London police baton charge G20 protesters

LONDON Wed Apr 1, 2009 9:26pm BST

1 of 26. An anti-G20 demonstrator watches as riot police form a line behind a fire near the Bank of England in London April 1, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

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LONDON (Reuters) - Riot police staged baton charges to try to disperse several hundred protesters gathered around the Bank of England in the heart of London's financial centre on Wednesday after a day of protest around the G20 summit.

The charges against a hard core of anti-capitalist demonstrators appeared aimed at clearing the area before nightfall. Bottles flew through the air towards police lines and police on horseback stood by ready to intervene.

Some protesters set fire to an effigy of a banker hanging from a lamppost.

Demonstrators had clashed with riot police and smashed the windows of a bank in protest against a system they said had robbed the poor to benefit the rich.

Hundreds of protesters converged on a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, shattering three windows.

Rescued by the government in October, RBS has become a lightning rod for public anger in Britain over banker excess blamed for the crisis. The protests were timed to coincide with a G20 meeting of the world's leading and emerging economies.

Mounted police and officers in riot gear surrounded the building to keep the crowds back.

Protesters hurled paint bombs and bottles, chanting: "These streets, our streets! These banks, our banks!"

RBS said in a statement it was "aware of the violence" outside its branch and "had already taken the precautionary step" of closing central city of London branches.

Police said 26 protesters had been arrested by early evening and at least one officer taken to hospital for treatment.

Some 4,000 protesters had thronged outside the central bank, and a Gucci store nearby was closed and its windows emptied.

Demonstrations were planned for Thursday at the venue in east London where world leaders will discuss plans to fight the financial crisis, police said.

HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE

Earlier, protesters marched behind models of the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" representing financial crimes, war, climate change and homelessness.

Some threw eggs at police and chanted "build a bonfire, put the bankers on the top." Others shouted "jump" and "shame on you" at financial sector workers watching the march from office block windows.

"I am angry at the hubris of the government, the hubris of the bankers," said Jean Noble, a 60-year-old from Blackburn in northern England.

"I am here on behalf of the poor, those who are not going to now get their pension or who have lost their houses while these fat cats keep their bonuses, hide their money in tax havens and go and live where nobody can touch them."

A smaller demonstration against Britain's military role in Iraq and Afghanistan attracted several hundred people in Trafalgar Square, not far from parliament.

The protests, which brought together anti-capitalists, environmentalists, anti-war campaigners and others, were meant to mark what demonstrators called "Financial Fools' Day" -- a reference to April fool's day which falls on April 1.

Police stopped a military-style armoured vehicle with the word "RIOT" printed on the front and a police spokesman said its 11 occupants were arrested for having fake police uniforms.

(Additional reporting by Kate Holton)

(Writing by Peter Griffiths)

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