President Barack Obama was greeted by thousands of angry protesters on Wednesday (April 1) on his first overseas trip as commander in chief, as anti-capitalist hordes gathered on the streets of London to rail against the global financial crisis while attacking several bank buildings.
Among those in the protest horde one day ahead of the G-20 summit was "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" actor Russell Brand, who was pictured wearing a black wool hat and one of his signature flowy scarves while telling a correspondent for Sky News, "It is really interesting to see what happens when everyone gets together. There is a great sense of community."
Brand added that he likes to come to these types of protests because "I am interested in learning and interested in why these people have come to this. I wonder what alternatives there are, and I think it makes people cogent of them. I think it's also very beautiful." A spokesperson for the actor said he would not be available for further comment on his participation but would be blogging about his experience on his Web site later in the day.
Brand joined the massive protest, which grew bloody at times as the mob of anarchists, anti-capitalists and environmentalists clashed with police in running street battles while holding signs that read "Capitalism Isn't Working" and spray-painting the word "thieves" and the anarchy symbol on the side of the Royal Bank of Scotland building, according to CNN.
Police brought out horses, truncheons and tear gas as protesters marched on the Bank of England building and then attacked a Royal Bank of Scotland branch, with 20 rioters entering the building and ripping out phone lines, wrecking office furniture, smashing windows and tagging the inside of the building with graffiti, the Times of London reported.
The protesters were particularly angry over a $1 million annual pension recently announced for former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin, who many blame for the disastrous financial meltdown of the bank.
At press time, police had only arrested 19 protesters, 11 for impersonating police officers, but officials worried that the street battles would grow more intense as the week wore on and the leaders of the G-20 finance ministers from the world's 19 largest economies and representatives from the European Union gathered to discuss plans to help solve the global financial crisis.
While some of the protests turned violent, elsewhere in London, CNN described a more festive atmosphere at a "climate camp" outside the European Climate Exchange, where the gathered masses danced to a drum circle and ate picnic lunches on blankets. Many businesses in the area around the central London transport hub of Liverpool Street station boarded up their windows in anticipation of the street action.
The protesters have gathered to lobby for a variety of issues, from more action on climate issues, to the cessation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear disarmament and poverty, to calls to make the richest citizens pay more taxes and demands that world leaders create more jobs for out-of-work victims of the financial meltdown. Six days of protests are planned.
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