Demonstrators get crash courses on legal rights ahead of London summit

AFP , LONDON

Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 6

As world leaders jet into London this week, armies of protestors are preparing to take to the streets — and they have been training to make sure their voices are clearly heard.

With aims ranging from saving the planet to tearing down capitalism, tens of thousands are expected to rally as US President Barack Obama takes his first steps on European soil since taking office.

“I think it has the potential to make the difference — if it’s big enough and loud enough,” Climate Camp campaigner Katie said ahead of Thursday’s G20 summit, held amid fortress-like security in east London’s Docklands.

The activists, many of them veterans of protest against power stations and airport expansions, have been trained in everything from media awareness to how to defuse tense situations.

A two-day crash course also teaches them about their legal rights, and what to do and say if they are arrested.

Their bold aim is to turn the City of London — the very symbol of capitalism in their eyes — into a giant protest camp, whether it be against environmental change or the global financial system.

“Some people are saying that it’s time to kickstart growth,” said teenager Mel, who like other protestors is wary of giving her full name.

“But economic growth itself is what has caused the ecological crisis we are now facing with climate. So we are saying that isn’t the way forward,” she said.

Several protests are planned, while police have already warned of others who may use “ambush” tactics to try and catch them out.

In response, some 2,500 police will be deployed for the G20 summit, and even more will protect and escort leaders from the meeting venue to receptions at British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street offices and to visit Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Faced with this security operation, legal adviser Frances Wright told AFP TV that the protestors had been taught what they were entitled to do by law.

“It’s about training people who go out and observe what’s happening in terms of the policing and who go out and support activists while the policing is going on — so they know their rights,” Wright said.