June 5, 2007 in Nation/World

Long fence cordons off meeting site

David Rising Associated Press
 

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany – Bystanders gazed in curiosity and disgust Monday at the razor-wire-topped fence that will separate Group of Eight leaders from the rest of Germany during this week’s summit – part of security measures that, for some, evoke memories of life behind the Iron Curtain.

“It’s not good given the history of Germany – we had it in East Germany, and now it’s up again,” said Ralf Klonschinski, on vacation from eastern Germany, as he looked at a security camera and floodlight perched atop the eight-foot fence.

Cutting across seven miles of farmland near some of Germany’s main seaside playgrounds, the fence is reviving memories of the Berlin Wall as authorities confront the modern realities of global terrorism and radical protest movements.

German officials say a 16,000-strong police presence at the G-8 meeting is the only way to safeguard the free expression of nonviolent demonstrators, after more than 400 police officers and 500 protesters were injured in nearby Rostock over the weekend.

But some precautions don’t feel so benign to Germans.

Prosecutors already face criticism for taking scent samples in a presummit investigation of a handful of G-8 opponents – a technique used by the dreaded East German Stasi secret police to track dissidents with dogs – and for intercepting and opening the mail of another suspect.

Protesters will not legally get anywhere near the barrier, after a court last week upheld a ban on demonstrations within about four miles of the fence.

Days before the summit starts, armored personnel carriers, trucks with water-cannons atop and other support vehicles were put into place, while police helicopters flew overhead.

“I wanted to go a little further, but there’s a tank,” vacationing Hamburg resident Ingeborg Seipel said as she turned her bicycle around. “It’s all a little much.”

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