Riot police sprayed water hoses at protesters on Friday attempting to break through a barricade to reach a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders and raise their grievances against free trade. ens of thousands of security forces have been deployed around the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit venue and beachside hotels where leaders including U.S. President George W. Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin are staying. The leaders are set to endorse a statement expressing support for the current round of World Trade Organization talks, and to discuss counterterrorism, bird flu and other issues.
A group of some 4,000 protesters had marched through the port city of Busan before reaching the blockade of shipping containers placed by police in a road near the convention center where the summit is being held. The demonstrators dispersed after several hours near the venue that saw clashes between some of the crowd and police.
Police said 11 officers were injured when they fell from the containers that were moved by the protesters attempting to break through the barricade. Only one protester was seen managing to break through, who was promptly arrested.
The demonstration dissipated after police warned they would drop water from a helicopter on the crowd to end the gathering.
Earlier, police opened up on the demonstrators with water hoses when they failed to heed orders to stop banging on the barricade. Some activists threw rocks and other debris.
Under the barrage of water, the protesters fastened a rope to several shipping containers and pulled them out of the line. At least a couple of police helicopters buzzed overhead, while the crowd chanted, "No Bush! No APEC!"
Earlier Friday at the start of one of the protests, about 3,000 farmers, some dressed in traditional white Korean funeral clothes, held a memorial ceremony for one of two farmers who killed themselves in recent days by drinking herbicide, leaving suicide notes blaming plans to liberalize the domestic rice market.
"What she wanted to tell us by dying was to fight," Yoon Geum-soon, head of the Coalition of Women Farmers, said of the latest suicide victim. "We will fight, we will crush APEC, we will crush WTO, we will kick out Bush."
"The government is trying to kill the farmers. If we open the rice market, all farmers are going to die," said Lee Byung-kwan, 72, a farmer from Jinju.
At another protest that later converged with the farmers, about 1,000 laborers burned a coffin that had "APEC" written on it.
"Rural communities are facing collapse as rice imports are being forced upon them," opposition lawmaker Dan Pyung-ho said at the event.
Clashes erupted at a protest in Seoul earlier this week where some 10,000 farmers confronted a nearly equal number of riot police, and the activists had vowed to bring their fight to APEC, reports the AP. I.L.
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