LONDON – Protesters inspired by the growing ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the U.S have today taken over the City of London.
Thousands have descended on the area known as the Square Mile – under the banner ‘Occupy the Stock Exchange’ – for a ‘peaceful protest’ against the global financial system.
They had planned to take Paternoster Square, where the Stock Exchange is located, but police cordoned off the area prior to the protest.
A notice was put up stating the square is private property and access would be restricted. Police sources said a High Court injunction had been taken out to prevent members of the public from accessing the square.
After protesters returned to St Paul’s Churchyard, the square in front of the cathedral, police prevented more people trying to join the protest by cutting off access points.
Several hundred protesters congregated behind the police lines and heckled officers for not allowing anyone through.
Police at the scene denied that a “kettling” technique had been put in place to close protesters in and said they were free to leave the square.
A bride, who was scheduled to get married in the Cathedral this afternoon, was ushered in by staff through a side entrance as the crowd swelled.
An assembly of speakers then took place.
Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, who turned up at the protest wearing a mask, was asked to take it off by police. Human rights lawyer Jen Robinson, who came to his aid, tweeted: ‘#assange not under arrest. Says we can’t wear masks and be anonymous but swiss banks accounts can be #occupylsx.’
He broke through the police kettle enclosing St Paul’s Cathedral at 2.30pm. He then fought his way through protesters, turned half-way up the steps and addressed those gathered below.
The Guardian’s Mark Townsend said: ‘Assange began by lamenting the police tactics, noting hundreds more remained stranded outside the kettle.
‘Then he began attacking a greedy and corrupt system that had united individuals from Cairo to London. People are being ordered to Guantanamo Bay to obey the rule of law, and money is being laundered through the Caymen Islands and London to obey the rule of law.
‘This movement is not about the destruction of law, but the construction of law. With that he stopped, the crowd hollering as a list of other occupations throughout the world was read out.’
Political campaigner Peter Tatchell also spoke to the crowds and proposed a one-off 20 per cent emergency tax on the net wealth of the richest 10 per cent of the UK population.
He also wants the introduction of a ‘Tobin Tax’ on financial transactions.
He said: ‘The richest 10 per cent of the UK population have a combined personal wealth of