One monk, one drag queen vs 12,000 police at French G8

Fri May 27, 2011 3:00pm EDT
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By Anthony Paone

DEAUVILLE, France (Reuters) - A few hundred campers in a faraway forest, one Buddhist monk and one drag queen -- protest at G8 summits is not what it used to be.

With nary an activist in sight, the Deauville summit will go down in history for its lack of organized protest, in sharp contrast to past events like the April 2009 NATO meeting in Strasbourg, northeast France, where rioters laid waste to a neighborhood and set several buildings ablaze.

The 12,000 police officers securing the seaside town of Deauville, host of the annual Group of Eight summit, spent most of their time checking entry badges.

Praying alone at a Deauville roundabout, Japanese Buddhist monk Sekiguchi Toyoshige cut a lonely figure as motorbike outriders and world leaders in limos whizzed past him.

"I came here for praying for peace, harmony of religions and abolishment of nuclear weapons and nuclear plants," he said.

He walked from Paris to Deauville in 12 days. French families gave him food and lodging. Police took away his banner.

"Maybe French policemen not interested, don't like this message, I think so," said the monk, dressed in flowing saffron robes, a pair of sneakers the only nod to modernity.

Authorities had turned Deauville -- bordered by the sea, a river and two horse race tracks -- into an impregnable fortress.   Continued...