London protest sparks fears of riots

Some 35,000 protesters have marched in London prior to next week's G-20 economic summit in the city.

They're demanding that world leaders protect workers' rights, improve aid for developing countries and take more action on climate change.

The Put People First march was organised by the Rainbow Alliance of more than 100 trade unions, church groups and charities.

Armed with banners and flags, demonstrators marched for several hours through the heart of London. The colorful procession ended up in Hyde Park at a peaceful afternoon rally.

Tony Robinson, one of the participants, addressed the crowd: “We won’t accept the old politics – we won’t accept the old financial institutions! From now on we are going to put people first!”

“Burn the banker!”

Although this fight has been peaceful so far – this is just the first event in a chain of protests that some say might lead to the worst public disorder in a decade.

This year marks ten years since the City of London was taken over by a wave of riots and vandalism. Today, fears of potential violence remain.

“How to keep warm during the credit crunch? Burn the banker!” – that’s the call from one of the most notorious anarchist websites.

The Anarchists’ Block held their own small rally at Hyde Park Corner.

One of the participants chanted: “We are anarchists, we are back on the streets, we believe in anarchy! The working class is back on the stage of history where it … needs to be as an … active player!”

It is these kinds of emotions the authorities and police fear might paralyze the City of London next week during the G20 summit.

AFP Photo / Shaun Curry

With the banking industry as the focus of intense public anger after getting huge taxpayer bailouts to cover massive trading losses, banking staffs in the City of London are being advised to dress down and postpone business meetings this week.

The Summmit will spark what’s expected to be the largest police operation London has ever seen – costing around eight million pounds. The full bill to London for hosting the G20 could be over six times this, at fifty million pounds.

Nick Roumana, owner of the first Dr. Martens shop, may not be out there in the streets but says his feelings about the whole thing are shared by many.

“It’s going to cost an enormous amount in resources, in police and in surveillance of the protestors. And it’s going to bill us for millions of pounds – that’s taxpayers’ money. There’s a hundred things I could reel off the top of my head to spend it on rather than hosting a whole load of fat politicians who just talk the same old talk, whichever city they come to,” he said.

And as the summit gets closer – the voices of the people is likely to get louder.