London: Thousands of demonstrators were expected to converge outside a boarded-up Bank of England Wednesday for the start of a new wave of G-20 protests that have authorities on edge.
Police say they are dealing with an unprecedented security challenge from the presence of a score of world leaders alongside thousands of anti-capitalist, environmental and other demonstrators protesting the impact of the economic meltdown.
The arrest on Monday of five people in southwest England after the discovery of imitation firearms and fireworks has underlined authorities’ fears that small, radical groups could use the demonstrations as cover to cause havoc.
They fear scenes like those seen at May Day anti-globalization protests in 2000 and 2001, when anarchists broke away from peaceful marches, smashing shop windows and vandalizing war memorials.
“Can’t wait to party with you,” protest organizer Marina Pepper told supporters in a last-minute Facebook message. “And revolt, obviously.”
Campaigners of all stripes have seized on the summit as a chance to bring their grievances directly to the globe’s top politicians , and the world’s assembled media.
Anti-war demonstrators plan to gather in front of the US Embassy for a chance to needle President Barack Obama, who flew into the British capital late Tuesday, on his continued support for the American military mission in Afghanistan.
Pro-Tibet activists plan to gather at the Mandarin Hotel in the evening to protest Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is due to stay there overnight.
Animal rights activists dressed in blood-spattered seal suits draped themselves over the steps of Canada House Tuesday to protest the annual seal hunt taking place off Newfoundland and Labrador.
The majority of the protests are expected to be peaceful, albeit in-your-face. Environmental activists are planning to storm an unspecified part of the financial district and set up a 24-hour tent city, while members of G-20 Meltdown, Pepper’s group, is organizing a march on the central bank.
Workmen threw up protective boarding around a World War I memorial and some of the nearby storefronts were boarded up in anticipation of violence.
But even in the heart of London’s financial district, there was some sympathy for the demonstrators.
“There could be a lot of us bankers in there as well,” said Paul Bellamy, 43, who works for an Islamic bank in the City. “90% of us are just normal people.”