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Thousands march in London ahead of G20

OVER 12,000 people from across Britain and Europe marched through central London yesterday ahead of the G20 summit, demanding decent jobs and public services for all, an end to global poverty and inequality, as well as a green economy.

The march organized under the banner of "Put People First" started at 11:00 in the morning, drawing members from over 150 unions, development, faith and environment groups in a unified call for a coordinated fiscal stimulus to create and preserve jobs, international action to ensure that an out-of-control finance sector never threatens the stability of the global economy again and a commitment from world leaders that they will move to a low carbon economy.

In an unprecedented alliance of supporters of Put People First which range from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to the Salvation Army, Friends of the Earth to Oxfam and Shelter to War on Want, the demonstrators held out slogans such as "Workers for the world united," "Knowledge is power," "Drop the debt," "Clean up global finance," "Smash Capitalism" and "Climate emergency," expressing their anger at the policies that have seen poverty exist alongside huge top banker bonuses.

"We're angry because this is not a natural disaster, but a crisis due to irresponsible and reckless behavior. We're angry about the inequality that ordinary people are paying the price," said Brendan Barber, General Secretary of Trade Union Congress (TUC) which represents 6.5 million people, later at a rally held in Hyde Park.

He called on leaders of the G20 countries to take up measures now and lay the foundation for a better world where wealth is distributed more fairly, and every one will have food, shelter and health care.

Barber also urged the leaders who will meet next week in London to "take responsibility and make the right decision."

According to him, never before has such a wide coalition come together with such a clear message for world leaders. "The old ideas of unregulated free markets do not work, and have brought the world's economy to near collapse, failed to fight poverty and have done far too little to move to a low-carbon economy... Leaders must sign up to both boost the world economy and govern it better, and show us that they are trying to build a better world."

Kumi Naidoo of Global Campaign Against Poverty joined the rally from South Africa. He led the audiences in a call for Gordon Brown and US President Barack Obama to "Put People First," chanting in unison "We can do it, we must do it, we will do it."

Demonstrators also want the G20 leaders to use the financial crisis to solve social and environmental crisis, pressing them to recognize that only just, fair and sustainable policies can lead the world out of recession.

Union delegations and poverty campaigners came from around the world, including Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Korea, USA, Australia, South Africa, Zambia, Canada and the Philippines, for the march and rally.

Organizers believe that both the march and rally will give ordinary people a voice so that G20 leaders must not just fix the recession but make sure that the world emerges a fairer and greener place, and does not go back to pre-downturn business as usual.

The peaceful march and rally lasted almost five hours, with no feared incidence of violence.

Glen Tarman of BOND, chair of the organizing team, insisted: "Put People First is not organizing or collectively supporting any other demonstrations or protest events being held in the subsequent week to coincide with the G20 summit."

Thousands of police were mobilized to keep order on the day. Yesterday's rally marks the first of a series of protests in the coming week to coincide with the G20 summit that falls on April 2.It is believed that the upcoming protest on April 1 and 2 could turn violent as anarchists trying to take advantage of people's anger to the current financial crisis.


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