G-20 Protesters Object To Greek Austerity Program

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People protesting the agenda of the world leaders meeting at the G-20 summit in the south of France are being kept well away from the event. So Thursday, several hundred of them staged a peaceful demonstration in a super wealthy suburb near Monte Carlo. Amid the fabulous villas of the wealthy, the protesters asked why the Greek people have to suffer an austerity program — while the rich benefit from tax havens like Monaco.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

As world leaders gather for the G-20 Summit in Cannes, a counter-summit is taking place further up the coast. The city of Nice has become the home base for thousands of protesters. Though security is tight, activists are staging what they call actions to get their message across to world leaders.

Eleanor Beardsley followed one today on the French border with Monaco.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Here on the rocky French Riviera coast, pastel-colored villas with lush gardens full of palm trees and bougainvillea look down over the blue Mediterranean Sea.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

BEARDSLEY: But today, the usual tranquility of this wealthy Eden was disrupted by hundreds of activists. Prevented from demonstrating at the G-20 Summit in Cannes, they've come here to deliver their message.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

BEARDSLEY: They want an end to tax havens, or paradis fiscal, and have marched right up to the French border with Monaco to paint a giant X over the sign for the principality. Protesters say they are targeting Monaco with its legendary gambling casinos of Monte Carlo because it has no income tax and harbors the super rich.

Twenty-three year old protester, Nalini Stamp, traveled to the Riviera after occupying Wall Street.

NALINI STAMP: I learned a lot here and going to take a lot of it back with me and, you know, continue the movement and I think it's great because it shows international solidarity and because it's a global economic crisis, so you have to have a global movement, which is happening.

BEARDSLEY: Eva Joly, the French presidential candidate for the Green Party, has joined the protesters. She says the best way for Europe to overcome its debt crisis is to strive for social justice.

EVA JOLY: The Greek people who are not rich - their salaries are very low. Their retirements are very low. You cannot ask these sacrifices on ordinary people without justice and without also taxing the international companies and the rich people.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)

BEARDSLEY: These demonstrators are good humored and peaceful making their statement in the face of stern-faced riot police while a police helicopter circles above. While this super security seems a bit unnecessary here, French authorities are taking no chances. They've deployed some 12,000 police officers to maintain order throughout the area and police speed boats patrol the waters filled with luxury yachts in the Riviera harbors.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

BEARDSLEY: Activists have been demonstrating all week, trying to call attention to poverty, injustice and hunger and calling for taxes on international financial transactions to fund development. They say the G-20 is supposed to address the world's problems and they're frustrated by the way the Greek crisis has dominated the discussion.

For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Cannes.

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