/ 27 March 2009

Fake cash, pop-up tents and protests to hit London

They’re printing fake money, priming the pop-up tents and putting the finishing touches on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Protesters are gearing up to gatecrash the G20 summit in London next week, preparing everything from a traditional march ending in Hyde Park to a siege of the Bank of England.

Some of the usual suspects are participating: anti-war activists, trade unions and environmentalists. But newer organisations have sprung up as well — among them G20 Meltdown, an anti-globalisation group planning a series of stunts.

In the face of a massive police operation, demonstrators say they’re using social networking sites such as Facebook and micro-blogging service Twitter to keep in touch and coordinate events.

”It’s going to be a very challenging couple of days,” Metropolitan Police Commander Simon O’Brien told the Associated Press this week as police divers scoured the basins around the Excel Centre, the summit’s east London venue.

Activists are already distributing literature — in the form of bogus editions of the Financial Times — to London commuters. The banner above the newspaper’s name offers the motto, ”Our pain, your gain.”

The protests are due to kick off at noon on Saturday with a ”Put People First” march through central London. Participants run the gamut: from Sudanese Women for Peace to the British Musicians’ Union. More established players, such as Friends of the Earth and the Trades Union Congress, are pushing an agenda of ”jobs, justice and climate.”

”The format is ‘traditional demonstration,”’ said Nick Dearden, director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, one of more than 150 groups involved in the march. He said he doubted the turnout would approach the monster masses that thronged London to protest the Iraq War in 2003. But he still expected a big crowd, British weather permitting.

”We’ve got [buses] coming in from all around the country,” he said.

Other activists said they were trying to think outside the box.

”Marching from A to B solves nothing,” said G20 Meltdown’s self-described ”Facebooker-in-chief,” Marina Pepper. Between posting directions to activists on Facebook, the 41-year-old coordinator said her group’s protests would be marked by theatre and fun — distributing thousands of pounds in fake paper money, setting up a giant monopoly game at the London Stock Exchange and rattling the doors of the delegates’ swanky hotels.

The Meltdown group’s most talked-about event is slated for April 1, as summit delegates trickle into the capital ahead of the meeting the next day. Thousands of demonstrators were expected to converge on the Bank of England, led by anti-globalisation’s take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — a red horse against war, a green horse against climate change, a silver horse against financial crimes, and a black horse against homelessness.

”With any luck April 1 at the bank will be a revival of all the best part of the original ’90s anti-capitalist movement,” Mark Barrett, the group’s spokesperson, said in an e-mail. Participants are being urged to come in costume and (this is Britain, after all) bring tea. Barrett added that the protest would be nonviolent — ”a picnic, not a riot.”

Britain’s Anarchists have other ideas, and in what they’ve either called the ”Spring Offensive” or the ”Summer of Rage,” they’ve promised action against unspecified targets. Wednesday’s attack on the Edinburgh home of Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland, has heightened fears of violence.

Environmental groups also threaten to cause headaches. The Camp for Climate Action, a loose network of green activists, has said it wants to set up a tent city somewhere in the middle of London’s financial district.

Scotland Yard admitted it would be put to the test over the next week.

”We’re going to be stretched,” O’Brien said. — Sapa-AP