Thu, Apr 02, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Protesters converge on London on eve of G20 summit

ACTIVISTS UNITE Protest organizers took up positions to finish plans for demonstrations at the Bank of England and financial firms, while police made their first arrests

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

A Metropolitan police officer stands guard at the area where a suspect package was found in front of the Bank of England in London on Tuesday. The City, London’s financial district, is undergoing heavy police scrutiny as it braces for protests before and during today’s G20 summit, which will host world leaders at the ExCel Centre tackling key issues in the global financial crisis.

PHOTO: EPA

Demonstrators converging on the G20 summit on Tuesday night began taking over squats on the border of London’s City to use as bases from which to launch a series of coordinated “direct action” protests.

The occupation of four buildings prompted the first confrontations with police and marked the start of two days in which officers are expected to play cat and mouse with protesters determined to bring the City to a standstill.

Today’s protests are expected to center around the Bank of England, where anti-capitalist and anarchist groups were to converge at noon, and the European Climate Exchange in Bishopsgate, where at 12:30pm environmental activists say they would “swoop” on the street and set up an overnight camp.

Financial institutions across the capital are on high alert, with police fearing that dozens of small, organized cells of anarchists are planning to peel away and force their way into offices, tube stations or banks.

Protesters have circulated a map of City targets that includes the offices of scores of banks, law firms and energy companies. It identifies 138 targets across the City, with more than 50 financial institutions pinpointed, including some of those blamed for sparking the economic crisis.

Many offices in the City of London were to be closed and boarded-up yesterday, including branches of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB. Hundreds of workers were told to work from home. Those venturing into work were told to “dress down” to avoid potential attacks.

Organizers of yesterday’s protests on Tuesday night expressed dismay at their portrayal as thugs, and accused police of exaggerating the threat. They did, however, say they feared police warnings of “very violent” clashes may have attracted agitators who will infiltrate the demonstrations.

Police yesterday arrived at a derelict pub in the Shoreditch area just by the City, moments after supporters posted the address online, advertising it as “conversion space” for “all anti-G20 action ... and almost ready for the summer of rage.” Officers stopped and searched people entering the building and arrested three, one on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, one for carrying a saw and one for going equipped with weapons.

Inside one cavernous office block around 40 protesters were planning how they could accommodate and feed others who might arrive. At a meeting, they planned rotas to search for food and arrange for friends to bring cooking equipment and other supplies.

On one wall of the meeting room an activist had written instructions in marker pen about what to do if arrested, including the telephone number of a firm of solicitors.

Five other activists affiliated to the group Climate Camp said they were stopped and searched under anti-terrorism legislation at a cafe around the corner from the squat.

“A lot of police came in and very forcefully told use they were stopping and searching under the [UK’s] Terrorism Act,” said Bradley Day, 22.

“We were meeting in the cafe to organize food for our camp, so all they found on us were recipes for cakes and lists of ingredients.”

Scotland Yard said it had no record of the searches.

The majority of protesters are likely to attach themselves to one of three events. Climate Camp will alert around 2,000 campaigners by text message about the whereabouts of their planned “camp,” to be set up somewhere in the Square Mile. The provisional plan was to meet at 12:30pm at the European Climate Exchange.

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