MOSCOW, December 13 (Sputnik) - A group of over 200 angry protesters launched violent protests in central Zurich Friday night, police resorting to teargas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the crowd, Agence France-Presse reports.
The protesters, some equipped with gas masks, protective clothing and iron bars, gathered at around 10 pm Friday. Clashes with police are said to have erupted shortly after, as protesters threw rocks and other projectiles at officers, set a police car, garbage bins and trees on fire and got ahold of police equipment before police reinforcements could arrive, AFP explained.
In the course of the violence the hooligans broke storefront windows, threw Molotov cocktails, set parked cars on fire, and threw projectiles at a crowded restaurant, forcing frightened patrons to escape out the back of the eatery or into its basement. The mayhem is said to have led to hundreds of thousands of euros in damage.
Police were able to restore order by midnight, with four men – two Swiss nationals, a Briton and a Liechtensteiner, arrested. Seven officers are said to have been injured.
Police characterized the protesters as left wing radicals. Rioters came armed with a banner featuring the phrase “Reclaim the Streets”, referring to a disruptive but generally peaceful global protest movement promoting the ideal of community ownership of public spaces, and the lessening of dependence on the automobile as a mode of transportation. Reclaim the Streets protests have taken place in cities across Europe, North America, and Australia since the mid-1990s, with protesters generally aiming to paralyze traffic on crowded city streets to attract attention to their cause.
Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, has previously been host to two such events, in August 2002 and February 2010. The city is known for being among Europe’s wealthiest cities, the center of the global trade in gold, and host to numerous banking giants as well as Switzerland’s Stock Exchange, the world’s fourth largest.