Several hundred students and other activists brought the City of London to a standstill in a flash protest on Friday evening.
Chanting “No bail! send the bankers to jail” they stormed into the upmarket Royal Exchange Mall outside the Bank of England. A section of the the protesters was able to march through the glitzy mall before police could bar the entrance.
The demonstrators then regrouped and attempted to force their way into the Bank of England building. There followed a short sit down protest encouraged by motorists who hooted in support.
The protest, organised by the Socialist Worker Student Society, was called in response to the multi-billion pound bailout of the crisis-wracked banking system.
Students from Oxford, Sussex, Essex and Sheffield joined London colleges including Soas, Goldmiths, the LSE, Kings and UEL in a good natured, but determined, show of force.
As police desperately cleared the entrance to the bank, protesters turned up Threadneedle Street, past the Royal Bank of Scotland building and the French banking giant BNP Paribas bank, towards Bishopsgate.
Again police struggled to contain the demonstration – and despite striking out at the protesters – were shoved backwards to the main junction.
A tense stand-off ensued while the commander desperately radioed for backup. The police formed a new cordon, but protesters chanting “anti capitalista” (a slogan made famous during European mass anticaptialist struggles in the early 2000s) slipped either side of the police and poured into the main thouroughfare snarling up the rush hour traffic.
The police were so outnumbered they called on a French Gendarme, over on an official visit, help in their attempt to corral the crowd.
Riot vans and police dogs then joined the chase, finally blocking the crowd outside the 99 Bishopsgate tower.
Martin Smith of the SWP told a rally that ended the flash protest, “This is the beginning of our fightback. Today thousands of bus drivers are on strike. We are here in support of them, and to protest against a capitalist system that just isn’t working.”
Holding up a copy of the Evening Standard newspaper with its headline “Blind Panic as shares crash”, he declared: “They call this Black Friday. We say it’s fightback Friday and from this day we are letting it be known that we will be calling more protests”.
The demonstration then broke up. According to police there were no arrests.
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