Chanting “tax the rich, make them pay,” protesters marched through London waving banners saying “People before Profit,” at the start of a week of protests that reflected growing public anger over bankers’ pay and their role in the crisis.
Leaders from the world’s 20 biggest economies meet in London on Thursday to discuss how tighter regulation of financial markets, billions of dollars in stimulus measures and credit lines for international trade can help the world economy recover from the deepest recession since the 1930s.
In Britain, trade unions, aid agencies, religious groups and environmentalists joined together under the slogan “Put People First” to demand reforms to make the world’s economy fairer.
One group carried a traditional Chinese dragon with the head of a devil papered with dollar bills, calling it “The G20 Monster.” Others waved signs reading “Jobs, Justice, Climate.”
While the atmosphere was generally carnival-like, some marchers jeered when they passed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street offices. Police said up to 35,000 people took part in the march and subsequent rally in Hyde Park.
“This is going to be a summer of rage for the working class,” said marcher Bryan Simpson, 20, a clerk from Glasgow.
US Vice President Joe Biden said the protesters should “give us a chance” and listen to what politicians plan to do.
“Hopefully we can make it clear to them we are going to walk away from this G20 meeting with some concrete proposals,” he told reporters in Chile.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he understood people’s concerns, adding, “That is why the action we want to take (at the G20) is designed to answer the questions that the protesters have today.”
The British protest was mirrored in other major EU nations.
About 15,000 people marched through Berlin with black-clad protestors throwing rocks and bottles at police, setting off fireworks and smashing a police car window. Police said several arrests were made.
Up to 14,000 assembled in Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, police said, as part of a two-city demonstration.
About 6,000 demonstrators, mostly students and trade union members, marched in Rome to protest about a meeting of G8 labour ministers in the city.
Most of the marchers were peaceful, carrying placards and chanting “We won’t pay for the crisis” and other slogans, but one small group smashed the glass front of a bank, and daubed “give us our money back” on the wall in red paint.
Fire-crackers were let off and banks, insurance companies and estate agents were also covered in paint.
“There has been a total failure of creative finance and of an economy based on the exploitation of workers, financial speculation and tax evasion,” said protester Mario Giannini.
In Vienna, police said some 6,500 marched through the Austrian capital under slogans such as “Make The Rich Pay” and “Capitalism Kills.” There was no violence.a