While there was a tense standoff between police and demonstrators at one event and a single arrest, the protests were largely peaceful as more than 5,000 police and troops patrolled the city.
Video: Hyde Park protests
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Activists say the security clampdown for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit had forced them to get creative when making their point, as authorities had restricted traditional activities such as marches.
Without doubt the cheekiest protest was an event called "Bums for Bush", where anti-war organisers say they wanted to lay down the bottom line for visiting US President George W. Bush over the war in Iraq.
They failed to get the 2,000 behinds, or 4,000 cheeks, required to set the world record for mooning but said they made their point with a "21-bum salute" for Bush, with one posterior for every government represented at the summit.
Letters painted on some of the bottoms spelled out "bums not bombs", raising cheers from about 450 onlookers.
"We want to put Bush on his arse," mooning protester Jeff Halliday says as he buttoned up his trousers.
"It's a serious issue but it helps to have a laugh about it."
A group of surfers at Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach kicked off a series of protests by groups concerned over a range of causes, including climate change and the Iraq war, or simply unhappy with Bush's presence Down Under.
About 75 surfers, many wearing wetsuits to ward off the spring morning chill, gathered on the Bondi sands at sunrise around a huge banner demanding APEC endorse binding targets for reducing the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Greens senator Kerry Nettle maintained the beach theme when she held a press conference in the heart of Sydney's financial district flanked by 21 supporters dressed as surf-lifesavers.
Ms Nettle says police had initially banned her event, even though it is not near the three-metre (nine foot) fence that has been built through the middle of the city to create an exclusion zone for visiting dignitaries.
"The police operation is overkill," she says.
"I'm glad the police, albeit belatedly, saw sense and allowed this peaceful event to proceed."
Veteran against war
Former US marine Matt Howard shares Ms Nettle’s sentiment.
“You’ve literally locked down your whole city, it’s unbelievable. Sydney is Australia’s signature city, but you can’t even go through half of it. “
“There are more police officers here than there are Australian troops stationed in Iraq.”
Mr Howard has been brought to Sydney by the Stop the War Coalition to speak about what he witnessed serving in Iraq.
Mr Howard says the security surrounding APEC is the tightest he’s ever seen.
“I’ve marched on the capitol building itself throughout the White House lawn.
“We have a rich tradition of protest in Washington DC and I’ve never seen anything like the lockdown we’re seeing right now in Sydney.”
The government declared a special public holiday Friday to keep most people out of the centre of town as the presidents and prime ministers whizz about in huge motorcades.
The protests were mostly been peaceful, but there was a minor scuffle when some pro-Bush demonstrators arrived, resulting in a man being arrested and charged with assaulting police.
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