FRENCH riot cops fired a water cannon and tear gas at crowds protesting against the G7 summit as violent clashes erupted.
At least 68 demonstrators were arrested in chaotic scenes in Bayonne as world leaders gathered in nearby Biarritz on Saturday.
Thousands of anti-globalisation activists, Basque separatists and ‘yellow vest’ protesters joined forces to march on the summit.
Officials say those detained are accused of throwing projectiles, hiding their faces or possessing objects that could be used as weapons.
Police fired tear gas, water cannon and dispersion grenades at a crowd of about 400 mostly peaceful anti-capitalism demonstrators on Saturday.
No injuries were reported in the skirmishes, reports claim.
The clash took place near a bridge barricaded by police as part of extensive security measures around the G7 summit.
Earlier on Saturday thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully to the Spanish border to demand more action against climate change and economic inequality.
Four police officers were lightly wounded on Friday after protesters fired a homemade mortar near the anti-G7 gathering in Hendaye.
RING OF STEEL
A ring of steel has been set up around the site where seven world leaders – including Donald Trump and Boris Johnson – have met for a weekend of talks in Biarritz.
Surfers were moved on from the waters off the resort coast and French military were seen carrying out a de-mining sweep on the beaches nearby.
Cops on motorbikes are patrolling the streets of the southern France seaside town, as cars are thoroughly checked and the resort has been left almost deserted.
In 2018, protest groups in Quebec focused on global trade, the environment, migration, aboriginal rights and a number of other issues.
A coalition organised “a mass demonstration against the G7, capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, racism and borders”.
Also known as the Group of Seven, these countries are the seven largest economies of the world.
Together, they represent more than 62 per cent of the global net wealth ($280trillion).
‘COUNTER G7 SUMMIT’
A “counter-G7” summit is being in the twin cities of Hendaye, France and Irun, Spain, just south of G7 venue Biarritz.
Some 50 NGOs are meeting to protest at economic and climate policies pursued by the world’s leading industrial countries and to promote alternatives.
“The cynicism of the G7 meeting is that it has made inequality the central theme of the event, but it is these rich countries’ very policies that create and strengthen inequality,” said Sebastien Bailleul, a spokesman for “Alternatives G7”.
He said he saw no contradiction in international anti-globalisation activists working with France’s “yellow vest” movement, which grew from a protest against green taxes on fuel.
The “yellow vest” movement included figures with far-right sympathies and has been marked by rioting and looting in a series of often violent weekly protests end 2018-early 2019.
Bailleul added the Basque independence movement in Spain has abandoned violence.
In 2011, Basque militant separatist group ETA announced an indefinite halt to its campaign of armed action which killed more than 850 people in Spain over half a century.
“The organisation of this counter-summit is with those Basque movements that are rather leftist, and who have the same worldview as the anti-globalisation movement,” he said.
GROUP OF SEVEN
The G7 group was founded in the early 1970s as the seven countries discussed concerns about the collapse of the oil industry.
Since then, 43 summits have been held across the globe as members discuss everything from the environment to the economy.
The group was previously known as the G8 and counted Russia among its members, but Russia has been excluded since annexing the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014.
Issues on the agenda at the G7 include the global economy, tackling inequality and responding to the challenges of the digital age and the rise of artificial intelligence.
Mr Macron also called for leaders to address the destruction in the Amazon, telling the G7 “our house is burning”.
Mr Johnson said the UK would “never flinch” from its responsibilities as a leading international nation and part of the G7 – which also comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
He said: “My message to G7 leaders this week is this: the Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation.
“We will be an energetic partner on the world stage. We will stand alongside our G7 allies to solve the most pressing international issues.”