London G20 protests: Dancing for change

By Laura Miller

In full suit and tie, Horatio Jimenez cut an unusually strange figure next to the fluorescent wigs and fancy dressed protestors outside the Climate Exchange at Bishopsgate.

A former project manager for Deutsche Bank, he got out of the industry last June and told me it was the best decision he ever made.

“Bankers have a lot to answer for,” he said. “They are greedy. They have no decency. I agree with the principle of this protest.”

But this was not the Bank protest. There were no ‘Burn the Banker’ placards or suited effigies here, just a road of brightly coloured one- and two-man tents instead of cars, and climate activists dancing to a samba band replacing city workers traipsing from station to office to sandwich shop to office to station.

(Well actually some of the city workers got a bit mingled in with the protestors come six o clock but the worst they suffered was a few people in face paint trying to convert them to give up money. I didn’t see any takers.)

Yet, in many ways, and especially in London, the Camp for Climate Action’s largely peaceful protest was hugely more radical than the actions of those throwing laptops through RBS windows.

These people were claiming space.

And for the most part, the police let them have it. Some activists holding a placard with the words ‘Biscuits Not Bombs’ took over the roof of a bus shelter, others created urban tree-houses between the concrete buildings.

But what began with the protestors feeling they had taken back premium real estate, quickly became an exercise in penning them in.

Groups clashed with police over attempts by protestors to “fill the space” of a still-open road. Police blocked off all ways out of Bishopsgate, creating a tunnel of protestors only able to enter or leave at the top and bottom of the street. Helicopters circled above, and police vans lined the road.

Later, riot police charged the mainly teenage protestors to push them even further back, reclaiming the space the protestors had told them they were there to reclaim a few hours earlier.

But the protestors were determined whatever space they had they would use to show trading money products is not the only thing you can do with a concrete street in London’s financial district.

Food arrived in the form of an impromptu steam kitchen, complete with jacket potatoes with beans, bananas, cakes, flapjack, sandwiches while you wait and tea in real mugs.

Walking along the tented pavement conversations range from “where’s your daughter?” to how to create energy from algae, to theories about politicians being plugged into a matrix.

And at a climate ‘workshop’, speakers powered by a man cycling alternated between blaring out the benefits of green technology and “You’ve Got To Fight For Your Right To Party.” Which pretty well sums up the event.