LONDON â Thousands of G-20 protesters jammed downtown London on Wednesday and some tried to storm the Bank of England, pelting police with eggs and fruit and rocking the barricades designed to control them.
Demonstrators shouted “Abolish Money!” and clogged streets in the financial district known as “The City” even as Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama held a news conference elsewhere in the British capital.
Protesters had branded the day “Financial Fool’s Day” ahead of Thursday’s summit of world leaders who are gathering in hopes of resolving the global financial crisis that has lashed nations and workers worldwide.
“Every job I apply for there’s already 150 people who have also applied,” said protester Nathan Dean, 35, who lost his information technology job three weeks ago. “I have had to sign on to the dole (welfare) for the first time in my life. You end up having to pay your mortgage on your credit card and you fall into debt twice over.”
Demonstrators hoisted effigies of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” representing war, climate chaos, financial crimes and homelessness.
“The greed that is driving people is tearing us apart,” said Steve Lamont, 45, flanked by his family and protesters who were banging on bells, playing drums and blowing whistles.
At least eight people were reportedly arrested for having police uniforms. One police officer lost his helmet and demonstrators tossed it around like a trophy and chanted slogans.
Helicopters hovered above the protests and some buildings were boarded up in case the protests turned ugly. Many banks had extra security and hundreds of police officers lined the streets.
Despite the pushing and shoving along the police barricades, there were no reported injuries.
Fearing they would be targeted by protesters, some bankers swapped their pinstripe suits for casual wear and others stayed home. Bolder financial workers leaned out their office windows Wednesday, taunting demonstrators and waving 10 pound notes at them.
Especially in Britain, bankers have been lambasted as being greedy and blamed for the recession that is making jobless ranks soar.
“It seems like everything is in a mess,” said protester Steve Johnson, 49, an unemployed construction worker. “You get bankers getting massive bonuses, and the MPs (British lawmakers) are lining their own pockets.”
Musician and political activist Billy Bragg said the time was now to make a difference.
“It’s better than sitting down shouting at the television at these bankers,” he said. “We cannot go back to the way things were before to the million-dollar bonus culture.”
Protesters included anarchists, anti-capitalists, environmentalists, students, unionized workers, unemployed workers and others hurt by the global financial crisis.
One protester dressed as the Easter bunny managed to hop through the police cordon but was stopped before he could reach the Bank of England. Another black-clad demonstrator waved a fake light saber at officers.