Saturday, March 28, 2009

Terrorism and protests threaten G20

More than 30,000 protesters took to London’s streets on Saturday ahead of the G20 Summit scheduled for next week. Numbers were far fewer than expected with many being put off by cold, wet and windy conditions. Those that did join the procession were vocal in their protest which took them past Parliament to a rally in Hyde Park.
Dozens of different groups were represented under the banner of “Put People First”. Environmental groups were joined by anti-capitalists and anarchists. There were also church groups and those opposed to nuclear proliferation. The mixed messages were reflected by the sea of differing placards suggesting that “capitalism isn’t working” to a call for “Jobs not Bombs”.
The protest was the top story on both the BBC and Sky News though coverage remained scant. Policing was low profile and there was no sign of violence which some media reports suggested might occur.

The picture may well change next week when hundreds of anti-capitalist protestors are expected to descend on the City. With calls to “storm the banks” and “eat the bankers” anarchists and other groups are expected to try and create widespread disruption. However, some anarchists have claimed that while they want to disrupt the G20 Summit and the workings of the City, it was not their intention to be violent. Daisy, 19, an anarchist behind some of the literature told the Guardian, "This is politics. We're using symbols of oppression in an artistic way. It doesn't make us terrorists."

But the police are treating the threats of violence far more seriously. City workers have been told to “dress down” and even to leave expensive cars at home [Daily Mail / City of London Police]. The Metropolitan Police are also well prepared. Plans have been drawn up, police overtime has been cancelled and 3,000 extra police have been drafted in from other forces. All this is costing the British tax payer an estimated £7 million [Guardian].

Most of the concern in the build up to the G20 surrounds the potentially violent protests. There has been little or no discussion as to a potential terrorist attack. According to the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, there is no specific terrorist threat aimed at disrupting the G20 Summit. However, the terror threat remains “severe” and she has conceded that the Summit would be a prime target for terrorists. Large scale demonstrations would act as perfect cover for a terrorist intending to launch a much talked about Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear attack. Such an incident would also create a logistical nightmare for the authorities and security services [BBC / Sky News / CNN].

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