Bankers in London's financial district have been warned to dress casually in order to avoid violent attacks. Office managers have been told to re-schedule unnecessary meetings. Those who can telecommute from home have been encouraged to do so.
Next week's G-20 Summit in London has city officials dreading protests on the scale of the massive financial crisis world leaders will tackle inside the ExCel Center on April 2.
Any major gathering of diplomats has the potential for disruption, but the London summit has been a call to arms for anarchists, anti-capitalists, and other groups trumpeting a radical new world order.
With President Barack Obama and other world leaders in town attempting to craft a coordinated response to the global financial meltdown, security measures have been estimated to cost London more than $7 million per day.
Armed riot police may be trained to deal with the rank-and-file protest crowd, but soaring unemployment and foreclosures could provoke a massive populist response from middle class Britons alike.
While some fringe groups have been urging outright violence, others will rage against the machine in equally passionate, but less hostile ways. Calling April 1 Financial Fools Day, one group has planned a parade led by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, fanning out from four of London's rail stations.
Taking aim at the the belly of beast, the Bank of England, the Four Horsemen will ride against war, climate chaos, financial crimes, and land enclosures.
The group called the G-20 Meltdown has a message for the Fleet Street crowd. They're trying to get away with the biggest April Fools trick of all time. Those fools think we're going to bail them out. They've gotta be joking! We can't pay, we won't pay and we're taking to the streets, read a manifesto on the group's website.
And while anti-establishment leaders have been urging protesters to keep warm by burning a banker, many observers are expecting the confrontations to be nearly as intense inside the cozy confines of the ExCel Center, where leaders will present increasingly divergent views on how to properly handle the global recession.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU), has condemned the economic recovery plans of U.S. President Barack Obama as a way to hell.
Topolek joined a chorus of European leaders insisting that there was no need for a further global economic stimulus to come out of the G20 summit. Setting the tone for what may be a contentious meeting, Topolanek said the biggest success of last week's EU summit was its refusal to copy the U.S. example.
He opposed Obama's appeal for all countries to bear the burden of spending to stimulate the world economy, while speaking in the European Parliament Wednesday.
He attacked the United States' burgeoning budget deficit and the Buy- America campaign, saying, all of these steps, these combinations and permanency are the way to hell.
Meanwhile, the US dollar has been under attack, as China's central banker chief Zhou Xiaochuan on Tuesday repeated his call for a new global reserve currency managed by the International Monetary Fund.
Pointing out the dangers of relying on the one national currency without explicitly mentioning the dollar, Zhou insisted that an international reserve currency disconnected from individual nations would be able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.
The acceptance of credit-based national currencies as major international reserve currencies, as is the case in the current system, is a rare special case in history, said Zhou in a statement released on the People's Bank of China website, signaling that the Chinese will take up the issue at the London summit.
Predictably, US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner responded by saying that the US dollar would remain the world's dominant reserve currency.
Few expect the world's financial problems to be solved in London next week. Some will settle for the status quo, hoping that bridges to global cooperation will not be burned down, just as a glimmer of light has appeared on the economic horizon.
Over the past few weeks, stocks have rallied and the economic data from the world's largest economy, the US, has officials predicting an economic recovery may get underway as soon as the second half of 2009. However, sentiment remains fragile, and further evidence that world leaders are at loggerheads could put an end to any positive momentum.
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