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Tens of thousands launch five days of protest ahead of summit

Video by Katherine SPENCER

Latest update : 2009-03-30

Tens of thousands of trade unionists, environmental campaigners and anti-globalisation activists launched protests in the streets of London, and in cities in France and Germany, ahead of a G20 summit that begins April 2 in London.

REUTERS - Thousands of people marched in Britain, France and Germany on Saturday to protest about the global economic crisis and urge world leaders to act on poverty, jobs and climate change at a G20 summit next week.


Chanting “tax the rich, make them pay”, protesters marched through London waving banners saying “People before Profit”, at the start of a week of protests that reflected growing public anger over bankers’ pay and their role in the crisis.


Leaders from the world’s 20 biggest economies meet in London on Thursday to discuss how tighter regulation of financial markets, billions of dollars in stimulus measures and credit lines for international trade can help the world economy recover from the deepest recession since the 1930s.


In Britain, trade unions, aid agencies, religious groups and environmentalists joined together under the slogan “Put People First” to demand leaders agree reforms to make the world’s economy fairer.


One group carried a traditional Chinese dragon with the head of a devil papered with dollar bills, calling it “The G20 Monster”. Other waved placards reading “Jobs, Justice, Climate”. *


While the atmosphere was generally carnival-like, some marchers jeered when they passed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street offices. Police said 12-15,000 people took part.


“This is going to be a summer of rage for the working class,” said marcher Bryan Simpson, 20, a clerk from Glasgow.


The British protest was mirrored in other major EU economies, with about 10,000 people marching through Berlin, some with red flags of the far-left “Linke” party and a black coffin with red flowers to symbolise the death of capitalism.


Another 9,000 assembled in Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, police said, as part of a two-city demonstration.


A few hundred demonstrators gathered in central Paris in a protest under the slogan “We will not pay for their crisis”.


Job losses


Brendan Barber, general secretary of Britain’s Trades Union Congress, which represents 58 unions, said people around the world were angry about job losses, poverty and inequality.


“It is right to be angry as there is nothing inevitable about this recession,” he said. “It was made by all the policy makers of the last few decades who believed that they should let the market rip.”


Unemployment in Britain has risen above 2 million, house prices have fallen 11 percent in a year and industrial output has recorded its worst drop since 1981.


While some G20 protesters in London have adopted slogans such as “Hang a Banker” and “Storm the Banks”, organisers of the London march said the event would be peaceful.


“We have no evidence that anyone attending intends to disrupt our plans, break the law or commit any acts of violence,” said Glen Tarman, chairman of the organisers.


A London police spokesman said there had been no arrests by lunchtime, adding: “It is relatively peaceful so far.” Police cancelled leave in the capital to cope with further protests planned by anarchists.


Commander Simon O’Brien, of London’s Metropolitan Police, said policing the summit would be one of the largest and most complicated challenges in the force’s history.


“There is an almost unprecedented level of activity going on,” he told a news conference.

Date created : 2009-03-28