Financial workers returned to their offices in the City of London yesterday to find the hardcore remnants of a global anti-capitalist movement camped on their doorstep.
Police described the atmosphere as calm and there were no arrests on the first business day since hundreds of demonstrators occupied the grounds of St Paul's Cathedral, next to the London Stock Exchange. The demonstration began on Saturday as part of a global wave of protests inspired by the month-long Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.
Financiers were seen hovering on the fringe of the protest camp, reading their placards and trying to understand their demands. The bolder among them, such as financial recruitment company director Matthew Clapp, wandered through the occupation engaging the demonstrators in what he called "healthy debate".
"There's a lot of protest, but there doesn't seem to be much of a solution," he said. "What are we going to do, barter cows and donkeys again? They say capitalism is bad: okay, what do they want to do about it?"
Thomas Luccin, a banker, added: "Capitalism makes the world go around, to be honest. Look what happened with communism. There's always going to be greed in the world."
Mr Clapp said he had enjoyed a brief discussion with one of the demonstrators, but that neither had understood the other's argument. "They don't seem to appreciate that the City of London is an enormous driver of revenue for the Government," he said.
Financial adviser Gideon Greenberg said he supported the group's right to protest, but thought their vilification of capitalism was simplistic. "These people don't accept they have what they have because of capitalism," he said. "Renouncing it without anything better is wrong."
"There's a poster over there about stopping poverty," said his colleague, Steve Cruden. "You need some sort of capitalism to get rid of poverty." Demonstrations and general strikes were not going to pull the country out of recession, Mr Greenberg added. "More than ever, we need to pick up productivity, we need to get the economy moving. I don't think this is going to help."
But not all the men in suits disagreed with the occupation. Surrounded by an appreciative crowd, chartered accountant Tim Sanders cut an incongruous figure as he railed against the financial "gambling houses which have bankrupted the world".
"I want to show it's not the non-suits against the suits," he said, decrying an economic system that had produced a "lost generation". "There's a lot of well-educated people here," he said, gesturing at the protesters. "You get a great education, and then you're chucked on the dung heap."
Lawyer Justin Hudson said he supported the protesters, before adding: "I did wonder if I shouldn't have worn my suit out, but there doesn't seem to be any hostility."