In a frantic rage last weekend, anarchist protesters broke shop windows, attacked a Starbucks cafe and set fire to at least four cars to demonstrate their opposition to a World Trade Organization conference.
All typical targets for anti-globalization extremists, but for one.
The victims of property damage also included a senior United Nations official working to help poorer countries develop their economies through new commerce, the Associated Press has learned.
“The police told me they could do nothing to stop the demonstrators,” said Kobsak Chutikul, special adviser to the head of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, which often opposes the WTO with more radical suggestions to help developing nations.
Chutikul parked his car near the Ambassador Hotel in central Geneva last Saturday, when hooded “black bloc” activists broke away from a peaceful anti-globalization demonstration.
In the ensuing violence, activists smashed all six windows of Chutikul’s brand new Mercedez-Benz, he wrote in an e-mail to the AP.
“It was not even something aimed at WTO, just an excuse for indiscriminate and random acts of vandalism and violence,” Chutikul said. “The vandals attacked any easy target of convenience.”
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to separate the violent demonstrators and arrested 14 people, including four looters. No injuries to police or protesters were reported, but an 80-year-old woman lost her balance, fell and had to be hospitalized.
Chutikul said authorities should have moved faster to stamp out the violence.
“Regrettably, the Swiss authorities seem content to allow a day of madness once in a while and were rather blase about the whole thing,” he said.
Chutikul, currently attending a U.N. conference in New York, contrasted the calmness of demonstrations in the Big Apple to Geneva, where previous protests against G-8 summits, the World Economic Forum and other WTO gatherings have turned violent.
“One wonders whether its the mentality of the people or the police measures, or both, that account for the difference,” he said.