Protesters rally against World Economic Forum

GENEVA/DAVOS, Switzerland Sat Jan 31, 2009 1:19pm EST

1 of 6. A protestor takes part in a demonstration against the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) in Geneva January 31, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

GENEVA/DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Hundreds of people rallied in Geneva and Davos Saturday to protest against the World Economic Forum, saying the elite gathered for it annual meeting are not qualified to fix the world's problems.

Carrying banners reading 'You are the Crisis' and throwing snowballs, several hundred protesters marched to fences surrounding the heavily guarded Hotel Seehof in the Davos ski resort, where many world leaders and business people stay during the forum.

Protester Alex Heideger, a member of the Davos Green Party, said these were the people to blame for the economic mess.

"It's the same people who came last year and said the world economic situation is fine, and now we're in a financial crisis. Now it's the taxpayer who has to solve the whole problem.

"It's people like you and me who have to pay for it with their tax money," he said.

In Geneva, where the WEF has its headquarters, police in riot gear fired tear gas and water canon to disperse a crowd that had gathered in a square near the train station, sending people running in all directions. Witnesses said there did not appear to be any violence by the protesters.

The rally in the city's normally staid streets was not formally permitted by local authorities.

Geneva police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt said that about 60 people were detained temporarily for checks but there have been no arrests. About 30 have been released and the rest are due to be released soon, he said. "There are small groups of people who are clashing with police but there have not been any injuries on one side or the other," Brandt said, saying there were also no reports of damage to buildings or businesses so far.

Florence Proton of ATTAC Suisse, one of the Geneva organizers, said it was important for outside voices to be heard in debates about how to resolve the crisis.

"The people meeting in Davos are the ones responsible for this economic crises that is becoming, and is now, global," she told Reuters, speaking in French.

(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Additional reporting by Tessa Unsworth, Reuters Television; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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