G-20 protesters clashed with riot police in downtown London yesterday, breaking into the heavily guarded Royal Bank of Scotland and smashing its windows. Earlier, they tried to storm the Bank of England and pelted police with eggs and fruit.
At least 4,000 anarchists, anti-capitalists, environmentalists and others jammed into London’s financial district for what they called “Financial Fool’s Day.” The protests were called ahead of Thursday’s summit of world leaders, who hope to take concrete steps to resolve the global financial crisis that has lashed nations and workers worldwide.
Some protesters spray-painted the side of the RBS building with the phrases “class war” and “thieves.” Others pushed against columns of riot police who swatted them away with batons.
Demonstrators shouted “Abolish Money!” and clogged streets in the area known as “The City” even as Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama held a news conference elsewhere in the British capital.
At least eight people were arrested but there were no serious injuries reported.
Royal Bank of Scotland is at the center of protesters’ anger because it had to be bailed out by the British government after a series of disastrous deals brought it to the brink of bankruptcy. The bank is now majority-owned by the British taxpayer.
Helicopters hovered above the protests and some buildings were boarded up. Many banks had extra security and hundreds of police officers lined the streets.
Demonstrators hoisted effigies of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” representing war, climate chaos, financial crimes and homelessness.
“The greed that is driving people is tearing us apart,” said Steve Lamont, 45, flanked by his family and protesters who were banging on bells, playing drums and blowing whistles.
One police officer lost his helmet and demonstrators tossed it around like a trophy and chanted slogans.
Fearing they would be targeted by protesters, some bankers swapped their pinstripe suits for casual wear and others stayed home. Bolder financial workers leaned out their office windows yesterday, taunting demonstrators and waving 10 pound notes at them.
Especially in Britain, bankers have been lambasted as being greedy and blamed for the recession that is making jobless ranks soar.
Protesters waved banners reading “Banks are evil,” “Eat the bankers,” and “0% interest in others.”
One protester dressed as the Easter bunny managed to hop through the police cordon but was stopped before he could reach the Bank of England. Another black-clad demonstrator waved a fake light saber at officers.
Musician and political activist Billy Bragg said the time was now to make a difference.
“It’s better than sitting down shouting at the television at these bankers,” he said. “We cannot go back to the way things were before to the million-dollar bonus culture.”
Source: The Daily Star, 02 April 2009