G20 march begins week of protests in London
Thousands of demonstrators marched through London on Saturday to demand action on poverty, jobs and climate change at the start of a week of protests aimed at the G20 summit in the capital.
Trade unions, aid agencies, religious groups and environmentalists united under the slogan "Put People First" to urge world leaders meeting on April 2 to commit to fundamental reforms to make the global economy fairer.
Blowing whistles and chanting "We hate the banks", several thousand protesters marched past the Houses of Parliament and booed and jeered as they passed Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street offices.
Placards gave a flavour of their diverse demands: "People before profit"; "Out of Iraq and Afghanistan"; "Jobs, Justice, Climate".
The march takes place against the backdrop of a deepening global recession and growing public anger over bankers' role in the crisis.
In Britain, unemployment has risen above 2 million, house prices have fallen 11 percent in a year and industrial output has recorded its worst drop since 1981.
"This is going to be a summer of rage for the working class," said protester Bryan Simpson, 20, a clerk from Glasgow. "Working class people are expected to pay the price for the debts of the banks."
While some G20 protesters 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.
Police said there was no suggestion the march would be anything but lawful, although there was tight security. Police leave in the capital was cancelled to cope with planned protests 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.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said he had met some of the marchers to hear their concerns and he expected their protest to be peaceful.
"I think the kind of campaigning that people are engaged in today ... is the kind of peaceful protest that is very much part of our society," he told the BBC.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the 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."
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