The first of April is traditionally known as "April Fool's Day" here in the UK. Although tomorrow's first of April is being hailed by thousands of international activists as "Financial Fool's Day". The G20 summit opens tomorrow as representatives of the G20 countries (plus Spain and The Netherlands - they're nearby and well-behaved, why not invite them along?) convene in London, at the ExCel centre in the Docklands. The current agenda will focus on tackling the financial crisis gripping the world; discussing financial policies and organisations, as well as paths to stimulate growth, create jobs and pull the world out of the economic nose-dive in which it is currently plummeting downwards. So a jolly little event, with a ridiculously complex topic up for debate in a pitifully short couple of days. Jamie Oliver's even going to make the sandwiches, although apparently his menu is thought to be reflecting the current world state, so it'll be wartime spam and dripping all round!
As Barack Obama flies in to London tonight, it is not just statesmen and politicians who are readying themselves. London citizens are, according to the London Lite, "braced for violence as anarchists move in". Well we're actually just trying to continue with our everyday lives, and to be honest, so far so good, although tomorrow and Thursday will really prove how much these "anarchists" will disrupt the smooth running of our city. A series of protests are apparently planned to disrupt the G20, and attendees from activist groups all over Europe are expected. The French are fielding black-masked members of "Anarch-Autonomist", the Germans are sending "Antifa", and our own home grown anti-capitalist representatives are a group known as..."The Wombles". Seriously?! Who knew Uncle Bulgaria and Orinoco were so passionate not only about cleaning up Wimbledon Common but also about bringing down capitalism? What busy chaps they must be...
As I walked home from work on Monday morning I noticed that the front of The Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly had been entirely covered up with blue boards. London papers are full of photos of tailors, jewellers and well-known London buildings also being boarded up in anticipation of violence as protesters clash with the police. The police have also appeared everywhere, seemingly in groups of no fewer than three at a time, and as yet do not appear to be doing much except keeping an eye on the transport systems, watching people on and off buses or tube trains. Most of the details of the protests have been posted, helpfully, by these activists on the Internet, which in theory should make policing the event an absolute doddle. Not only have they provided timings and locations of muster points and protest sites, but they've also shared their tactics for dealing with unwanted police interference, including stringing lines between lamp-posts to unsaddle mounted police and wearing elbow pads and shin pads to ward off police batons. It all sounds remarkably like a school sports day to me!
Many of the sites marked out for attack (with items such as eggs, continuing the school sports day theme) include head offices of legal and banking firms, as well as large multinational corporations such as BT, Sainsbury's and BP. Barclays, taking a similar line to many other financial organisations, has advised its staff to come to work dressed in "civvies" tomorrow, to avoid their suits marking them out as capitalist targets for protestors. In a slightly overprotective measure it has also recommended staying away from all windows. To avoid bomb scares, another luxury goods firms is not accepting any deliveries made to its head office during the G20 summit, in case a champagne crate contains "Bomb Perignon" rather than vintage bubbles. Congestion is forecast throughout the centre of the city, and several tube and overground stations in the vicinity of the Square Mile are scheduled to close. Numerous commutes will be disrupted but the protests will probably still cause less of an intrusion into our lives than the snow did a couple of months ago. I hope that life will go on largely unaffected as usual, buses will be as unreliable as ever, but one must watch out for those Wombles, and duck if any eggs fly in your direction!