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Tight Security, but Police Play Down Occupy Protesters

First timers to the World Economic Forum in Davoswill be surprised and impressed by the high visibility of security here, even if they're long-standing members of the international-conference-going, power-wielding, helicopter-renting set.

Impression of a security staff next to the WEF-logo during preparation for the upcoming Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2012.
Moritz Hager
Impression of a security staff next to the WEF-logo during preparation for the upcoming Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2012.

Spokesman Thomas Hobi of the Graubünden Cantonal Police told CNBC that the manpower on hand this year—a combination of Swiss police, private civil security and the Swiss army—is similar to past years, though he didn't want to say how many security staff are working the Forum.

Igloo-building Occupy protesters have descended on Davos this year—a first for the conference since, well, the Occupy movement didn't exist during the 2011 Forum—and the Associated Press reported that soldiers and police have erected a "ring of steel" around the heart of Davosin order to keep the Occupy demonstrators out. About 18 kilometers of security barriers have been put in place, the report said, erected by thousands of soldiers.

So far, the only real sign of the protesters' presence within the city center is the occasional spray-painted slogan on the giant snow banks. Last night a group of us came across a heap of the white stuff that said, "Capitalism Kills. Fight Back," in red paint. I suppose you can't be arrested for vandalism when you're tagging up something that's going to melt anyway.

Hobi insisted that police have no problem with the protesters, at least in principle.

"The presence of Occupy isn’t a problem for the police as long as they demonstrate friendly and follow the rules," he said. "The authorities of Canton Graubünden are in principle willing to support a constructive dialogue in the form of a demonstration. In the event of an unauthorized demonstration, the authorities would take any necessary measures to ensure the security and freedom of movement of residents and guests."

Reports have put the total security bill for this year's conference at about $8 million.

  • Slideshow: 20 Important Faces at Davos 2012