February 7, 2006

Protesters target Laura Bush’s visit to Games

By Antonella Ciancio

TURIN (Reuters) - Anti-capitalist protesters vowed on
Tuesday to mount street demonstrations at the Winter Olympics
and try to disrupt U.S. First Lady Laura Bush's visit to the
host Italian city.

The protests will target the February 10-26 Games and their
multinational sponsors, a high-speed train planned for a valley
near the host city Turin, a proposed Italian anti-drug law and
unemployment, organizers said.

"Our goal is to give voice to dissent," Turin resident
Andrea Bonadonna told a news conference attended by students,
trade unionists and unemployed workers.

The protesters pledged to demonstrate against Laura Bush if
she accepts an invitation to visit the University of Turin on
Saturday, the day after the Games' opening ceremony which she
is expected to attend.

"We are against the 'first lady of war' coming to the Turin
Olympics," Dario Rossini, a 26-year-old student, said without
elaborating on what type of protest they might mount.

Although Italy has troops in Iraq and Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi is close to U.S. President George W. Bush, most
Italians opposed the U.S.-led invasion and the presence of
Italian forces in Iraq.

Italy has deployed thousands of police, snipers and armed
skiers to patrol the slopes, venues and living quarters of
athletes staying in Turin and villages in the nearby Alps.


On Monday, Italy's security and intelligence forces met in
Rome to discuss last-minute security measures because of Muslim
fury over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

The cartoons, which originated in Denmark and were
subsequently published in newspapers around the world, sparked
angry protests around the Muslim world.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said last month that there
was no credible information about terrorist threats to the
Olympics, in contrast to security concerns that dogged the 2004
Athens Games.

But officials have expressed concern that anti-capitalist
protesters like those who clashed with riot police at a 2001
Group of Seven summit in Genoa could disrupt the Games, to be
attended by at least 15 heads of state or government.

"We are assessing just what steps to take," local police
chief Goffredo Sottile told Reuters when asked about the
planned protests. "Peaceful dissent is legal, but if it becomes
illegal, we'll take the necessary steps."

Protesters targeting mainly Games sponsor Coca Cola and the
planned high-speed rail have repeatedly disrupted the two-month
journey of the Olympic torch across Italy.

The Turin protesters said they intended to demonstrate
peacefully, starting on Thursday when the Olympic torch passes
through Turin.