by Sophia Furber reports, London, Hardnews
originally posted at http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2009/03/2775
This was truly a mass expression of radical and humanist angst and anger, pushing for hope in the times of universal global despair. And this is just the beginning.
Thousands of demonstrators marched in London on Saturday, March 28, to demand that G20 leaders take action on the issues of ‘jobs, justice and climate’ at next week’s summit. The massive ‘Put People First’ march, organised by a coalition of 150 charities, trade unions and religious organisations, kick-started six days of unprecedented protests in the run-up to the G20 Summit.
The Summit is to take place against the backdrop of a Britain’s deepening economic crisis, which has seen unemployment rise to its highest level since records began in the 1970’s. The government’s estimated £19 billion spending on hosting the summit has angered many in Britain, who believe that the expense is unjustifiable in the current economic climate. The backdrop is also significant: global economic meltdown, millions of jobs lost, many more millions still unemployed, a return of the econmic deprivations and scarcity of the terrible days of the ‘Depression’ and all round failure of the new-liberal capitalist machine which was supposed to be the big miracle of globalisation across the world, especially the ‘third world’, including India.
Around 35,000 protestors from across the political spectrum took part in the initial leg of the march, organised by what has been dubbed ‘the rainbow alliance’ of NGOs and Unions. Trade unionists and Leftwing groups such as the Socialist Workers Party marched alongside members of the British Muslim Council and various Christian groups, while supporters of NGOs such as Oxfam and Action Aid were heavily represented. Despite wind and heavy rain, the march had a festival-like atmosphere, with music from brass bands and stereos filling the air, and many marchers bringing their entire families. One group of protestors carried a giant paper mache ‘G20 monster’ shaped like a Chinese dragon and covered with dollar bills.
Protestors voiced a wide range of demands; banners and chanted slogans called for ‘jobs not bombs’, ‘Money for Need, Not Greed’, and ‘Action on Climate Change’. A plethora of campaign groups, ranging from the Stop the War Coalition to Friends of the Earth used the march as a platform. Campaigners from international development organisations fear that aid to the developing world will be cut as a result of the financial meltdown in the West. Climate change campaigners called for investment in green technologies and transport, and urged the G20 leaders to wake up to the reality of an impending climate crisis. Groups campaigning for international financial transparency, including the Tax Justice Network, called upon leaders to urgently address the issue of tax havens, the ‘blind spot’ in the international economy.
Other protestors simply vented their anger at the New Labour government, bankers and city financial institutions that they hold responsible for the current recession, carrying banners bearing slogans such as ‘hang a banker’, ‘scumbag millionaires’ and ‘We won’t pay for their crisis’.
British Comedian and activist Mark Thomas received loud applause from the crowd during his speech at the Hyde Park rally; “It’s us who have paid for the banks. The government says that they’ve nationalised them. But we’ve subsidised them.”
“The party is over,” Sharran Burrow, president of the International Trade Confederation, told the crowd at the Hyde Park rally. “The myth that you can leverage profits on debts is dead.”
Amid the many and various demands one common theme emerged; anger at the greed of the financial system and the blind faith of governments in the free market economy. Speakers at the rally repeatedly urged the leaders at the G20 to recognise that ‘there can be no going back to business as usual’ after the current financial crisis, and that radical change in the way that the world’s economy is regulated is the need of the hour.
Other speakers called into question the legitimacy of the G20 and other multilateral organisations, and called for a more democratic and inclusive global forum where nations from the developing world could have an equal voice on issues such as climate change and trade.
“The WTO deal has always been about protectionism for the northern countries and free trade for the rest of us,”’ said Global Justice Campaigner Mary Lou Malig, of Focus on the Global South. “We need real solutions that bail out people, not banks.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, newly returned from a pre-summit tour of Chile, assured protestors that he would do all he could to ease the world economy out of recession as he hosts this week’s summit meeting.
Activist groups have planned further demonstrations and actions in the run up to the G20 economic summit and security in the capital is to remain tight throughout the week on fears of violence by hardline groups. Tens of thousands of more protestors are expected to descend on the London’s ExCel Conference Centre, the site of the G20, on the day of the summit, April 2.