Police will take "any steps necessary" to keep order in the City today as demonstrators planning to occupy London's financial district vowed to hold out for as long as they could in a protest against corporate greed.
More than 13,700 people had last night expressed their support on Facebook for the the protest, called Occupy the London Stock Exchange. It is inspired by similar demonstrations in New York.
The Occupy LSX website claimed that 5,000 people had confirmed they would attend the event. But one leading member said yesterday they could not be sure how many would turn out and were hoping for about 1,000.
The demonstration is supported and partly organised by UK Uncut, which protested against Arcadia boss Philip Green's businesses, the Fortnum & Mason store in Picadilly and health reforms on Westminster Bridge last Sunday. "We are prepared for the police, arrests will not deter us, but rather will galvanise us," one protester said. He said he hoped the numbers could be boosted by spreading the word on social-networking sites. The action was planned "in support of other occupations" going on across the world, he said. Organisers described it as a "global movement for real democracy".
One protester planning to attend said the demonstrators were trying to keep their tactics under wraps but were likely to protest "outside selected corporations' headquarters as well as demonstrating in front of shops; everything is on the table".
Singer Billy Bragg showed his support yesterday, posting a message on Twitter saying: "The time has come... Occupy the London Stock Exchange... I'll be there."
Occupy LSX issued a statement: "After huge bailouts and in the face of unemployment, privatisation and austerity, we still see profits for the rich on the increase." The group called for "equality and justice for all" and added: "We will occupy the Stock Exchange, reclaiming space in the face of the financial system and using it to voice ideas for how we can work towards a better future. A future free from austerity, growing inequality, unemployment, tax injustice and a political élite who ignores its citizens."
A Met police spokesman said there was a "flexible plan in place to police the event" and added that none of its tactics were being ruled out – including the controversial kettling of protesters, when officers encircle and detain groups of people they believe are involved in, or are about to be involved in, violent disorder.
But he insisted the police response would be "proportionate". He said: "We will be looking at a range of options and will fit our approach to the situation on the ground."
The protest is due to begin at midday when demonstrators gather at St Paul's Cathedral and prepare to march east into the Square Mile. Organisers asked those planning to attend to "bring plenty of food and water, wrap up warm. Tents, sleeping bags and torches are also a good idea".Reuse content