Mark Barrett, a professional tour guide, spent last Saturday painting Barack Obama’s election catchphrase “yes we can” on a banner that protesters will carry as they try to occupy London’s financial district April 1.
Barrett is helping organize a protest outside the Bank of England, one of several called to express anger against banks and bankers and mark the arrival in London of leaders of the Group of 20 nations — including Obama, now president.
By Thomas Penny and Brian Lysaght
“We want a very English revolution,” he says from a café near his home in north London. “The first English revolution in 1649 was about winning sovereignty for parliament over the king.” Now, protesters are campaigning for sovereignty for everyone.
All police leave has been canceled to increase security and financial workers have been told to wear casual clothes amid warnings that protests could turn violent.
The global economic slump has raised unemployment to more than 2 million in the U.K., with more people joining jobless rolls last month than at any time since 1971. The economy shrank 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the most since 1980, and there is growing anger at the more than 40 billion pounds ($58 billion) the government has injected into ailing banks while insuring 585 billion pounds more in risky assets.
Beheading Charles I
Class War, an anarchist newspaper, has produced a special edition to promote the protest with an image of former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc CEO Fred Goodwin, whose house was vandalized this week, on a guillotine under the headline “Ready to Riot.” Another shows people dancing around a fire with the slogan “How to keep warm in the credit crunch — Burn a Banker!” Public anger erupted at Goodwin’s 703,000 pounds annual pension after RBS was bailed out by the government.
The English Revolution culminated with the beheading of Charles I in 1649, ending the so-called divine right of kings in England. Today’s protesters say they draw inspiration from 17th century radicalism.
Four marches will converge on the Bank of England at midday on April 1 for a protest the organizers call “Financial Fools Day.” At the same time, there are plans for a blockade of the European Climate Exchange, in Bishopsgate, to protest against the market in carbon emissions.
Clog Up the Roads
“There’s an avowed intention on their behalf on the 1st of April to stop the City either by just clogging up the roads and preventing people getting into work or, if they’re allowed to, getting into some of those institutions,” said Commander Bob Broadhurst of the Metropolitan Police, who is in charge of the policing operation.
“What we’re seeing is unprecedented planning amongst protest groups,” he told reporters on March 21. “There are some clever, innovative people with lots of ideas.”
Police, who are detailed to provide security for the world leaders attending the April 2 G20 summit at the Excel Conference Centre in east London, will also have to deal with a labor union-organized protest march to Hyde Park tomorrow, demonstrations at the conference center itself and an anti-war march on the U.S. Embassy.
Around 10,500 officers will be available during the week….
A university professor who is organising a protest at next week’s G20 summit was suspended from his job after warning bankers could be “hanging from lampposts”, a spokesman said Friday.
University of East London professor of anthropology Chris Knight told the BBC that demonstrators would be “hanging a lot of people” during protests in London against the summit next Thursday.
“Professor Chris Knight has been suspended from his duties at the University of East London, pending investigation,” a university spokesman told AFP. “In order not to prejudice this process we cannot make any further comment.”