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Police defend gas tactic

As a man-made cyclone of tear gas swirled ...

As a man-made cyclone of tear gas swirled outside the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City yesterday, police a few blocks away defended their tactics in turning away hundreds of protesters who tore down large patches of the barricade built to keep them out.

"The tear gas served its purpose - it dispersed the crowd of protesters," said Inspector Robert Poeti of the Surete du Quebec.

"It got rid of the people who didn't want any part of that kind of thing. And the ones who stayed were the ones we wanted to deal with - the ones interested in fighting."

Police don't relish clashing with demonstrators, Poeti said, but sometimes confrontations like yesterday's are unavoidable.

"They were disgraceful images, I admit," Poeti said of the scenes shown on newscasts throughout the globe last night. "And it's not something police like doing.

"But our mandate is to secure the perimeter and protect the delegates inside, and that's what we did."

As police displayed the wide range of objects hurled at riot police by protesters - hockey pucks, golf balls, rocks - they also took great pains to defend the 3.8-kilometre fence erected to protect delegates.

Even though it crumpled quickly during its first real test yesterday, police said the fence served its purpose.

"Even after the fence went down, no one pierced the perimeter," Poeti said.

"We've been saying all along - the security fence is only meant as a temporary measure. We're not really surprised something like this could happen.

"But the way police handled the situation, we had complete control of the perimeter. No one got within 10 feet inside (the fence) before being turned back," Poeti said.

Police said they were more than willing to let the protesters march the streets after they left Universite Laval, but things changed around 2 p.m when a policeman was ambushed.