London G20 Protests Demand Real Change

Photo by Josh Jones
Graffiti on the Bank of England reads ‘People will stop robbing banks when banks will stop robbing people’
Photo © Josh Jones

1st April, 2009: Thousands of protesters gathered in London today to demand real results from this week’s G20 summit. Organisations including Stop The War, Climate Camp, CND and several Anarchist groups were joined by a huge number of non-affiliated UK citizens in protests across The City, London’s financial centre.

The main protest met outside the Bank of England. Shortly after 12 noon, the time at which the protest was scheduled to start, police blockaded the area and stopped anyone from entering. Within half an hour, a big push from inside the blockade opened a gap in the police lines on Threadneedle Street, connecting the central group of protesters with thousands waiting beyond the police lines. Police regrouped and made a new blockade with riot vans and horses, trapping the now enormous body of protesters next to the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Mounted police kettle protesters outside the Bank of Scotland
Photo © Josh Jones

It was not long before protesters – some of them masked – smashed open the reinforced windows of the bank, and also broke through the wooden blockades inside. Several lines of riot police just metres away made no move to stop the protesters as they took computer monitors and threw them out the open windows. Shortly after the protesters left the bank, riot police moved in and ‘cleared’ the building.

Built On Blood
The RBS building during the attack
Photo © Josh Jones

A few minutes later, mounted police pushed the main body of protesters back, creating a slight crush. The atmosphere among protesters was surprisingly relaxed, and amidst the worst of the crush many were shouting ‘Stay calm!’ and ‘Don’t panic!’. The group gradually pulled back and settled down in the central square outside the Bank of England, where people picnicked, performed music, and talked politics.

Elsewhere in The City, over a hundred tents took over part of Bishopsgate to demand real action on climate change. The Climate Camp provided food, legal advice and free workshops for anyone taking part or just passing by, and many City workers – most of whom were in jeans for the day – took a few minutes to at least see what it was all about. Late in the evening, police enforced a ‘no-one in, no-one out policy’, turning the peaceful protest into a small village under siege.

Renewable Democracy
Climate Campers at the bicycle wall surrounding the camp
Photo © Josh Jones

Throughout the demonstrations, the protesters were almost certainly outnumbered by police. The BBC estimates the size of the main protest was around 5000 people, while police deployed in and around the City numbered 7000. The police presence is estimated to have cost the taxpayer £7m.

1 thought on “London G20 Protests Demand Real Change”

  1. At the time of writing this, I had not heard about the man who died in the crush that day. It deeply saddened me to find out that the day had been tarnished by such an upsetting event.

    I also had no awareness of the vicious assault that had been reigned down on the Climate Camp protest at night. Beth McGrath has a haunting first-person account of the actions of riot police.

    And there is the frankly disturbing video of the attacks.

    My condolences to the family of the dead. This is a dark day for democracy and for the freedom of protest.

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