Bankers warned about G20 riots


THE LAST time bankers in the City of London faced angry demonstrations, some responded by pouring champagne or photocopied £50 notes from windows, but it is unlikely that protesters targeting the City next week during the G20 summit will be met by similar shows of bravado.

Many staff are being advised to dress down next Wednesday and Thursday to avoid being marked out as City workers – if they cannot avoid the protests entirely by working from home. Others have been advised to avoid leaving the office to attend meetings.

Many in the City believe aggressive media coverage of the financial crisis has declared a virtual open season on financial sector workers.

Financial advisory group Bluefin, which employs 500 staff in London, has set up a phone line offering staff updates next week. Staff have been told not to go to its office on Mark Lane in the City unless absolutely necessary.

“As a responsible employer, the safety and wellbeing of our staff is always considered of paramount importance,” a spokesman said.

A spokesman for UBS bank said it would continue to assess the level of threat as it got closer to the time of the summit.

“We are telling people to be cautious. If you have client meetings, do you need to have them here? Some of the banks have said dress down or try not to move around. It is all pretty obvious.

“It is quite co-ordinated among the banks. We all talk to each other. I think it is different if you are in a landmark building, some are more obvious than others.”

Another banker complained that we “are in an era of the demonisation of financial services”.

World leaders, including US president Barack Obama, are due to begin arriving early next week, with the summit beginning on Thursday at the ExCeL centre in London’s docklands.

The G20 Meltdown campaign is a loose alliance of organisations that will set off from four locations in London a day earlier and converge on the Bank of England, each marching behind one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”.

A separate climate change protest group intends to set up camp outside the European Climate Exchange in Bishopsgate. Further protests are to take place outside the offices of RBS and there will be marches on the ExCeL centre in east London during the event.

Other action is rumoured to be planned to disrupt transport and cause chaos in the City in what many believe could be the biggest protests since the poll-tax riots.

An additional 2,500 police have been drafted in at a cost of £7.5 million (€8 million) and plan a “ring of steel” around ExCeL.

Police chiefs last week called City firms to a briefing that gave advice on how to beef up security.

The protesters say they plan peaceful demonstrations. “This is not a problem about a few greedy bankers or regulators who were asleep at the wheel, it is a systemic problem,” said Michael Rainsbro, who has helped organise the protests.

But even a cursory search on the internet finds more chilling threats, with one organisation, London Class War, showing former RBS chairman Fred Goodwin’s head in a guillotine on the front of its G20 newsletter and suggesting in its manifesto: “Direct action is necessary against the individuals and institutions”.

However, many bank bosses appeared to be relaxed.

“If you turn up for work in a bold pinstripe, that might be an issue,” said a Merrill Lynch spokesman, “but we have all been here before.” – ( Guardianservice)