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Riots, Protests As G20 Summit Begins in UKApril 1, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox
The Guardian is reporting that the G20 protests in central London turned violent ahead of tomorrow's summit, with a hardcore band of demonstrators close to the Bank of England storming a Royal Bank of Scotland branch, smashing its windows and wrecking the interior.
The trouble broke out as Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama announced that the G20 leaders were "within a few hours" of agreeing a global deal for economic recovery.
Riot officers and police dogs and horses were used to remove the 20 protesters, who spent quarter of an hour ransacking the RBS building, tearing out computers and telephones. Nineteen people were arrested after a small group among the 4,000-strong crowd broke through the police line.
Although the demonstrations began peacefully, bloody skirmishes erupted as police tried to keep thousands of people in containment pens on Threadneedle Street.
Protesters targeted RBS—at the center of a row over £703,000-a-year pension payments to Sir Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former chief executive—and police spent an hour clearing and sealing off the branch, which had been closed today as a precaution.
By midday, around 60 protesters and police were involved in scuffles, which saw officers pelted with bottles, eggs, fruit and paint. Some officers also had their helmets ripped from their heads and thrown into the air, which was turned pink and red as protesters let off smoke bombs. Police responded by using truncheons, batons and pepper spray.
For two hours, a group of protesters pushed against the police line on Threadneedle Street, provoking intermittent skirmishes that left several officers and demonstrators injured.
Police used truncheons and batons to beat back the protesters each time they surged forward. Some in the pens demanded to be released, saying they were being denied the right to march, while others set their sights on the RBS branch.
To cheers and shouts, protesters smashed several of the bank's windows, writing "burn a banker" and "scum" in spray paint. Police in riot gear inside the bank tackled protesters trying to climb in through the smashed windows.
Scotland Yard said corralling the demonstrators into the area was a legitimate tactic as missiles were being thrown at police officers on Threadneedle Street. A spokesman said that the pens would remain in place for as long as necessary, but by 3 p.m. police had loosened the cordon around the Bank and allowed crowds to filter away along Queen Victoria Street.
The Met later confirmed that 19 people had been arrested. Eight of them were detained for offences ranging from threatening behavior to violent disorder and indecency while another 11 protesters who turned up at the protest in an armored personnel carrier were arrested in connection with the possession of police uniforms and road traffic offenses.
Large numbers of demonstrators who tried to make their way down Threadneedle Street towards the climate camp in the City were met halfway by a police line. Injured demonstrators with bleeding heads and necks were ushered through the crowd while others handed out milk so that people could wash the pepper spray from their eyes and mouths.
In contrast to the violence that marred the Bank of England protests, the climate camp event in Bishopsgate was largely peaceful. The police, who had been warned that the London Climate Exchange Centre was to be a target of the protests, were taken by surprise but did not try to stop an instant tent city being set up. Within minutes, 800 yards of Bishopsgate had been blocked off, banners hung, and stalls, a farmers' market and a bandstand erected. For the next two hours Bishopsgate became the scene of a political rave, with dancing, speeches and celebrities arriving to wish demonstrators good luck.