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In Australia, protesters disrupt economic meet

It was an unlikely meeting.

An American merchant banker in a crisp suit stood Tuesday under a railroad overpass discussing the global economy with protesters in tattered jeans.

Thomas Russo, vice chairman of Lehman Brothers Inc., was jostled and shoved as he left an economic summit but minutes later chatted with a group of seven protesters about their concerns over globalization.

"They pushed me around a bit," he said of the earlier confrontation. "I knew I couldn't do anything about it because it would have started a riot."

Unhurt and unperturbed, Russo began chatting with protesters.

"You want to hear what they have to say," Russo said. "These people are sincere, they are good people. They have a view and somehow or other you have to incorporate their view into your way of thinking."

Melbourne police were not so accommodating.

At least 22 protesters were hospitalized and scores more injured in a series of clashes that marred a generally peaceful second day of the three-day Asia-Pacific Economic Summit.

In a worrying development for the Sydney Olympics that open Friday, many protesters from Melbourne also will be staging demonstrations in Sydney.

The protesters, a ragtag group of about 3,000 whose numbers were briefly swelled by about 5,000 labor unionists, condemned corporations for exploiting workers in developing nations and for having poor environmental standards.

After protesters stopped about 200 of the nearly 900 delegates from entering the Crown Casino complex Monday, police took stronger action early Tuesday, charging through blockades to allow buses carrying delegates into the site.

Protest spokesman Stephen Jolly condemned police tactics.

"We've had a whole pile of protesters attacked by police on horseback," he said. "It's way out of line."

Police said the measures were appropriate.

"What we have over the last few days is not peaceful protest but something verging on riot where we have had ball bearings, marbles, screws, glass and urine thrown at police officers," said Andre Haermeyer, police minister in the Victoria state government.