of a man near a protest camp late Wednesday. The circumstances of the 47-year-old man's death were unclear.

About 100 protesters gathered near the bank Thursday, when police cordoned them off and started searching individuals. The protesters observed a minute of silence and set up a wall of condolences before yelling "Shame on you!" at police.

As the numbers of protesters shrank, police chased a small number of demonstrators to the Liverpool Street railway station, cornering them just outside. Several rows of officers closed in on the protesters, who sat down and heckled them.

Daredevil scales high-rise
Earlier Thursday, French daredevil Alain Robert scaled Lloyds of London's high-rise headquarters as office workers gathered below to snap photos.

Image: French extreme climber Alain Robert
Sang Tan  /  AP
French extreme climber Alain Robert unfurls a banner, unseen at right, as workers ascend in a lift, at left, during his protest climb of the Lloyd's of London building to call for awareness of climate change.

Robert, dubbed the French Spider-man, has scaled dozens of tall structures around the world without ropes or harnesses as part of a campaign to draw attention to global warming. He unfurled another climate-change banner in his climb Thursday, before later being led away by police.

Other protesters sat and played a giant Monopoly game near the London Stock Exchange.

"The question is of course who has got the monopoly? It is fairly obvious the G-20 are the global financial elite," said protester Clare Smith, 27.

"Meanwhile the poor are getting poorer and that has even started to show in this country, but has obviously been going on across the world for some time," she said.

Police said there had been 111 arrests so far, most of them Wednesday, when some protesters broke into the Royal Bank of Scotland building and vandalized the Bank of England building.

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