Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

'This is another nail in coffin of capitalism'

By Mario Cacciottolo
BBC News

Protesters marching
The protest ran from the Embankment to Hyde Park

The stream of thousands of people marching through London to protest ahead of the forthcoming G20 summit was an unusual beast.

Although there were pockets of noise, and chanting, live brass bands and booming sounds played over loudspeakers, the mood was often a little subdued.

But individually people were islands of anger, disappointment and concern over the global economy, the conduct of bankers, governments and financiers.

By the sheer scale of things, it was clear that the dismay felt by many in society by what has been dubbed either the "credit crunch" or "economic downturn" has upset enough to make them come and pace the streets of the capital.

Among the thousands who turned up was Milton McKenzie, 73, from Essex. He said he was on the march because of "the injustices that happen in the world" and, he added, particularly in Britain.

I don't think protesting does change things any more, but hopefully it will bring people together and create a collective consciousness of change
Colette McWilliams

"How the hell can we have people out of work and the bloody bankers are just creaming it off," he said, his disgust evident in his voice.

"I hope this march will open the eyes of the people who are supposed to be running the country and to the injustice many are suffering."

There were also handful of children to be spotted among the crowd, between the banners and the placards, despite the odd rumour in the days preceding this march that there may be some trouble on the cards from unruly protesters.

In the end these fears were unfounded, and controlled, polite marching was chiefly the order of the day.

Show solidarity

One family walking along with the masses was made up of Debbie Rix, 45, who works for Unite the Union, her husband Michael who works for the GMB union, and their two-year-old daughter Ruby.

"The government has the money to bail out banks but not save jobs in this country," she said.

Milton McKenzie
Milton McKenzie hopes the march will have an impact with the government

"I hope this march raises awareness that people are unhappy and that those who wouldn't usually come out and march are doing so."

Claire Laycock, 32, had come down to march from Sheffield.

She said she wanted to show "solidarity for the chronic way in which wealth is distributed".

She added: "It leaves a massive gap between what people have got and what they haven't."

Miss Laycock was unsure as to whether the march would have any influence on the forthcoming G20 meeting.

"It's difficult to say. If there's significant numbers than on similar marches before then perhaps it would have an effect.

"But it's important we come along and keep trying."

Calm mood

By this time, after many marchers had trod past some of the capital's main landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, it is evident that the police are rather conspicuous by their absence.

Apart from a few officers around Westminster, there really are not many to be seen, and indeed for long stretches there are none in sight at all.

As a result the mood is very calm, or perhaps the sedate, controlled manner of the protest is the actual reason why the police decided to maintain such a low profile.

As some marchers reach Pall Mall, Hyde Park and a large stage appear on the horizon, where speakers are due to address the crowds.

Simon Fairlie
Simon Fairlie came from Somerset to protest against capitalism

A few thousand gather round to hear what is being said, the speeches hosted by actor Tony Robinson.

Simon Fairlie, 58, of Somerset is a former small holder and agricultural worker but now sells scythes for a living.

He is selling copies of a magazine he edits called 'The Land' and said he was marching against capitalism.

Mr Fairlie also said he was unhappy with "the way capitalism sucks rural areas dry to the benefit of an urban elite.

"I'd like to see more focus on food sovereignty, to allow communities the ability to control their own food supply.

"This march is another little tap in the coffin of capitalism."

Colette McWilliams, 25, an art director from London, said: "I don't think protesting does change things any more, but hopefully it will bring people together and create a collective consciousness of change.

"This can then help people change things in their own life."

'Right to protest'

One of those on the march was Justin, who declined to give his surname, and who is a member of No Sweat, an anti-sweat shop campaign group.

He said the march was "fairly" well attended.

"There were people shouting anti-capitalist slogans and some good speeches, but the G20 aren't going to solve the problems of the world because they benefit from the system that creates them.

"The point of the march is of having the right to protest and show our anger and dissent.

"And also it means we can bring together and mobilise people, to make the world a better place."

So while there was plenty of anger among the crowd, it was contained. There are other marches, other events at which this may be unleashed by some, but not today.

And the peaceable nature of the event was encapsulated by one particular police officer.

As the speeches boomed over the crowds from the main stage in Hyde Park, as the marchers continued to file in gently through the park's gates and lie on the grass, he walked away from a refreshment stand holding two giant cones, top heavy with what looked like vanilla ice-cream.

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