Anti-capitalists start May Day protests by shaking a fist online

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The Independent Online

As police prepare for a May Day of demonstrations in central London, the first blows by anti-capitalists were being struck over the internet.

In the early hours of this morning, activists were due to try and paralyse the websites of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organisation by bogus requests for access.

The anti-capitalists believe this triumvirate comprises the organisations that do most to promote globalisation, which they vehemently oppose. The protest is due to continue until midnight on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the World Bank said: "I think this is an attack on the basic human right of free speech. Why should anyone be denied access to our website purely because one group wants to hijack it?"

The cyber-demo has been organised by a group called Marseyes and the Federation of Random Action, who in the past have called for "virtual sit-ins" of the oil company Occidental. The website calls for, "health, education, culture, transport, communication and more generally the public services of general interest be placed outside of the WTO's mandate."

Those wishing to take part can download an application designed to bombard the web sites with requests for pages. If enough people take part simultaneously it will cause the sites to completely seize up.

A World Trade Organisation spokesman said: "We find this kind of behaviour unfortunate. All this will achieve is to ensure the poorest counties which cannot afford to have offices in Geneva will not have access through the web site to the documentation they require."

Adam Taylor, a specialist in IT law, warned those considering taking part in the cyber-protest that they risked being sued, by victims for compensation if systems are damaged, as well as under computer misuse laws.

Police were last night preparing for May Day amid fears of rioting in London. Demonstrators are expected to gather in Parliament Square for the main event of the day, Guerrilla Gardening, at about 11am.Reclaim the Streets, the group behind the action, have urged those attending to bring seeds and gardening equipment to symbolise their mission to "reclaim urban spaces".

One web site set up by a protester targets Reed Employment Agency, which it accused of making young people work for low wages. Last night at least two Reed offices were boarded up in central London.

Today's expected demonstrations are part of protests which began last Friday. So far they have passed without incident.