It's being billed as the beginning of the "Summer of Rage" and City workers have been warned to dress down to avoid being targeted by the mob. At the centre of a day of many protests around London is the "G20 Meltdown", a protest by everyone - hippies, anarchists, socialists, environmentalists, conspiracy-theorists, anti-capitalists and anti-war campaigners - against everything, but especially against bankers, economic mismanagement and the world leaders who have gathered in the city to try to correct it. Some people think that it's not just a protest but a revolution, but there's no consensus as to what kind of revolution it will be. All that's certain is that four separate marches, the "Four Horsefolk of the Apocalypse", are to converge on the Bank of England from different directions.
I link up with the section approaching from the south over London Bridge. There are people dressed as blood-sucking capitalists, effigies of grim reapers and noosed bankers, and signs saying "G20 - More like Evil 20", "Make love not leverage" and "Democracy is an illusion". Accompanied by a brass band and a legion of press photographers, the 1,000-strong crowd shuffles across the bridge, releasing great spontaneous cries that are part anguish, part exaltation. At the procession's head, an old wizard in a home-made dreamcoat, his staff topped with a glass orb, repeatedly pauses to be photographed underneath a large horse's skull made from wire and sheets. Asked why he's here, he scoffs, "We're going to reclaim the city!"
We gain the opposite bank and find that some of the other horsefolk have already arrived. It's a beautiful day and even though many people are wearing scarves across their faces, suited city workers can be seen mingling freely with the crowd. People set about trying to establish the "carnival atmosphere" that they've promised themselves: some drama students writhe on the floor in an interpretive dance as another stalks around them, reading in pantomime tones from The Poetry of the Romantics. Two hippie-godmothers and three guys in sportswear working away at a plastic bag full of beer cans smile down on the performance. There are more signs here: one is a picture of Vladimir Putin with the slogan "Go Putin!" On closer inspection, I see that the owner has penned a swastika on Putin's forehead. Daniel Obachike, author of The 4th Bomb, who claims to have seen MI5 agents plant one of the 7/7 bombs, is here with a sign to that effect. Someone else has "Swindlers List: City of London, Wall Street, Germans, EU". The Bank's wall is being graffitied in chalk, with slogans like "Fcuk the system" (why incorporate the logo of a global fashion brand into that statement?), "Peace and Love", and "Obama - different colour, same shit". A middle-aged man manages, through catastrophic physical exertion, to haul himself up the wall of a building and reach a window ledge. A huge cheer goes up and, for a brief moment, he is the hero. But he has no further ambition and the crowd turns its attention to a teenager who has scaled a bus stop sign and ripped off the congestion charge icon on the top. The first climber is forgotten, lonely and bored on his perch. Underneath a banner belonging to the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth campaign, a Rasta is addressing the crowd over a microphone: "We are here to show the politicians that we have no fear and no evil in us, that they are the ones with fear and evil in them. And don't forget, whenever you go out to entertain, look for King Tubby's Soundsystem. It doesn't matter if you're black, white, pink or Chinese." I see more signs: "Greed is
good bad", "Don't be stupid", and, incredibly, "No to bad things". I wonder if any of this stuff is ironic, self-satirising.
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