Thursday, April 02, 2009

G20 protests: carnival of the rainbow coalition turns nasty.

There was something inevitable about the mindless violence which convulsed London yesterday:

There was a pause, and an eerie silence, just before he did it. A green scarf masking his face, the man held a large piece of scaffolding above his head and, surrounded by photographers, eyeballed the unprotected window of the Royal Bank of Scotland's branch on Threadneedle Street.

In that split second, one voice amid thousands in the crowd broke the silence. "Don't do it," she screamed. He did.

A bespectacled man in a beige jacket then began remonstrating with black-clad and hooded protesters. "Gandhi taught us not to use violence," said John Rowley, from the Gandhi Foundation. "This isn't violence," retorted another voice in the crowd. "We paid for this building."

My main problem with the violence is that I simply don't know what the protesters hope to achieve through it. And, if what I am reading is correct, neither did they.

When demonstrators broke through police lines and smashed the windows of the RBS, the nationalised symbol of unregulated, boomtime greed, it appeared that the revolution, and the lynched bankers, which were predicted by Chris Knight, the suspended University of East London professor, might materialise.

Once they had broken into the bank, however, the protesters did not quite know what to do. There were no bankers to lynch (one local trader estimated there were 80% fewer City workers around than on a normal day), so the anger was vented on computers, phones and filing cabinets, which were hurled through the shattered windows.

Riot police and dogs then stormed the bank to flush out those barricaded inside after an attempt to set fire to the curtains had failed.

I suppose such protests have more coherence when someone like Bush is the US president, when the most powerful man in the world is in utter denial on subjects like climate change and appears to advocate corporate greed. But, with the election of Obama, this protest seemed strange, almost as if it was a ritual which everyone had to go through, despite the fact that the most powerful man in the world now broadly agrees with many of the subjects which incense the crowd.

If they knew what they wanted, and many didn't, the demonstrators brandished an idealistic and diverse set of demands: peace in Palestine, carbon restrictions, and action against climate change. Some admitted they were as bewildered as their leaders about how to change the world for the better.

"It doesn't feel that coherent, but that's how things are at the moment. We don't know how to move forward," said Anna Coatman, 21, from Leeds.

If there was a common thread, it was a desire to stand up and be counted in opposition to the way that the leaders of the wealthiest countries proposed to fix the global recession.

"I hope it's the rebirth of the anti-globalisation movement, but they've got to work out what they want," said Billy Bragg, who performed the Internationale as 4,000 protesters converged on the Bank of England with effigies of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

And, whilst I find it very easy to condemn the mindless violence which broke out, it was also not without provocation:
A few defiant City workers taunted the demonstrators by waving £10 notes from distant windows.
What utter tossers. At a time when the public at large are enraged at what they see as rampant city greed, the city workers seek to rub the protesters noses in how much money the have by waving wads of cash out of windows like Harry Enfield's eighties character, "Loadsamoney!"

And, whilst I shake my head at the meaninglessness of smashing up computers, phones and filing cabinets; the thought of some young city twat waving wads of cash in my face to torment me with his wealth certainly would enrage me.

They should have been arrested along with those smashing things up for inciting the crowd.

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