LONDON (Reuters) - British police are preparing to deal with violent protests as anarchists threaten to bring chaos to next month’s G20 summit of the world’s largest economies in London.
All police leave in the capital has been cancelled and businesses are being advised to cancel unnecessary meetings as protesters vow to target London’s financial district and the world leaders gathering to discuss the global financial crisis.
Previous world economic summits and conferences have been targeted by anarchists, anti-globalisation protesters and other groups. Police fear April 2’s gathering set against anger at the economic downturn could provoke more violence.
Environmentalists, anti-war campaigners and protesters have already indicated they will stage a series of demonstrations on April 1 as politicians and officials begin to arrive in London.
Flyers titled “Storm the Banks” are circulating on the Internet indicating anti-capitalist protesters are planning to focus their attention on the Bank of England during what they have dubbed “Financial Fools Day.”
“We should kick the bankers and their political cronies out of the city and out of power,” one flyer reads, next to a picture of a mannequin wearing a suit being hanged. The caption reads: “What a banker.”
Another anarchist Web site also threatens direct action at the G20 meeting itself at a conference centre in east London.
“Be warned. Be aware. Be ready!” the Web site says.
“You can see what they wish to try and achieve,” said a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police, which is linking up with British Transport Police and the City of London Police to form a single command structure to handle the event.
One senior officer has already warned of a “summer of rage” as officers prepare for their largest public order operation since anti-capitalist protests in London’s financial heartland in 1999 and 2000 saw marchers clash with riot police, causing millions of pounds (dollars) of damage.
Police have not yet finalised how many officers will be on duty during the summit, nor do they know exactly how many protesters will take part, although they say there is no indication that overseas anarchists are planning to travel.
Furthermore, they are conscious that it was during a G8 meeting in Scotland in July 2005 that four British Islamists carried out London’s worst peacetime attack with suicide bombings on trains and a bus which killed 52 people.
“At the moment we are not aware of any specific threat to this event,” the spokeswoman said. “What we will be doing is an intelligence-led deployment so there will be officers where we are anticipating demonstrations.”
Business leaders are looking forward to the event with caution and say there will be a concerted effort to make sure firms are aware of what to expect.
“There will be concern from business over the two days of protest but the vast majority of firms will have robust security arrangements in place,” said Helen Hill, policy director at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Cancelling unnecessary meetings may have to be considered but people shouldn’t feel as though they can’t travel in London to conduct important business.”
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Ralph Boulton