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Man dies in London protests on G20 summit eve

A man died on Wednesday after collapsing at a demonstration in London's financial district, the scene of earlier violent clashes ahead of the Group of 20 summit in London, emergency services said.

world Updated: Apr 02, 2009 09:00 IST
Robin Millard
Robin Millard

A man died on Wednesday after collapsing at a demonstration in London's financial district, the scene of earlier violent clashes ahead of the Group of 20 summit here, emergency services said.

After a day of protests across the British capital to mark Thursday's meeting of world leaders here, a man died in hospital after falling down unconscious inside a police cordon near the Bank of England headquarters.

Police and the London Ambulance Service said they were alerted by a member of the public and tried to resuscitate the man -- despite at one point being pelted by bottles from protesters -- but he was declared dead in hospital.

It was not clear how he died, but several people were earlier injured when anti-capitalist protesters held in a police cordon surged against the barriers following violent clashes and an attack on a bank that led to 63 arrests.

Thousands of protesters rallied outside the Bank of England headquarters Wednesday ahead of the G20 summit, where world leaders will seek a response to the global financial crisis.

Anti-war activists also peacefully protested outside the US embassy in another district of the capital.

Police said about 4,000 protesters, including anti-globalisation, anti-war and environmental activists, converged on the financial district to demand more help for the poor and the punishment of bankers they blame for the crisis.

Some of the demonstrators smashed their way into the offices of the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) near the Bank of England, breaking the windows and hurling out office equipment including computer parts.

Riot police protecting the main doors of the building came under a hail of glass bottles, beer cans and eggs, while other officers entered the bank to try to repel anyone attempting to get inside.

"Scum" and "Beat inflation -- eat the rich," were sprayed in graffiti on the windows of the office, which had been closed for the day as a precaution.

Outside the Bank of England activists scuffled with police, hurling taunts, paint bombs, firecrackers and glass bottles, while baton-wielding police responded with occasional charges to keep masked demonstrators at bay.

Demonstrators chanted: "Build a bonfire, build a bonfire. Put the bankers on the top."

Protesters taunted bank staff watching from the balcony, urging them to jump. The bank walls were left covered in graffiti.

The violence calmed briefly but flared up as dusk fell, with protesters held in by police cordons charging the lines. Some tore down the crash barriers and dragged them towards the police, before riot officers surrounded them.

A shop dummy dressed as a banker was hanged by a noose from a lamp post, and then torched, with bits of the burning effigy hurled at police officers.

Several people were injured in the clashes, including one girl whose hair was soaked with blood as medics bandaged her head.

Neil Caffrey, an unemployed 45-year-old from London who had blood streaming down his cheek, claimed a policeman had caused his injury.

He told AFP: "I was standing my ground peacefully, there was a surge forward and he attacked me with a big metal truncheon."

Asked about the raid on the RBS office, he said: "I saw one man pick up a large metal pole and smash the window. So what? He smashed a window, he's angry. Sometimes a man has to shout to be heard."

London police commander Simon O'Brien said: "It did seem to us from CCTV and police on the scene that they tried to find a way to ramp up the protest and hijack it into violence.

"We saw a determined attack on the RBS where... there was a clear attempt to throw lighted material in that premises."

The protests stretched police to the limit, with 5,000 officers already deployed to protect US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other G20 leaders in London for the summit.

First Published: Apr 02, 2009 08:58 IST