G-20 protesters clashed with riot police indowntown London on Wednesday, breaking into the heavily guardedRoyal Bank of Scotland and smashing its windows. Earlier, theytried to storm the Bank of England and pelted police with eggs andfruit.
At least 4,000 anarchists, anti-capitalists, environmentalistsand others jammed into London's financial district for what theycalled "Financial Fool's Day." The protests were called ahead ofThursday's summit of world leaders, who hope to take concrete stepsto resolve the global financial crisis that has lashed nations andworkers worldwide.
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Some protesters spray-painted the side of the RBS building withthe phrases "class war" and "thieves." Others pushed againstcolumns of riot police who swatted them away with batons.
Demonstrators shouted "Abolish Money!" and clogged streets inthe area known as "The City" even as Prime Minister Gordon Brownand President Barack Obama held a news conference elsewhere in theBritish capital.
At least eight people were arrested but there were no seriousinjuries reported.
Royal Bank of Scotland is at the center of protesters' angerbecause it had to be bailed out by the British government after aseries of disastrous deals brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.The bank is now majority-owned by the British taxpayer.
Despite that, its former chief executive Fred Goodwin -- agedjust 50 -- managed to walk off with a tidy $1 million annual pensionfor life, while unemployment in Britain now tops 2 million and isheading towards 3 million by the end of this year. Goodwin has beenvilified by the British press.
RBS posted a British record loss of 24.1 billion pounds for2008. The British government has invested 20 billion pounds inpropping up the bank.
Helicopters hovered above the protests and some buildings wereboarded up. Many banks had extra security and hundreds of policeofficers lined the streets.
"Every job I apply for there's already 150 people who have alsoapplied," said protester Nathan Dean, 35, who lost his informationtechnology job three weeks ago. "I have had to sign on to the dole(welfare) for the first time in my life. You end up having to payyour mortgage on your credit card and you fall into debt twiceover."
Demonstrators hoisted effigies of the "four horsemen of theapocalypse," representing war, climate chaos, financial crimes andhomelessness.
"The greed that is driving people is tearing us apart," saidSteve Lamont, 45, flanked by his family and protesters who werebanging on bells, playing drums and blowing whistles.
One police officer lost his helmet and demonstrators tossed itaround like a trophy and chanted slogans.
Fearing they would be targeted by protesters, some bankersswapped their pinstripe suits for casual wear and others stayedhome. Bolder financial workers leaned out their office windowsWednesday, taunting demonstrators and waving 10 pound notes atthem.
Especially in Britain, bankers have been lambasted as beinggreedy and blamed for the recession that is making jobless rankssoar.
"It seems like everything is in a mess," said protester SteveJohnson, 49, an unemployed construction worker. "You get bankersgetting massive bonuses, and the MPs (British lawmakers) are liningtheir own pockets."
Protesters waved banners reading "Banks are evil," "Eat thebankers," and "0% interest in others."
One protester dressed as the Easter bunny managed to hop throughthe police cordon but was stopped before he could reach the Bank ofEngland. Another black-clad demonstrator waved a fake light saberat officers.
Musician and political activist Billy Bragg said the time wasnow to make a difference.
"It's better than sitting down shouting at the television atthese bankers," he said. "We cannot go back to the way thingswere before to the million-dollar bonus culture."
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