Five injured in protests at "Business Olympics" (UPDATE: Updates throughout)
MELBOURNE, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Five people, including two policemen, were injured on Monday as thousands of anti-corporate activists protested outside the World Economic Forum's Asia Pacific meeting at a Melbourne casino complex.
Police estimated about 1,500 demonstrators filled the streets around the Crown Casino hotel to voice concerns about the impact of globalisation on the poor as government and international business leaders gathered inside.
Protesters linked arms to block entrances and exits to the city centre complex, stopping some delegates from gaining access and delaying the summit's start by 15 minutes, while police, some on horseback, tried to hold back the crowds.
About 50 baton-wielding police charged about 100 protesters who surrounded the car of conservative Western Australian state Premier Richard Court, trapping him inside for about 40 minutes as they bounced on the roof and spraypainted the vehicle's body.
Court's car was turned back and did not enter the complex, although Australian Treasurer Peter Costello was among the 1,000 or so delegates seen inside the casino.
Most of the day's main speakers were shepherded safely inside the complex well before the meeting was due to begin and the large media contingent was ordered to gather before dawn to gain entry.
Ambulance spokesman Peter Jeppesen said five people, including two policemen, two protesters and one casino worker, were taken to hospital after suffering injuries in the crush and several others were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
``All five who needed hospital treatment are now stable and comfortable,'' Jeppesen told Reuters shortly before midday.
``The protest was much livelier early on this morning but it seems to have settled down a little now.''
Police were well prepared for demonstrations at the three-day event dubbed the ``Business Olympics''.
Protest organisers forecast tens of thousands would rally to stop the Asia-Pacific forum, being held as tens of thousands of tourists and thousands of journalists descend on Australia for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Fearing a repeat of the violence that engulfed Seattle during a World Trade Organisation meeting last November, officials erected three-metre (10-foot) high barricades across access points and about 800 police were guarding the casino.
But the loose alliance of activists, waving banners accusing the forum's participants of pursuing ``Corporate Greed Not Global Justice'', faced a tough task bid to shut down the meeting, whose guests include Microsoft Corp (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news) chairman Bill Gates and the heads of Novell Inc (NasdaqNM:NOVL - news) and Siemens AG .
Police on high alert for trouble met over the weekend with leaders of the aliance, dubbed S11 for the September 11 start date of the summit, and assured them they could protest as long as they stayed peaceful and did not damage property.
``It has been a peaceful demonstration so far with no arrests,'' a police spokeswoman told Reuters.
Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker estimated up to 7,000 protesters had gathered outside the casino but the event had remained peaceful besides a few scuffles.
``I've been here since 5 a.m. (1600 GMT) and I have witnessed thousands of people in mass civil disobedience that has taken the form of physically blockading the entrances,'' he told Reuters.
But the protesters did manage to block some delegates from gaining access to the complex, forcing organisers to change plans to hold the day's lunch within the casino complex itself.