I’ve been reading about the security preparations for the G20 summit this week and I can’t help but be filled with a sense of unease, despite the peaceful protests in London over the weekend. Perhaps it’s silly of me. After all, for years Londoners have had to contend with May Day anti-capitalist demonstrations and countless other protests. In the past when I worked as a City journalist, often banks or institutions would disguise the name plates outside their offices in the vain hope this would deter troublemakers.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that there’s a very different flavour to it this time around. First of all, there are many more activities planned by the demonstrators – with many of the details published in the newspapers. There have been lots of stories about City workers being told to dress down by their employers, not to mention jokes that by dressing in chinos and golf blazers bankers will probably make themselves even more of an obvious target than by wearing a suit. But even journalists I know have been told to come into work in jeans too. Security everywhere in the City of London is being beefed up because this year there is a very different feeling in the air. Many people – and not just the usual fringe elements – are angry, whether it’s about the banking crisis, job losses, low pay or the damage done to the environment by big business. Ironically this week is also the tenth anniversary of the minimum wage.
Generally we Brits consider ourselves to be a reasonably reserved lot. Some say it’s our ‘British phlegm’ or damp climate that keeps us from getting up in arms about things. But occasionally people do put their ‘phlegm’ aside and go for the jugular. Remember the poll tax riots? I am hoping the protestors continue to make their points peacefully this week and the demonstrations don’t turn nasty. But there are fears that anarchist factions from around Europe are already travelling to London, although the ‘G20 Meltdown’ group led by academic Chris Knight claims it will promote a ‘carnival atmosphere’ rather than violence.
I agree there is a lot to be angry about and that the authorities and big institutions don’t appreciate the strength of feeling out there or the difficulties people are in. But there are a lot of people who work in the City and not all of them are Fred the Shred. Many of them are hardworking people who toil for long hours and are themselves concerned with many of the issues the protestors are angry about. They are facing redundancy themselves and worrying about how they will feed their families and pay the rent if the axe falls. And not everybody working in the City is a banker or fat cat either. There are countless admin workers, secretaries, receptionists, security guards, shop keepers, cleaners, café workers, taxi drivers – you name it – who work in the area. And just because you wear a suit, it doesn’t make you an agent of evil – just somebody trying to earn a living.
Do you support the G20 protests? Are you a City worker concerned for your safety or do you think it’s all a fuss about nothing? Leave a message and let me know.
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