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      G20 protest in London: A firsthand account

      Joy Zhu

      Issue date: 4/10/09 Section: News
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      Protests in London became violent when police intervened.
      Media Credit: Joy Zhu
      Protests in London became violent when police intervened.

      When I arrived at the pre-G20 protest at noon on April 1, I didn't know that I'd be held there for almost nine hours against my will.

      On the day before the G20 convened in London, there was a series of protests across the city.  I attended one of the largest demonstrations, which was held at the Bank of England.  Arriving at the protest, one of the first signs I saw was a large banner reading, "abolish money" I smirked: isn't communism passé by now? Also rising above the crowd were anarchist flags, a puppet of the Grim Reaper, and various other signs. 

      But my smug sense of contempt for the protest was quickly replaced by shock at seeing raised batons falling onto the heads and bodies of protestors as the police attempted to blockade the crowd from moving further into the city. I was surprised to see such a large and aggressive police force; despite being noisy and inconvenient, the protest was peaceful and had an atmosphere closer to a parade than a riot.

      The blockade greatly antagonized the crowd and led to a mutual escalation of anger between police and protestors until violence broke out.  This only provided justification for police aggression, which further angered the crowd, which led to more violence, and so on.  Brigades of riot police and cavalry were brought in to forcefully contain the crowd.

      Over on a side street, three or four individuals expressed their anger at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) by smashing its windows.  Last year the RBS reported 24.1 billion pounds in losses - the biggest loss in British history - and laid off 2700 workers.  The RBS received a 37 billion pound bailout from the UK government. CEO Fred Goodwin (since resigned) who was making an annual salary of nearly $2 million, received over $1 million per year for his pension, for a total of about $25 million.

      The most vocal and visual groups were self-proclaimed anarchists and anti-capitalists.  However, most of the crowd was more pragmatic, or just there to enjoy a spectacle.  Along one side of the street a DJ was playing Rage Against the Machine to a crowd of dancers - a questionable music choice, but hardly enough to justify the massive police force.

      I tried to leave at 3 p.m., only to find that riot police and vans had blocked all six exits.  No onewas allowed to leave.  We were in a giant corral with no food, no bathrooms, and no information about how long or why we were being quarantined.  The police would also advance a few feet about once every 20 or 30 minutes, forcefully pushing people who were sitting and standing closer into the center with no explanation.  There was very little resistance at this point; most people actually wanted to leave the protest.
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      In This Issue


      • From newspapers to the net: famed editor delivers lecture on future of journalism
      • G20 protest in London: A firsthand account
      • ITS prepares for mail switch
      • New USG president to be chosen tonight: Douglas or Pinder
      • Sigma Phi Epsilon, Phi Mu win Greek Week competition
      • Understanding car insurance
      • Village at 115 awarded LEED Silver rating


      • Baseball: Spartans bring brooms vs. Bethany, Grove City
      • Softball gets out of jams, into wins
      • Spartan Spotlight: Clay Hurley
      • Tennis: Women snap losing streak
      • Track & Field: Women's track takes fifth, men take ninth at DePauw
      • Ultimate: Women Gobies have fighting chance at regionals
      • Water polo workhorses

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