- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

LONDON

Police are poised to send thousands of riot officers into London’s streets next week to protect President Obama and leaders of 19 other nations, amid stark warnings that masses of protesters plan to attack the Group of 20 summit in the British capital.

Authorities cite intelligence information that an alliance of anarchists, anti-globalization groups and environmentalists intend to bring London to a standstill through stunts ranging from building giant sand pits in the streets to scaling skyscrapers in the city’s financial district.

The protesters have “some very clever people,” Scotland Yard Commander Bob Broadhurst told reporters. Authorities have canceled all police leave and intend to deploy up to 3,000 officers - many in riot gear - to meet the threat foreseen for the G-20 conference.

The security operation, estimated at a cost of about $14.5 million, will target protest groups that have advertised they mean to create mass chaos by “thrusting into the very heart of the beast,” a reference to the Bank of London, the symbol of Britain’s financial might.

The world’s top dignitaries, led by Mr. Obama, will meet April 2-3 in the Docklands area of East London, where a ring of police and steel will cordon off the ExCel center for an estimated 40 delegations to go to work trying to resolve the deepening global financial crises.

Authorities are taking the protesters’ threats seriously, considering the chaos they could cause if they succeed in measures such as using trucks to build huge sand pits in the streets, and climbing, invading - and possibly occupying - the Bank of England.

Police appear particularly concerned about the damage the tower climbers could cause.

To meet the threat, authorities say, specialist police climbers will be ready to tackle demonstrators planning to scale any buildings and police snipers will be stationed on roofs.

“Everything is up for grabs,” Mr. Broadhurst told reporters. “This is the aspiration, to get into and clog up these city [financial] institutions as best they can.”

Police think the protesters intend some of their heaviest and potentially most violent hits on April 1, the day before the summit officially starts.

A group calling itself G-20 Meltdown promised on its Web site that “now we’re going to put the heat” on capitalists at the summit, because “the G-20 ministers are trying to get away with the biggest April Fools’ trick of all time [with] their tax-dodging, bonus-guzzling, pension-pinching, unregulated free market world in meltdown.”

“We can’t pay, we won’t pay and we are taking to the streets,” said G-20 Meltdown. “At 12 noon, April 1st, we’re going to reclaim the city, thrusting into the very belly of the beast: the Bank of England.”

Chris Knight, of another key protest group calling itself the Government of the Dead, told the Guardian newspaper, “The revolution is coming.”

“This is our time, and I honestly believe that the army, the police, will be so intent on keeping the ExCel center, they will lose the city of London.”

More remote protest groups expected to join the fray include those known as Reclaim the Streets, the Wombles, Fossil Fuels and Financial Fools.

Scotland Yard Commissioner Paul Stephenson, Britain’s so-called “top cop,” described the G-20 summit as “a huge challenge.”

He bemoaned the fact that “the notice for this event is less than one would normally have,” but added that “we are in extraordinary times, and that has led to an extraordinary event.”

The angry anti-G-20 groups are described as an alliance of radical protesters. Police fear they could send thousands of demonstrators into London’s streets in battles evoking memories of anarchist riots of the late 1990s, which resulted in millions of dollars of damages.

In all, police think at least 2,000 hard-core protesters, augmented by perhaps the same number of angry university students, could descend on London in the biggest street confrontation with authority in at least a decade.

At the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle nearly 10 years ago, hundreds of protesters were arrested, the mayor imposed a curfew and the National Guard was summoned.

A 2001 summit in Genoa, Italy, was one of the bloodiest, with hundreds injured and one protester killed.

London police are determined to avoid any such repeat at the G-20 summit.

Said Scotland Yard’s Mr. Broadhurst: “A challenging week.”

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