Thousands march against NATO, 42 detained

Police block group of demonstrators during an anti-NATO march in downtown Lisbon November 20, 2010. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

LISBON (Reuters) - Thousands of anti-NATO protesters marched peacefully through downtown Lisbon on Saturday and police detained several dozen activists who blocked a road to the military alliance’s summit venue.

The protesters shouted “peace yes, NATO no” as they walked down Lisbon’s main thoroughfare in a rally that gathered around 10,000 people, many of them Portuguese trades union members.

A police spokesman said 42 people were detained for identification after closing off an avenue, but there was no violence.

The authorities mounted what they said was Portugal’s biggest ever security operation for the summit, where NATO leaders agreed to hand control of security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

Security services barred at least 200 people from entering Portugal in an effort to avoid a repeat of violent protests that marred NATO’s 60th anniversary meeting in Strasbourg last year.

Police cordoned off a small, vocal group of activists carrying anarchist flags at the end of Saturday’s march but no serious incidents were reported.

“There is a clear attempt to not allow any dissent to be voiced about NATO’s strategy,” said Tobias Pfluger, a campaigner from the “No To War, No To NATO” group and former member of the European parliament.

Reporting by Andrei Khalip and Shrikesh Laxmidas; editing by Jon Boyle