Fri, Apr 03, 2009 - Page 6 News List

UK police arrest 86 people at G20 protests

FORTRESS LONDON: Protesters angry with big bonus payouts at debt-ridden banks vandalized the Royal Bank of Scotland’s London offices

AFP AND REUTERS , LONDON

A naked protester talks to a police officer near the Bank of England in London on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Police said yesterday they made 86 arrests during the lengthy violent protests that besieged central London’s financial district ahead of the G20 summit.

Thousands of people demonstrated on the streets of London on Wednesday in angry demonstrations that descended into violent battles with riot police and saw one man collapse and die.

Protesters were set to take to the streets again yesterday, this time close to the ExCeL exhibition center in east London’s Docklands, where the summit was taking place.

Some protesters smashed their way into the offices of the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) next to the Bank of England on Wednesday, breaking through windows, hurling out office equipment and trying to set it ablaze.

The 86 arrests were for a range of offenses, including violent disorder, aggravated burglary, arson, bomb threats and possession of ammunition.

Four people have been charged with offenses so far, three with possessing a bladed weapon and one with assault.

Police said that about 4,000 protesters had converged on the City of London financial district.

Riot police penned in the protesters and let them out one by one. Some were still being dispersed early yesterday, more than 12 hours after the demonstration began.

Expecting demonstrations and disorder, police launched a massive security operation to keep protesters at bay.

Up to 4,700 police officers, including public order teams, intelligence gatherers and diplomatic security specialists were to be on duty yesterday in the British capital.

The London Stock Exchange opened without incident despite threats from protesters. Police officers circled the entrance to the building.

On Wednesday, riot police staged baton charges to try to disperse several hundred people protesting against a financial system they said had robbed the poor to benefit the rich. At one stage, about 4,000 protesters had thronged outside the central bank.

Rescued by the government in October, RBS and former boss Fred Goodwin, who controversially refused to give up a pension of £700,000 (US$1 million), became lightning rods for public anger in the UK over banker excess blamed for the financial crisis.

During the protests one man died after he collapsed and stopped breathing. Police said they tried to resuscitate him but that they came under a hail of bottles. The man was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A police source said it was likely the man died from a medical condition but that a post-mortem was needed.

The protests in London’s City financial area coincided with a G20 meeting of the world’s leading and emerging economies.

Protesters hurled paint bombs and bottles, chanting: “Our streets! Our banks!”

RBS said in a statement it was “aware of the violence” outside its branch and “had already taken the precautionary step” of closing central City branches.

As dusk fell, police charged a hard core of anti-capitalist demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them before nightfall. Bottles flew through the air towards police lines and police on horseback stood by ready to intervene.

Some protesters set fire to an effigy of a banker hanging from a lamp post.

Police brought out dogs as they tried to channel the few hundred remaining protesters through the narrow streets surrounding the classical, stone-clad Bank of England.

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