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UK/G20 - interview

Week of protests begins in London ahead of G20 summit

Article published on the 2009-03-28 Latest update 2009-03-28 14:22 TU

Tony Benn(Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">Stop the War Coalition</a>)

Tony Benn
(Photo: Stop the War Coalition)

Tens of thousands of anti-globalisation and environmental activists along with trade unionists and other community groups gathered in London Saturday, kicking off five days of protests ahead of Thursday’s G20 summit. Police warn that anarchists could turn the protests violent, and they are on high alert for terrorist threats.
The start of the London march captured on a mobile phone, 28 March 2009(Photo: John Sargent, <a href="" target="_blank">via Twitter</a>)

The start of the London march captured on a mobile phone, 28 March 2009
(Photo: John Sargent, via Twitter)

An alliance of more than 150 unions and community groups, under the umbrella Put People First, are marching Saturday to Parliament, demanding leaders to protect jobs, put stricter controls on the financial sector and move decisively on global warming.

Police have warned that the protests running up to the summit meeting could turn violent. But Tony Benn, a former British socialist MP and president of the UK-based Stop the War Coalition, which is planning a rally on Wednesday, says the violence has been overplayed.

“A handful of anarchists threatened trouble, and the police are threatening to use the anti-terrorism legislation to deal with trouble,” he told RFI. “I don’t think there will be [trouble]. There will be a little fringe stuff. But police will use that to frighten people away from attending.”

Interview: Tony Benn, President, Stop the War Coalition

28/03/2009 by Daniel Finnan

Benn says the protest movements in London, and around the world, show people’s deep displeasure with the way governments have been handling the world economic crisis. But he does not like using the word ‘protest’.

“I don’t like the world ‘protest’, because protest suggests we’ve lost the battle and we don’t like it,” he said. “What we are doing is making demands. We want jobs and homes and peace. And when people express themselves as strongly as that, governments have to listen.”

Demonstrations, says Benn, are the way to bring about change.

“All progress historically comes when people say to the governments, ‘No, we will not accept what you are doing, you have to think again,” he said.

“If you don’t listen to us, then there will be trouble,” he added. “And I think the people at the top are beginning to understand that.”

About 2,500 police officers will be deployed in London to provide security for world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, who are due to arrive in London by Wednesday.

The Stop the War coalition is planning a march by the American embassy and a rally in Trafalgar square, calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. And climate change activists will set up camp in the City financial district on Wednesday, 1 April, which has been dubbed “Financial Fools Day”.