By Adrian Roberts |
THOUSANDS of campaigners marched through London on Saturday in the run-up to the G20 summit to demand action on poverty, climate change and jobs.
Over 40,000 marchers accompanied by brass bands and drummers walked the four miles from Embankment to Hyde Park.
Union banners from GMB, UNISON, Unite and RMT were on show as protesters moved past the capital’s landmarks in a carnival-like atmosphere before gathering for a series of speeches.
Many protesters carried banners bearing slogans including: “Put the children first” and “Climate emergency” and there were loud boos and whistles as the crowd passed 10 Downing Street.
The Put People First march, backed by an alliance of 150 groups including unions, charities, greens and faith organisations, was held amid anger at the £19 million cost of staging the G20.
People came from all over the country and families with children in pushchairs were among those marching.
Jyoti Fernandes, an organic farmer who travelled from Somerset with her four children, said: “We are here to remind people that we have to look after our land and look after our food.”
Protester Kevin Stevens ignored police warnings for City workers to keep a low profile and came dressed in a pinstripe suit as a banker.
“I thought I might prove all the talk about attacking City workers is nonsense,” he said.
Bryan Simpson, who had travelled from Glasgow, said it was going to be a summer of rage for the working class, who “are expected to pay the price for the debts of the banks.”
As marchers arrived at Hyde Park, Unite union leader Derek Simpson said: “I think it’s an important message, but whether it will get through to the people meeting in London I don’t know. Anyone who sees the numbers on this march should realise how important it is.”
Global Call To Action Against Poverty co-chairman Kumi Naidoo told the rally that the G20 had a duty to act.
“Today we have to say the choices the poor people face and middle-class people face are intolerable and therefore we will not accept timidity from the G20 when they gather next week,” he said.
Comedian Mark Thomas believed the protest marked “the start of a grass-roots movement.”
He said: “This is a moment. This is the first time people have had a chance to come out on to the streets in a big way.”
ActionAid’s Claire Melamed said her organisation was delighted with the turnout.
“We’re really pleased. We are hearing every day about people losing jobs and not being able to feed their children as this economic crisis deepens.
“We want the G20 to listen to us. This began as a financial crisis and it’s turning into a humanitarian one.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told the crowd that never before had such a wide coalition come together with such a clear message for world leaders.
“The old ideas of unregulated free markets do not work and have brought the world’s economy to near-collapse, failed to fight poverty and have done far too little to move to a low-carbon economy,” said the TUC leader.
After the demo, Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted that he would answer protesters’ concerns.
Speaking in Chile at the end of a pre-G20 tour, Mr Brown said: “We will respond at the G20 with measures that will help create jobs, stimulate business and get the economy moving.”
Unity from diversity