LONDON/BERLIN – Thousands of people marched in Britain, France, Germany and Italy on Saturday to protest about the economic crisis and urge world leaders to act on poverty, jobs and climate change at a G20 summit next week.
Chanting tax the rich, make them pay, protesters marched through London waving banners saying People before Profit, at the start of a week of protests that reflected growing public anger over bankers' pay and their role in the crisis.
Leaders from the world's 20 biggest economies meet in London on Thursday to discuss how tighter regulation of financial markets, billions of dollars in stimulus measures and credit lines for international trade can help the world economy recover from the deepest recession since the 1930s.
In Britain, trade unions, aid agencies, religious groups and environmentalists joined together under the slogan Put People First to demand reforms to make the world's economy fairer.
One group carried a traditional Chinese dragon with the head of a devil papered with dollar bills, calling it The G20 Monster. Others waved signs reading Jobs, Justice, Climate.
While the atmosphere was generally carnival-like, some marchers jeered when they passed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street offices. Police said 12-15,000 people took part in the march.
This is going to be a summer of rage for the working class, said marcher Bryan Simpson, 20, a clerk from Glasgow.
The British protest was mirrored in other major EU nations.
About 15,000 people marched through Berlin with black-clad protestors throwing rocks and bottles at police, setting off fireworks and smashing a police car window. Police said several arrests were made.
Up to 14,000 assembled in Germany's financial capital Frankfurt, police said, as part of a two-city demonstration.
About 6,000 demonstrators, mostly students and trade union members, marched in Rome to protest about a meeting of G8 labor ministers in the city.
Most of the marchers were peaceful, carrying placards and chanting We won't pay for the crisis and other slogans, but one small group smashed the glass front of a bank, and daubed give us our money back on the wall in red paint.
Fire-crackers were let off and other banks, insurance companies and estate agents were also covered in paint.
There has been a total failure of creative finance and of an economy based on the exploitation of workers, financial speculation and tax evasion, said protester Mario Giannini.
In central Paris, a few hundred demonstrators gathered in a protest under the slogan We will not pay for their crisis.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of Britain's Trades Union Congress, which represents 58 unions, said people around the world were angry about job losses, poverty and inequality.
We need to see the focus shift now to real economy, otherwise the price in unemployment, homelessness, poverty will be incalculable, he told Reuters.
While some G20 protesters in London have adopted slogans such as Hang a Banker and Storm the Banks, organizers of the London march said they wanted a peaceful day.
A London police spokesman said there was only one arrest, for drunken behavior. However, police have canceled leave in the capital to cope with further protests planned by anarchists.
(Additional reporting by Noah Barkin in Berlin and Gavin Jones in Rome; Writing by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Louise Ireland and Jon Boyle)