Police battle with rioters in the City

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The Independent Online
VIOLENCE FLARED in the heart of the City of London yesterday when protesters in a so-called "Carnival Against Capitalism" attacked police with bricks and concrete blocks and damaged shops and offices. Several officers were injured and a woman protester was run over by a police van. At times officers seemed to have lost control of the crowds.

Up to 4,000 demonstrators had converged on the City to target financial institutions which they regard as "morally and politically-incorrect companies". Nearly all the 800 officers of the City of London Police met them, with patrols from the Metropolitan Police.

The demonstration appeared to be passing peacefully but turned ugly around 4.30pm when riot police charged protesters after some hurled bottles and other missiles. Twenty metres away a water main spewed contents 40 metres into the air and by 5pm a violent hard core of protesters were rioting. A young man smashed the windows of a Mercedes Benz showroom with a length of piping and across the street running battles continued with police.

One rioter brought a large green bin sack filled with empty beer bottles for his fellow demonstrators to hurl at thin lines of police. About 10 men in carnival masks attacked a McDonald's restaurant, throwing bottles through the windows before breaking in. The day had started with a carnival atmosphere as protesters danced to a samba rhythm by a score of drummers, animal rights and environmental campaigners joining forces for a 24-hour protest.

Eight demonstrators entered Lloyds Bank in Cheapside and some chained themselves inside. Six others went into the nearby NatWest bank but left after police were called.

The situation gradually slipped out of control as the day went on. Some witnesses said the violence had been sparked when the woman was knocked over by a police van trying to reverse out of the crowd.

"The crowd were completely enraged by what had happened and they began throwing things at the police," said one witness. "There was a lot of disturbance. It was really quite scary especially when it had been such a peaceful demonstration up until then."

A City of London Police spokesman said the injured woman was taken to the Royal London Hospital suffering from concussion.

"The police van was surrounded by demonstrators and trying to extricate itself from heavy attack when this woman was knocked down," he said. "We very much regret the fact that this person has been injured."

Similar protests had been planned for other major world cities, all timed to coincide with the G8 summit in Cologne, Germany, of the world's richest nations.