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1 Apr, 2009 22:15

Protests hit London during G20 summit

Thousands have been protesting on the streets of London, where the G20 summit is underway, against the failure of world leaders to come up with a solution to the economic crisis.

Demonstrations took a violent turn when four thousand people jammed the financial center of the city chanting slogans, throwing stones, smashing windows and pushing up against police barricades. Police say one person died in the protest after collapsing. Nearly two dozen were arrested.

It all started peacefully in the City of London led by four “Horsemen of the Apocalypse” representing war, climate chaos, financial crime and land enclosures.

But at their assembly point – the Bank of England – the temperature started to rise. Bottles, beer cans, fruit, anything to hand rained down on police helmets.

The batons were drawn out, but protestors wouldn’t give in. They promised to block off the whole City of London.

As a symbol of capitalism, the bailed out Royal Bank of Scotland bore the brunt from the protesters. There were cheers as they stormed the building.

Fearing the crowd would turn on the bankers blamed for the crisis, many workers in the Square Mile turned up incognito, in jeans.

“We were told to dress down – I’m probably the only person in my office who’s wearing a suit so I thought I’d say I’m not scared I’m an honest person just doing my job,” said Kieran, insurance underwriter.

Police reinforcements continued to arrive. The most active group of around 4000 protestors was penned in by officers – a police technique where people are trapped in a cordon before being released one by one.

But many peaceful demonstrators claimed the police move stopped them from leaving. Others complained that officers had occasionally “gone over the top”.

“All they need to do is step to one side and let people walk down the street,” one of the protestors said.

“No one was throwing anything until they were provoked by them – you know people just got a bit too close so they started to hit people just for standing too near them.”

There were other – more peaceful – protests across London in sharp contrast to the Square Mile. Hundreds of Climate Camp demonstrators pitched tents in protest against carbon markets.

Outside the European Climate Exchange there was "music and meditation" while several hundred anti-war demonstrators marched from the US Embassy to Trafalgar Square.

London hasn’t seen a protest like this for a decade. And although it is not clear how much anger there will be on the streets on Thursday, April, 1 dubbed by the protestors as Financial Fools Day, will certainly be remembered by the City of London.