April 3, 2009
Story by Alberto Furlan, pictures by Andrew Otto
Thousands gathered outside the Bank of England to protest ahead of the G20 summit in London, resulting in 26 arrests by sundown and one injured protester.
Incidents were limited, with five protesters shattering the window at the Royal Bank of Scotland and throwing computers out. One person was injured after confrontation with the police.
The majority of the protests were peaceful as four parades, each one lead by a ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’, converged from different tube stations to the square outside the Bank.
Once there, thousands sang, waved placards, scaled walls and danced in a general mood of merriment. Some were seeing sleeping on the pavements and making coffee on a campfire.
However, the police tactics of sealing off the entire square and letting no-one out soured the mood as people wanted to move on, needing the bathroom or food.
One policeman said he “did not know when you are allowed out. We are just waiting for orders. Sorry.” He then marched forward and closed the police cordon even further.
“This is a dead canary. He is going to Canary Wharf,” said one protester dressed in a doctor’s outfit and carrying a stretcher with a huge model of a dead canary, underlining the good humour of the majority of protesters.
The police were determined not to let anybody through without a media pass, and even that did not always suffice.
While the Metropolitan force did, for the most part, a good job of keeping protesters in defined areas, they were also at times confused. On one occasion orders were repeated a number of times and they still failed to seal off the right road.
A passage between two roads was also left unguarded by the police but the protesters failed to notice and they kept on partying and hassling the front line of yellow-clad constables.
As night descended, more skirmishes broke out as police tried to clear the tents of protesters camped near Liverpool Street Station.
April 2, 2009
As world leaders gathered in London to tackle the financial crisis which has crippled global trade, Westminster News Online’s Brigitte Istim joined a colourful array of protesters to gauge the mood of the crowds in the City.
G20 Meltdown - a coalition of anarchists, environmental activists and people who are just rather cross with bankers - designated 1 April 2009 as Financial Fools Day.
Initially outnumbered by reporters and photographers, a group of protesters assemble on the south side of London Bridge in the spring sunshine. They gather round a large red and green banner which read: Capitalism bringing you a lower quality of life since sixteenth century.
Dorine Jadeau helped make the banner. A veteran of protests in France she was determined “not to miss” G20.
One of the four horsemen of the apocalypse arrives complete with scythe, a skeleton swathed in silver lame - death meets cabaret. A small group of demonstrators dressed all in black, scarves wrapped round their faces, hurries past. They look slightly more purposeful than everyone else, except the attendant police.
The crowd ambles across London Bridge, lead by silver skeleton and a jazz band. A tour bus sits becalmed in the middle of the crowd. Heaven knows what the guide is saying.
Once north of the river the protest swells and begins to feel like a single giant creature, rather than an assortment of people out for a stroll. Banners and bank premises multiply, the crowd whistles, cheers and boos. A group of watching office workers holds a placard to a window announcing: We are not bankers.
By the Bank of England we unite with the other three horsemen of the apocalypse dressed in black, red and dark green. They cavort in front of the bank, accompanied by at least two effigies of bankers, one wearing a bowler hat and a noose round his neck.
The very mixed nature of the crowd becomes apparent. Josh is part of a group carrying red ‘revolution’ flags but wouldn’t describe himself as an anarchist.
“I’m just angry about inequality and injustice. I’ll be at the G20 meeting tomorrow to try and make all those world leaders hear my opinions,” he said.
Jessica Tate is statuesque, blonde and very articulate, She counts several bankers as friends and it is partly as a result of conversations with them that she decided to take to the street today.
“What annoys me is the fact that so many bankers think they have a God-given right to huge salaries,” she said. “When I asked a banker friend if he would consider giving up his bonus he just said: ‘Jessica do you have any idea of the size of my bonus?”’
And does she have a good idea of just how big friend’s bonus might be?
“I think I would be shocked if I found out. Shocked and frustrated when I think of what people like doctors and nurses earn in comparison.”
Steve Nichols has designed his own banner, a masterpiece of Photoshopping which has turned Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling into Laurel and Hardy.
Steve looks shrewd and steady, not the type to anger quickly. Why is he here?
“I’m fed up with seeing my savings decimated while big bankers receive huge bonuses. My father is a pensioner and his income from savings has been decimated,” he said.
Picnics and gymnastics
Now the Bank of England is sprouting people like fungus as they cling to the pillars on its facade and scribble slogans on its grey stone with coloured chalk. One man shins up a pillar and then swings back and forth between columns, hanging up banners.
Chris Knight, the Professor of Anthropology at East London University who gained notoriety for his remark about bankers “hanging from lamp-posts” seems in good form, striding around dressed as Dr Death in black cloak and top hat. He urges his supporters to carry a large banner - ‘Capitalism isn’t working’ - over to the steps of the Royal Exchange next to the Bank of England.
“Pick it up, it needs to be seen. I can’t do everything, I’m an old man,” he says.
The sun carries on shining. People sit in the street, smoking, drinking and eating sandwiches as the traffic lights flick unheeded from red to amber to green. A beer bottle arcs lazily through the air near a line of mounted riot police. Otherwise all seems peaceful.
Later, the Evening Standard reports riot and bloodshed outside the Royal Bank of Scotland. High drama has passed apparently passed me by literally yards away.