LONDON (Reuters) - British riot police clashed with anti-capitalist protesters in running confrontations through the streets of central London on Tuesday, arresting at least 32 people as activists targeted some of the world’s biggest companies before next week’s G8 summit.
About 100 protesters gathered outside oil company BP Plc’s headquarters, while others chanted “war criminals” at the office of U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin Corp. and booed outside the offices of U.S.-based bank Citi.
In a roof-top drama caught on camera, one protester lunged towards officers on the top of a four-storey building where activists had been holed up and was wrestled to the ground by police wearing abseiling ropes just inches from the roof’s unprotected edge.
Police used chainsaws to break into the block in the Soho district where the StopG8 protest group had been staying before a “Carnival Against Capitalism” to coincide with the June 17-18 G8 meeting at a golf resort in Northern Ireland.
Several hundred protesters - who had threatened to target major hedge funds, banks and natural resources companies - played cat and mouse with riot police sowing hours of traffic chaos in some of London’s most fashionable streets.
Around 100 protesters gathered outside a central London police station this evening shaking fists and shouting “let them go” and “fuck the police”, referring to activists detained earlier, blaring loud and angry hip hop music.
“The G8 is just a front for the corporatocracy, for the kleptocrats. It is about making them more money and dividing up the world so they can all get richer,” said a protester at Piccadilly Circus who gave his name only as Silver Fox.
“The G8 should be about ending all the wars - why don’t they give peace a chance for once?”
Police chased groups of shouting protesters down Oxford Street and Regent Street, one of London’s main shopping areas, to the visible shock of tourists before heading past the U.S. embassy in Mayfair, one of the capital’s most exclusive areas.
Nearly 1,200 police were mobilized to deal with the protests. Police said they had arrested 32 people for offences including criminal damage, assault on police and possession of an offensive weapon.
‘RETAKING THE STREETS’
Activists, some with their faces covered, waved black, green and red flags as they marched down Oxford Street. They carried banners saying “No borders, no prisons, no capitalism” and “One Common Struggle”.
Isolated scuffles broke out when police moved in to arrest individuals as a group of activists banged on drums and blew whistles beside snarled traffic.
“We are retaking the streets. We want to make a statement that capitalism is screwing the majority of people,” said protester Emma Goldman. “If we were in (Turkey‘s) Taksim Square people would say we were anti-government protesters. Here they probably call us a mob.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron has set boosting trade, ensuring tax compliance and greater corporate transparency in developing countries as his priorities for the G8 summit.
But protesters on the streets said they felt the summit, where Cameron will welcome leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, was about dividing up wealth and had become a hostage to corporate interests.
StopG8 last month issued a map of 100 potential targets for people to “show their anger”, identifying offices of financial organizations such as banks, hedge funds, defense manufacturer BAE Systems and mining and energy companies including ArcelorMittal and BP. [ID:nL6N0DR2FQ]
The list includes hedge funds Man Group and Paulson, private equity firm Blackstone, banks such as Citi and Barclays and embassies including those of Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The group, which describes itself as an anti-capitalist network “made up of autonomous groups and individuals”, had refused to cooperate with police.
One banker working for an international firm with offices in central London said the staff had received an email indicating around 500 people would attend the protest.
One hedge fund, which asked not to be identified, said it had advised its staff to be especially alert to the protests.
Recent demonstrations against the British government’s austerity measures have been marred by rioting anarchists. Many Britons angered by bank bailouts and bonuses during tough economic times blame the financial sector.
Britain’s last major riots took place in 2011 when thousands brought chaos to the center of the capital and several cities in a display of looting and anger initially provoked by the shooting by police of a man in north London.
Writing by Peter Griffiths and Guy Faulconbridge, Additional reporting by Stephen Addison, Mark Anderson, Kylie MacLellan, Anjuli Davies, Laurence Fletcher and Costas Pitas; Editing by Michael Roddy