South Korean protesters collide with police at WTO meeting

Dozens of South Korean protesters, some with plastic wrap over their eyes to protect them from pepper spray, clashed with riot police Wednesday for the second straight day at a World Trade Organization meeting. No serious injuries were immediately reported. Security forces fought back with clubs and shields as about 100 Koreans spent 45 minutes trying to punch and kick their way through a police line a few blocks from the WTO's meeting venue. After the Koreans left, a small group of Filipino and Indonesian demonstrators briefly scuffled with police.

The protesters were among thousands of anti-globalization activists here who oppose the WTO's efforts to lower trade barriers, a move they say will wipe out their farmers and other industries. The WTO meeting began Tuesday and was to end Sunday.

The Korean's clash with police appeared to be carefully choreographed by the protesters. Dressed in matching red vests saying "Down, down WTO," the protesters attacked in waves, surging forward and scuffling with police to the beat of drums before backing away a few steps to rest and regroup.

They protected their faces by covering their eyes with plastic wrap and wearing red bandanas over their mouths. But several got hit in the face with pepper spray, brown skin-stinging foam shot from an aerosol can.

Some of the protesters snatched police shields and tossed them to their comrades in the back of the crowd. They later stacked the shields on the ground, surrounded them and chanted before returning them to the police.

Between attacks, a troupe of Korean drummers in wide-brimmed straw hats entertained the crowd by banging gongs and dancing in a circle. As they concluded their protest, the Koreans picked up scraps of torn signs, plastic bottles and other protest litter. They put it in a neat pile for street sweepers to clean up.

Wednesday's protest began peacefully with hundreds of marchers demonstrating against the WTO's campaign to lower trade barriers in the service sector. But the march turned violent as the South Koreans joined near the meeting venue. The march was the third anti-WTO protest this week. A massive street demonstration was peaceful on Sunday, but a protest on Tuesday became violent when South Korean farmers scuffled with police near the WTO meeting venue in downtown Hong Kong.

The protesters and police clashed as the South Korean farmers tried to carry a large mock wooden coffin to the meeting venue. The farmers hit the riot police with bamboo poles and the officers answered with pepper spray. The fight lasted about a half hour, reports the AP. I.L.

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