FT: “City turned into anti-capitalist carnival”

By FT Reporters

Protests by thousands of anti-capitalist demonstrators in the City of London ahead of the G20 summit turned violent on Wednesday when windows at a branch of Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the UK???s biggest banks, were smashed and police charged the crowd.

Four marches, led by representations of horsemen of the apocalypse, converged on the Bank of England in the ???Financial Fools??? Day??? protest as demonstrators chanted ???storm the banks???.

Shortly after 1pm, live television pictures showed some of the crowd smashing windows at an RBS building. An FT reporter at the scene said: ???They???re going into RBS and they are urinating in the bank.??? The words ???Burn??? and ???Thieves??? could be seen daubed on the outside of the building. The bank was rescued with taxpayers??? money last autumn and its former chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin has been villified over his ??700,000 a year pension.

Scotland Yard said around 4,000 people had gathered outside the Bank and cordons had been put up in response to ???increasing levels of violence???. Reuters reported that the RBS building, which appeared to be empty, was hit by a hail of missiles including plastic bottles and toilet rolls. Around 300 to 400 protesters attacked the offices, shouting: ???These streets, our streets! These banks, our banks!???

Police then charged the crowd outside the building. Elsewhere, ranks of officers in fluorescent yellow jackets coralled protesters along the roads outside the Bank of England and tried to keep the separate marches apart.

Some protesters were carrying coffins, while others covered their faces with hoods and scarves. The protests were initially largely peaceful, if noisy, although some small groups of about 50 hard-core protesters tried to push through police lines and there were occasional scuffles. Eleven arrests have been reported so far.

As the chanting marchers snaked down Broad Street, flanked by banks to their left and right, chaotic scenes erupted. Office workers were standing faces pressed against glass windows looking down onto the crowds in the street below. Protestors met derision from some City workers who waved ??10 notes from their offices at marchers on the streets below, Reuters reported.

Some of the banners read: ???Balls to the Bankers???, ???Eat the Bankers???, ???Capitalism Isn???t Working??? and ???What a Load of Bankers???. One group of protesters urged people watching from the top of Santander bank to ???jump???.

While the main focus of the protest was directed against bankers, anarchist, environmental and anti-war groups were also among the marchers protesting together under the G20 Meltdown banner.

Olivier Dale, a 28 year old attending the demonstration said: ???I am sick of these bankers and this greed. It has got to stop. We have to make a stand. But we want it to be peaceful.???

One protester wearing a balaclava and carrying a sign saying ??? welcome to pig city??? and who declined to be named said: ???I am an anti-capitalist, I am an anarchist. It???s a rich man???s club. I believe in class war. It is poor versus rich, as simple as that. ???

The protests have caused some shops to remain shut for the day. ???Following police advice regarding the G20 protests we have taken the decision to close this store today,??? read a sign outside a Robert Dyas store on Moorgate.

City staff had earlier arrived for work in defiant mood but wearing casual clothes.

Most big employers ??? including the global investment banks and law firms ??? told employees they were expected to come into work as usual. But those near locations where demonstrations were held told staff to dress inconspicuously and avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Workers appeared to heed the calls for greater vigilance. UBS posted security guards outside the bank???s main building next to Liverpool Street station, and there were unusual scenes of staff turning up to work in leather jackets and beanie hats.

Andrew, a recruiter, said: ???I don???t think City workers have dressed to blend with anarchists. However, the pinstripe count is down today and jeans and smart casual seem to be the order of the day.???

Michael, an accountant, said: ???Having to alter the way we dress is absurd. This is all a bit much.???

Mary, who works as a secretary in a bank, said: ???You wouldn???t catch me in a suit today. It???s frightening. The papers have said these people may get violent. But I don???t blame them.???

Others, however, defied the dress-down advice. Zak Abdin, an IT project manager, was sporting a suit on the Northern Line. ???My boss told me I had to,??? he said. ???I???ve got a meeting at Tower Hill.???

At the so-called ???climate camp??? in Bishopsgate, there was a carnival atmosphere as protesters set up a barricade of tents in the middle of the street.

Curious City workers peered out of their windows at the site below, where protesters including teenagers and pensioners sported fancy dress outfits, colourful banners and flowers.

Tim Martin, a bond fund manager, said: ???I think its a cool ??? a carnival atmosphere.

???A lot of City workers probably support what???s going on today. People in the City have been shown to be incompetent ??? look at the rating agencies or the Bank of England.???