City braced for 'G20 Meltdown' protests

Bankers urged to dress-down as anarchists mass for next week's G20 meeting.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

City workers are being encouraged by the authorities to take precautions – including ‘avoiding unnecessary meetings’ (that would be 90% of them then) and ‘not wearing a suit and tie’ – in order to escape the notice of the hordes of pesky anarchists, climate change protestors, assorted NGO’s and ‘Christian Activists’ which are expected to throng the streets as London plays host to the G20 next week.

The protests kick off on Saturday but are expected to peak next Thursday with the ‘G20 meltdown’ march, arranged - if that’s the right word - by a quasi-anarchist group, which will feature carnivals-style parades and culminate with a performance by Billy Bragg outside the Bank of England. Reason enough to give the march a miss, surely?

To prove just how hard they have been thinking about all this, the Boys in Blue have also suggested that workers avoid the classic ‘Banker’s mufti’ of chinos and polo shirt, for fear that the protestors might just suss them out. (Here at MT, we think that those claret or mustard coloured cords should also be added to the banned clothing list, and not just for the duration of the G20 either).

Given the strength of public feeling towards the financial sector at present, it’s quite possible that the protests could live up to their billing as the biggest public demonstrations since the anti-Iraq war march of 2003. Staff at the London office of RBS are said to be particularly anxious, and have been advised to work from home if possible. (Although after his own Edinburgh home was attacked by vandals earlier this week, former boss Fred Goodwin has taken this principle even further and is now reported to be ‘working’ from someone else’s home – in Majorca, no less).

The Met is certainly taking no chances, cancelling all leave for April 1 and 2 and drafting in 3,000 reinforcements from all over the South East. The £7.2m operation will focus on throwing a ‘ring of steel’ around the ExCel venue in Docklands where the G20 meeting is to be held.

It’s certainly going to be a situation that requires careful handling – the majority of those protesting claim to have non-violent intentions, but there is always the chance of trouble flaring up. But the right to public protest is important, both democratically and in terms of allowing a release of tension.

And the precedents are fairly reassuring – the last time a major protest hit the City was the anti-globalisation march back on May Day 2000, and the worst thing that happened was that a statue of Churchill was given a rather fetching grass mohican. So just leave the Ralph Lauren at home if you fancy going along to spectate.

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